She’s a Lover of Bears

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She’s a Lover of Bears.

A poet, a dreamer,

enamored by beaded eyes

black and brown fur,

rotund bellies.

Heartrending cries.

Grunts, moans and huffs –

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

She knows that

a Universal Language

is spoken by bears.

Each nuance

and gesture deepens

a story that she

longs to share…

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

She slides

into a secret dimension –

slips through the veil into

thick green forest

where Bears

make their living,

make love,

dig dens,

have cubs,

sleep deeply and well,

live out their

days

in relational

Peace.

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

(If bears ruled the world

there would be no wars.

No wonder

She’s a Lover

of Bears!)

 

She dreams of them

in between the cracks

of the anguish

she feels

over the haunting

that overcomes

her each fall –

Too many will die

to become a rug

on the wall –

A snarling trophy

for

those

who must kill

for the high,

to feel

their own

life blood pulsing.

 

She yearns for

the sight of raggedy coats,

sleek new coats,

fur dipped in cool waters,

acorned – hazelnut fat bears,

each facial expression

so ancient with knowing…

 

She’s a Lover of Bears

who enter her heart – body –

soul

to be received

like a prayer.

She wants to climb

into those arms

to be held like a child,

Loved like a woman.

 

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

8/10 /19

 

Working notes:

 

I recently attended a Black Bear Course at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely Minnesota. Although I have been enamored by, and have studied Black bears for 20 years nothing prepared me for this total immersion into the bear experience.

To visit with so many wild bears in a place where humans choose to co-exist with bears was a revelation. I have never felt such peace being in the company of bears. For the most part these shy intelligent animals are allowed to live out their lives on their own terms (except for the fall hunting season that lasts six weeks, during which time any of these animals can be shot).

 

I was literally catapulted into another dimension, a timeless world in which only the bears, the Founder of the Wildlife Research Center, bear biologist Lynn Rogers, and I existed. Oddly, I experienced the other nine participants through a peculiar kind of haze.

 

Lynn’s groundbreaking trust based research challenges every fear based person and state wildlife agency’s “killer bear” concept in concrete ways, proving that bears and humans can co –exist peaceably.

 

Lynn thoughtfully answered so many of my questions and, of course, generated hundreds more. Although we have corresponded for about 15 years I had never met my mentor and friend until last week.

 

Returning to Maine I am confronted by the reality that our Maine bears are being lured to bait sites as I write these words. A three – month long hunting season will begin before the end of this month.

 

As a ‘Lover of Bears’ I feel this grief on a visceral level, but this year it has been tempered by this extraordinary experience that is open to anyone who wants to learn about these amazing animals.

 

Please visit WWW. Bear.org for information on courses, Lynn’s extensive research papers, daily updates, and to learn about the North American Bear Center.

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Independence Day?

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She haunts me

little bear,

too slight,

too wary

to seek

seed I cast

for her

under

White Pine

in whose strong arms

she finds

comfort and safety,

if only for one night.

 

The animals are innocent

 

Where was she when

exploding fireworks

whitened a black velvet sky

split stars night after night?

Where was she

when mindless drones

spewed raging gunfire

screaming for Right?

Who comforted her

in her fright?

 

The animals are innocent

 

The deafening noise

punctures holes

in our bodies,

fractures cell walls,

jamming synapses

freezes thought

muddles our brains.

Caught in a vise

of metal rain

our terror increases

with each act of aggression –

mindless booming,

Indifference.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

So much for July Fourth –

the golden mean

of manifest violence.

Fraudulent strength.

I can’t even imagine

the terror a small bear must feel.

Her senses are so much keener

than mine.

 

The animals are innocent

 

How is it that we dare

celebrate freedom

in a country

where “independence”

is reserved only

for those

in power?

 

The animals are innocent.

 

The rest of us

lay low, desperate,

praying to deaf gods

for relief.

Bound by fear and abandonment

lack of integrity

choice is not real

for those whose trees

have been cut down,

whose health

is compromised,

whose money has run out.

Make no mistake – these

endings do not create

new beginnings.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

One night she

clawed her way

up rough barked pine

climbing high

into forked branches.

Peering down

hot coals

bore through

fragile skins

of difference.

The littlest Bear

and her woman bend light,

twist roots.

A common plight is exposed.

The glue that binds us both

is made of pitch.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

I try to comfort…

but her fright

meets my own

Towers of Steel

and Silence

insure

our anguish

remains un named.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

We are haunted,

and hunted…

bloodied by sharp yellow talons

we do not weep or moan

but swing helplessly

in a darkening

bitter orange sky.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

How do we accept what is

when we have been chosen

by America’s Eagle

to become its next prey?

 

 

Working Notes:

 

This poem has a number of themes – one is about a shy little bear who is too frightened to come for food when she needs it. I first met her the night her mother left her to mate towards the end of May. Too anxiety stricken to function effectively she was unable to relax enough to eat. Instead Rosie Marie dove into the trunk of the nearest white pine, climbed into its upper branches and remained there wailing pitifully for about 45 minutes. This bear was too small, weighing less than 40 lbs which puts her at risk for survival, as does her unbearable anxiety. When she disappeared I didn’t see her for a whole month and believed she might be dead.

 

When she re-appeared her extreme nervousness still prevented her from eating more than a few mouthfuls of the seed before racing to her tree for safety; the tree had become a surrogate mother. I have never seen this little bear relax enough to sit or lie down as her relatives do when eating. Although she isn’t afraid of my voice/endearments she runs the moment I step out the door and recently has taken to becoming a “night bear”. If she eats at all, she does so after dark. After spending just a few precious days with her she has become invisible for a second time. I think about her constantly, seeing those haunted eyes that first evening, hearing her keen… With the bear hunt looming I wonder somewhat hopelessly, how a little bear can survive alone in this hostile hunting climate? There is no one help her.

 

A second theme is that about the Fourth of July – and the flag waving “patriots” that force the rest of us to our knees under gunfire blasts that last until the last drunk passes out. Those boys (not men) that assault people with deafening noise from exploding fireworks, raging motorcycles, and semi- automatic rifles do it just because they can. The founding fathers of this country created laws that have given them the power to do so. After all, they are the righteous right – the good ol’ boys who respect no boundaries, stick together, regardless of age. Compassion, decency and integrity are absent. Where are the protectors, the men who model kindness, respect and restraint?

 

And what can we do but endure while our animal bodies and souls are shot full of holes? These bodies, human and non-human alike are in the fire and under assault just as the Earth is.

 

A third theme is about interspecies relationship and how one woman and a bear are bound by mutual commonalities.

 

A fourth theme involves the eagle. The bald eagle has become a corrupted symbol for power that our “democracy” has stolen from its original inhabitants along with its mythology.

 

For Native peoples the eagle is a literal messenger from the gods who watches over the people.

 

For Americans the eagle has become a symbol that celebrates power over and the belief that this country has been divinely chosen (with god on our side) to be a world leader. It follows, of course, that we are better than others. We talk democracy and demonstrate with power over – our words and actions don’t match up.

 

In the wild, eagles soar high in the air, “close to the gods” as Indigenous peoples once believed. What we don’t want to see is that these birds are also are top predators, treacherous bullies who rule the skies, birds who tear flesh without mercy. The natural history of the eagle along with its corrupted mythology should give us pause… When Americans stole the eagle they killed the “messenger of the gods” and “birthed” his dark side, a rapacious killer.

 

This is Independence?

Two Friends

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Iren by Iren Schio

 

Root Woman

Tree Woman

Sky Woman

Dear friends

Greet,

converse with one another

on the steely silver edge

of Truth and

Change.

Weaving together

roots

twigs, leaves,

clumps of dirt,

the two carve out

an underground story.

Mythic toads instruct them

about the Ground Way

of Being:

“Breathe

sweet summer rain

through leaf and root,

translucent skin.

We are all related.

Sing to the Earth

And S/he will comfort you.

Breathe …”

 

 

Working notes:

 

When I saw this picture that my friend Iren took of herself I knew that a poem would be forthcoming because I was struck by meaning at least for me. Iren sits amongst tree roots. I catch toads. We are both dealing with uncertainty, transitions, and deaths of one sort or another.

 

Trees are, above all, protectors sheltering the living from storms; even when uprooted they provide comfort. Under their gracious canopies new life begins…

 

In myth toads are almost always associated with women, older women in particular. Sometimes wise woman. Neolithic toad images are associated with death and signify the capacity for new birth. Toads live on the edge.

 

Toads shed many skins during one lifetime ingesting them in the process. This peculiar toad habit of eating one’s one skin after shedding it suggests to me the wisdom of not trying to escape one’s past. Being able to let go while incorporating what was into the present as part of the whole is a paradox, but one worthy of our attention.

 

The key to moving through transitions is to breathe through them, to stay as much in the present as possible, to be flexible, to know when to hide out, “to bend like a willow and flow like a river” (the latter phrase belongs to Iren).

I capitalize the word Nature to emphasize the importance of allowing the natural world to teach us how to become more human. We are the youngest species on the planet and definitely the one most lacking in wisdom.

The Doorway

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When I look into his face

I wonder

what he is thinking

as he loses himself

in sweet mountain mist.

He’s alone now.

His fear of the unknown

keeps him vigilant

ears erect,

mouth tasting air

standing on two legs to see

beyond summer’s diaphanous veil.

No wonder he climbs trees.

 

He’s not yet two.

Did she warn him

about the others

before she left?

Two legged threats armed

with hatred,

the need to destroy life

men addicted to power,

who will gladly spew fire

through his gut,

strike out an eye, maim a paw

so he cannot flee?

 

 

He slaps chipmunks

in repose,

scents fragrant white lilacs

clasps a metal can to his belly,

kicks it down the hill in play.

He bounds

towards the brook

for a bath,

circles back for protection

in a thicket of

young pines

for a nap.

 

He tolerates me

if not as friend

at least as one

who wishes him

no harm.

He peers around

rough bark like a child

playing hide and seek.

He’s curious to identify

to whom I am speaking.

He listens intently

when I caution him

like an anxious mother.

Do not trust.

Do not trust them.

I am the exception

to the rule.

 

Most want him dead

Skinned and hung –

a furry black skeleton –

a shroud on the wall,

his jaws forever frozen

in an impossible roar.

 

Always present,

Death stands at his door.

Sons of Power

 

Scorched,

by

the merciless

sons of patriarchy

some rebel,

wear flaming orange

to express helpless outrage,

 

But the Sun is at its Apex.

Ultimately,

We will choose

“the right to bear arms” –

seduction by the righteous right,

continue to slaughter

without accountability.

 

Guns speak.

And when held

in the hands

of irresponsible boys

(of whatever age)

permit the weakest to reign.

 

We celebrate violence

as ‘Masters of War,’

rape women,

shoot children,

innocent animals,

pollute and

plunder the Earth,

worship

Power and Might

Even as the Night closes in.

 

Working notes:

There was a time when I would have protested gun violence…but during the last few years I have been struck by the futility of protest. The lords of power have no conscience and are not interested in negotiation of any kind. Men, powerful special interest groups like the NRA and our state wildlife agencies support the right to bear arms at any cost as does the madman I can barely name as president.

Late last night I was assaulted by a round of semi-automatic gun blasts – unfortunately a common occurrence in this area. More blasts follow this morning. I wish I could say that this behavior on the part of my Maine neighbors was triggered by the protesting. But I know better – any excuse will do to shoot up the neighborhood. It’s NORMAL

The Gift

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We drifted through

the green

hungrily absorbing

plant souls,

each twig, flower, and tree

has her own story to tell…

 

Such a joyful way

for me

to spend a

‘mother’s day.’

Being with him

when family

extends sharp claws

is an antidote to suffering.

 

“This is my church”

He said,

not for the first time.

I nodded.

He and I are almost

always in agreement

when it comes

to plants

and people.

 

He bought a pear tree.

His Vision has

brought to life

a thriving orchard –

blossoming trees

whose swelling

seed pods will

one day

offer gifts,

just as he does-

free of tithing.

 

I picked a rosebud.

“The ones I love the best

are wild

I murmur – imagining

sweet magenta flowers

buzzing with bees

halfway across the country.

He listens attentively.

 

“Here are some!”

He remarks with enthusiasm,

gesturing

with generous hands.

We walk down

a stony path…

 

Mary spreads her sails above us

shrouded by cottony clouds –

Lady of Roses,

Wild Peace and Places,

No wonder Pear Trees love her…*

 

When we reach the spot

I am astonished

prickly budded bushes converse

awash in a swirling palette;

pink, purple and blue.

Intoxicated by fragrance,

I inspect leaves and stems.

Laughing, I exclaim,

“ Here the only place

I’ve seen these roses

is at gas stations!”

 

I suppose it was inevitable

that She came home with us.

He dug the cavity so

I didn’t have to,

added yet one more drip

to feed her

before we ate

the sunset.

Does he know that

to fill a void

with a rose bush

sustains me

in the dark?

 

We plant seeds

and trees,

observe with fascination

iridescent black

birds who make their living,

at Walmart –

always meeting

on the edge

of radical possibility,

our friendship flourishes,

rooting underground.

 

Postscript:

*Mary’s Rose

I grew up without a nurturing mother and turned to Mary for help – in so doing I developed a kind of learned helplessness that did not serve me well. I struggled to find my voice, struggled to own it, and continue to struggle to take action on my own behalf.

I will always love Mary – she was my first Goddess – but I see her as a one sided figure. By mid -life before leaving Christianity I was embracing the Black Madonna and Mary Magdalene as parts of Mary that I needed to internalize in order to claim my own voice and power.

May is most definitely the month of Mary. Every year I come around the circle to embrace the Mary of my younger years, feeling that same sense of powerlessness and loss of autonomy that comes out of my unconscious alignment with this figure.

This year Mary emerged as one of her roses on mother’s day offering me a gift, but later in the week in a dream I saw a forest of tree trunks stripped of their bark.  Since flowers and blossoming trees are meaningful images of Mary I experienced both sides of Her in one week. The latter image of  dying trees whose bodies are stripped of their life force speaks to the “dark side” of Mary, the entity with no voice, no body, nor agency, the figure who is powerlessness to shift the paradigm of impending death of self and Nature. Very sobering.

And yet, this isn’t the whole story because the self in the poem ( as in day life) is drawn to one special kind of rose – the wild rose. This “Lady of the Wilderness” may embody some hope.

Wandering Mystic

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We are

the golden sun

as it rises

over the luminescent

leaves

casting a lemony

haze over

sharply etched veins –

Sap is rising.

 

We are basking

in the early morning

light, saluting

each other

as lizards

in a universal language

we both comprehend –

Knowing too that

the steep price of intimacy

is loss..

 

The present is

my refuge

as I weave

through lime green

bushes and pale

gray scrub.

Delicately perfumed

magenta, deep purple,

salmon, and

buttery wildflowers

cry out for life as

we burst through

chalky alkaline soil

softened by rain.

Graceful giants, we

stretch our bowed limbs

Earthward,

gifting some with blessed shade.

Our roots

are starving sponges

soaking up

puddles of standing water.

 

I feel wonder at the stillness

that allows for Nature’s

Voices to be heard.

Towhees,

white crowned sparrows

doves and nuthatches

chant in harmony.

One cicada strums.

 

High Praise is offered

to Life in all

its complexity

without hesitation…

I envision the wolf

that licks my face,

a tangle of black snakes,

wiggling tadpoles,

pear trees birthing the fruit

of dreams?

 

 

These mental sparks

cast too dark a shadow

of separation,

and I breathe

deep

sliding back in.

 

 

Then I hear him:

My gray tree frog,

his throat blown into

a translucent bubble

trilling just beyond the veil…

 

 

I am both – him and me,

self and whole,

spinning Nature’s web.

I am the living land,

overflowing with her grace.

Breathing in like my frog does

intoxicating feeling,

sight, sound, vibration,

through fragile wrinkled skin –

open to impermanence,

‘predictable pain’,

and this precious moment

of Becoming.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Recently, I wrote that there are not enough visionaries and mystics left in our culture, let alone in the world. Sometimes I write to find out what I am really thinking/feeling and I realized when I penned these words that I had uncovered a belief I didn’t know I had. I do believe that modern culture has lost access to its visionaries and its mystics. We dismiss these people as folks who are at best impractical, unrealistic, at worst delusional or crazy. It occurs to me that without including visionaries and mystics any culture will eventually self-destruct from lack of Imagination and lack of Love.

 

One definition of a visionary is a person that thinks about the future in a creative and imaginative way, a person with keen foresight. Many artists and writers are visionaries. This kind of person often lives in what I call the crack between worlds, inhabiting a space that is outside time or ahead of linear time as most of us experience it. If non –conventional or radical ideas are not acceptable then individuals will be forced to live in exile. A good example of a visionary who went through this phase is the poet Bob Dylan who had a pulse on the culture of the sixties and beyond, and was despised for speaking out during the folk era that was so focused on a change for the better. When I listen to Dylan’s early songs it is clear to me that he knew “something” was coming but it wasn’t necessarily a positive development. A careful reading of Dylan’s early work, (The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a good example) will initiate the reader into the visionary’s perspective.

 

There is a relationship between being a visionary and a mystic but there can be differences too. Visionaries “see” what’s ahead but may or may not understand what they are seeing, mystics actually “enter” other realities to experience them. I believe Bob Dylan did both.

 

Visionaries may survive as artists of one kind or another but today mysticism has no place in global culture as it is generally experienced, with the possible exception of the probably insane person who is directly tied to a particular religion who is also tagged as a mystic.

 

Some partial definitions of mysticism that made sense to me focused on those who seek by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the absolute. Direct experience/intuition/apprehension or its opposite – an experience of nothingness seem to be intrinsic to the mystic’s experience. What isn’t mentioned here is that we are also talking about the experiential aspect of Love.

 

I personally like William James’s viewpoint which suggests that during mystical states we become one with the absolute and/or become aware of our oneness. This perspective contributes to the interpretation that mysticism is a distinct experience that highlights the importance of the senses to attainment of unity with the ‘divine’ however ones defines that word.

 

According to James mystical experiences have four defining qualities: They are ineffable; they cannot be explained in words. There is a noetic quality to these experiences; any insight into the depths of truth cannot be apprehended by the discursive intellect. Thirdly, these experiences are usually transient but their effect persists. And lastly, mystics do not come to these experiences as active seekers, but as passive recipients. It’s important to note that for James there was nothing inherently theological in or about mystical experience.

 

It is also argued by some that mysticism is part of the process of perception, not interpretation; that is to say that the unity of mystical experiences is perceived, and only afterwards interpreted according to the perceiver’s background. This may result in different accounts of the same phenomenon. For example, a nature mystic seeks union through objective experience, an individual mystical experience of union can also occur in the Great Void.

 

Visionaries and mystics allow us to perceive possibilities or actualities that are beyond our very limited human androcentric understanding. They also teach us about Unconditional Love. They lift us out of ordinary time, not through intellect, obfuscation, or denial but by opening a door through the present moment into a place where experiences have no past or future. The Now is all there is.

 

I have spent my life trying to function in a foreign culture that has remarkably little meaning for me; a culture totally disconnected from that of the natural world. Personally, Nature is both source and container – the place where both the visionary and the mystic originate and thrive because we are one. On-going communication with non-human species is a natural part of this way of being in the world, and all language, human and non human a like, is directly mediated through my body, which is, I repeat, also the body of Nature.

 

I always capitalize the word Nature because S/he is generally ignored, dismissed, despised, exploited (read raped) by humans; I seek to re-dress that imbalance by highlighting her importance, and not because I perceive her as some kind of deity.

 

The little poem I wrote attempts to illustrate how fluid this natural connection is for this nature mystic, and how easily I slip from one way of being into the other. It is also a reflection on what it means to be ‘in love’ in the largest sense of the word.

 

I should probably add here that I am severely directionally dyslexic – the universe does have a sense of humor – navigating the natural world may be effortless (although I am never the one orchestrating these experiences/relationships), while I am literally lost at sea in the violent culture I was born into.

 

As a dedicated naturalist and a nature mystic I also can’t help wondering how entering into an intimate relationship with Nature might change our attitude towards the planet we depend on for life. Perhaps instead of seeking transcendence we need to choose immanence?