A Beary Peaceful Day

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It is overcast and a few drops of rain are falling. I have been out talking to Tree Bear (TB), a yearling who has brightened my life in these dark soul days. Tree Bear comes up the mossy pine strewn path to the clearing and peeks at me from behind his white pine intermittently as he snacks.

 

There are so many old felled trees full of tasty grubs and ants now that the spring grasses have matured and gone by; soon the berries will ripen and Tree Bear will begin to put on weight. Acorns will be the choice of food for fall. Few people know that Black Bears are 93 percent vegetarian.

 

The other night I watched TB in the cherry tree, sitting in the branches like a monkey calmly combing out his thick under fur as he munched on cherry leaves and hard green cherries. He is a healthy looking and very beautiful yearling with brown eyebrows and a bump in his nose that is only visible from some angles. He probably weighs 50 – 60 poundss and has some brownish fur in places.

 

He was recently separated from his mother who left him because she needed to mate and his little sister has also disappeared. His face is so full of compassion that it takes my breath away. I say compassion because my personal experience has taught me that some (if not all) of these animals understand human suffering and respond to it by taking concrete actions. One slept outside my window while my dog was dying, another came to sit by me one night while I was wildly weeping outside in the dark. Stark and hopeless depression brings them in. Empathy flows like a deep underground river between us – why – because bears like other animals have deep feelings that are not mediated by abstract intellectual rational thinking.

 

This is not to say that all bears respond to humans this way. But some do, and Tree Bear is one of these animals. Bears are demonized by humans, shot and wounded on sight (legally and illegally) often in the gut so they will die slowly and painfully. In Maine we hunt them for four months; with hounding ‘practice’ four months becomes five. What is truly amazing is that these animals do not retaliate in kind, except on rare occasions. A human has a million to one chance of being killed by a bear. These animals use remarkable restraint, utilizing peacekeeping practices for themselves and humans alike. If bears ruled the Earth there would be no wars. All bears utilize a matriarchal family system with mothers and daughters sharing territories; males roam the peripheries.

 

This morning I quietly spoke to TB while slowly approaching his tree. I know his language; he huffs to remind me how much he disapproves of close encounters. Yesterday, he eluded me each time I tried to film him. He’s wary, full of curiosity, and uncertainty. Fear when it comes to other bears. He stands on two feet in alarm when he glimpses his own mother. He does not trust me, but allows me to approach him if I do it respectfully. He moans when I get too close even though I keep reassuring him that I am his friend.

 

Sometimes TB is a clown. Late yesterday afternoon he lay on his back with a can positioned between his paws poking his nose into its cavity. Next he chased it down the hill. I have to find other toys to amuse him.

 

His trickster aspect is most evident when he sees me with the camera. He turns his head away, ducks behind a branch, runs down to the brook or disappears down the path in a flash. TB is also developing a habit of peering around tree corners to see who I might be talking to.

 

TB and I both love trees. Black Bears are native to this continent and co evolved with trees. They cannot live in treeless places because they are a prey animal who must have trees to protect themselves and their young.

 

Obviously Black Bear territory is shrinking.

 

TB and I have such a brief moment in time to be together. Even now each gun shot, or semi automatic blast slams a hole in my heart. The future for this bear is grim. Most of the bears that are slaughtered are yearlings (18 – 20 months old) when they are first on their own.

 

All this to become a trophy or rug, a badge of “manhood” on some idiot’s wall.

 

Perhaps because of the rapidly approaching hunting season each moment spent observing TB’s behavior is that more precious. Befriending this bear brings me to the edge of possibility.

 

We could find a way to live together, if only we would.

 

I close with a quote from Leslie Marmon Silko that mirrors my own experience:

 

It is very peaceful with the bears; the people say that’s the reason human beings seldom return.”

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A Valley Steeped In Rain

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Sweetly scented falling rain is one of the greatest gifts of early summer. The canopies of luminous green deepen their shades with each drop; my chimes ring softly. The brook swells tumbling over moss covered stone, as I listen for the first tree frog and toad trill. There is a peace in me, a need to stay in this moment in this fog filled valley sweetened by lilac and flowering crabapples. To be fully present to the sound of water cascading from the roof, soaking in the moisture, breathing as the frog does, through her own skin, feeling my breath rise deep out of my belly instead of high in my breast – the fragrance of rain; these are the greatest presents Nature can offer me…

 

While listening to the stillness that rain brings I reflect upon the fact that the madmen of this world with their stupid guns, screaming cars, relentless killing machines don’t like streams of water. It seems ironic that these bullies are silenced by this element that so nourishes the Earth (this statement is not biased – women and girls around here are not doing these things – boys and men are).

 

Perhaps this is one reason I love rain.

 

But there are others…

 

My too sensitive eyes feast upon the shadowy greens of the forest that surrounds me without a need for glasses. Dreaming. Last night’s dream reminded me that, no matter what, I need to feel gratitude for the circle of stones that I see before me in this woodland forest.

 

Lately, gratitude has eluded me. With the sun reaching high in the northeast dawn comes too soon. Even here, the days seem endless. Lack of sleep and illness sap my soul – body of strength, just as superficial conversation drains me. I am too much alone here, and forget why it’s often by choice.

 

People may be absent but Nature is ever present and always ready to converse with me through leaf and flower, bird and bear. Last night’s visit from Tree Bear was especially satisfying because of his own accord this yearling has ceased to fear me unless I get too close to him with my camera. When he moans or clacks his teeth in frightening dismay I move quickly away. I too suffer from an overload of anxiety so I am always talking, reassuring him that he’s safe with me. Yesterday, for the first time, when he trotted towards the forest for safety, he turned back at the sound of my voice, reversing his direction. Recently separated from mother and sister perhaps like me, he needs a new friend. Being with bears keeps me present to the moment much like rain does.

 

Cardinals have the same effect. This morning the cardinal sang just outside my bedroom window. And just as if I hadn’t been absent for three years I knew he was calling me to scatter seed on the ground for him, which I promptly did. Now I am remembering when the first female cardinal arrived clicking at my window to get my attention many years ago…

 

Although I kept birdseed in the feeder cardinals prefer to eat on the ground. When I stopped putting seed down because of too many squirrels the cardinals disappeared for months. I was bereft but felt that I had no choice. My only recourse was to trap more squirrels, and by then I knew this was not the answer.

 

The following fall a female cardinal appeared outside my bedroom window clicking, it seemed to me, with excitement. I quickly went out and put a small amount of seed on the ground feeling astonishment when the female arrived in seconds to feed. This incident became the beginning of a new story and pattern of relating between the cardinals and me, and the female cardinal led the way.

 

Even though the story continued with others who joined the female when they wanted food, I never moved beyond the initial amazement/awe I experienced when one female cardinal solved the problem for all of us so effectively!

 

When I left home for New Mexico in August three years ago I knew that this time the cardinals would not be following me because there were none in the Southwest.

 

Imagine my joy when I came east almost four weeks ago and discovered a bevy of cardinals singing in a lush forest glade in Virginia. I couldn’t escape the feeling that they were welcoming me home.

 

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On the second morning of my return I heard a male cardinal singing nearby. I promptly and hopefully dispersed seed on the grass and was stunned to see a crimson jewel fly down to feed. The male cardinal has been visiting at different times during the day ever since, and always at dusk. Two days ago when the male clicked and whistled his beautiful song I sprinkled seed as usual, and then I heard a tiny voice singing the identical song in a tinny high-pitched tone. It took me a minute to understand what was happening. The male was teaching the youngster how to capture my attention for food. How wondrous! I realized then that I was witnessing one way the cardinals passed information onto their youngsters (another way might be through a paradigm that was established by cardinals who knew the original instructions –“both and”). I am so grateful that at least one resident cardinal still knew the story and was paying it forward.

 

Although the summer solstice is on the horizon with its raging bouts of heat and noise, at least for today, I am cradled by a valley steeped in rain…

Coming Home to Spring

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The older I become the more I appreciate Nature as she is, Nature the Creatrix of the Earth. Nature creating without human intervention. The cycles of life and death are so intimately intertwined and never more evident than in the spring when each rotting log becomes home to ants who are feasted upon by black bears (whose primary protein source 93% comes from ants, grubs and larvae). Splintered detritus becomes the rich soil that supports the seedlings of the next generation of trees, even as the ground peppers the moment with the delicate three lobed trillium, lady-slipper, twin flower, partridge berry trailing arbutus, unfurling spirals – the birthing of ferns, and perhaps my favorite, wild lily of the valley soon to fill the forested glade with her intoxicating scent.

 

Outside my window, diversity reins as Royalty! Maples, ash, oak, beech, moose maple, witch hazel, spruce hemlock, fir, balsam converse with one another, above and below ground – their language made of pulsing vibrations and scent. The naturally fallen white birch logs crisscross each other creating complex and unique patterns apparent to any artistic eye. The brook is wending her serpentine way to the sea, her spongy banks of sphagnum moss are steeped in emerald. The translucent papery thin leaves of the beech tree ripple in the slightest breeze. Everywhere a multitude of shades of greens – greens that we cannot name – a writer’s palette is pitifully limited to words like jade, olive, spruce, lemon, lime, emerald, sage; this language can’t come close to describing the wonder of a woodland forest coming to life. Every leaf and twig emanates a luminous glow. Evergreens bristle, their delicate fingers stretching towards the filtered light of a canopy that protects the most sensitive eyes. Sweet moist air fills thirsty lungs, the sound of light rain brings out a symphony of frogs. The brook pools mirror blue sky through lacy ferns and wild sprigs of lily of the valley that are springing up under a woodland carpet, a pine – needled floor. In the distance, rose pink, magenta, and lilac blend into a huge field bouquet. The highest grasses hide white and purple violets, star-like lupine, deep blue spires of ajuga gone wild. As I observe the snowy crabbapple loose her glorious white crown I think I have never witnessed such wonder, this coming home to spring.

 

Working notes:

I recently returned from the high desert where I created small gardens against my adobe house, experienced the beauty of wildflowers and an abundance of sage green shoots appearing where none were before thanks to the generosity of the Cloud People. Even the hills were glazed in gray green, and one tree frog called from a nearby ditch. I was profoundly grateful to experience this year’s desert spring.

And yet, nothing prepared me for the miracle of experiencing a second spring here in the North East after a three year absence ( I returned the summer before last but missed the spring). The North Country Woman thrives under a canopy of green because her roots are here stretching deep into rich woodland soil. These deep roots are nurtured by regular rain and moisture, cool nights and a sun that is less intense. Perhaps too my Indigenous Peoples are calling me back…

I don’t know how to reconcile my love for dear friends and a thriving community in New Mexico with this felt sense of rootedness in Northern place. My body knows that she belongs here.

It’s almost as if I have had to go through a desert to find my way ‘home’ after I fled to escape harsh winters.

Here my body thrives; there I find community.

How, I ask myself, am I ever going to heal this split?

Lizard Love

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The lizard I write about is the male in the foreground of his cottonwood house. Note the cobalt patches on his neck… He looks as large as his mate but this is a visual distortion – In actuality his mate is larger. I took this picture just after the two mated.

 

He was splayed out

in the pail,

waterlogged.

I gasped.

How long had he been there?

Placing my

hand under his

limp gray body I

laid him out

on a strip of sun warmed

cottonwood bark

noting his cobalt

underbelly- shimmering

emerald silk.

 

Identifying him as

one of the new mated

males, I blamed myself.

for his death –

It had rained the night before.

I hadn’t remembered

the upright pail.

 

Moments later

a gold rimmed eye

opened

into a slit.

 

Filling my lungs

with air

I ceased all

thought,

opened

my body

to the beyond,

(the place where living

and dying co- exist

in unbroken wholeness)

breathing life

into his exhausted

animal body,

walked away,

accepting uncertain outcome.

The sun warmed ashen flesh.

 

Five minutes later

I return to check,

Lizard raises his head

peers about,

his skin is regaining its pattern

of stripes.

I wonder how long

it has been since he has eaten?

He gazes at me intently as

I welcome him home…

 

 

Working notes:

 

Last year when I moved into this adobe house I made friends with each of the sagebrush lizards who lived here. I was privileged to get to know each one by sight as they greeted me in the early morning by appearing the moment I stepped outside the house. Just knowing they were with me helped me survive a summer of such intense heat that I was housebound for months.

 

Last fall I built a half moon garden on the south side of the house and all seven house lizards moved in for the winter, including baby lizard who was born in late August. I was thrilled, knowing that I had created an unintentional haven for these reptiles! During the winter I thought about lizards sleeping just beyond the adobe wall… I loved knowing they were nearby. When my friends emerged this spring (March) I noted that I hadn’t lost one!

 

One surprise was that soon I noticed new sagebrush lizards that were also making their home here (was some kind of lizard grapevine working behind the scenes?). The newcomers were shy, and it took me a while to show them that I could be trusted. One new pair also took up residence on the garden wall. The male had taken a special liking to me and often appeared from a crack in his cottonwood abode whenever I came by and spoke to him.

 

When the lizards began to pair off this month (May) I watched two pairs mate; one was the male that fell into the pail. I am happy to report that the mated females are pregnant and the couples continue to hang out together on different parts of the adobe house, some in the east, some in the south, two pairs on the garden wall. I placed rounded pieces of cottonwood bark as extra lizard houses on the top of this parapet. The lizards can bask there in the sun, hunt for ants, and disappear in seconds if need be. It was on the surface of one of these bark houses that I placed the lizard I thought was dead.

 

To find him floating in a pail of water horrified me not just because I knew I was responsible, but because the lizard was my friend.

 

When a lizard is dying his very distinct markings fade into a dull uniform dark gray; I was barely able to identify this one. That the cobalt patches turn to emerald was another surprise.

 

I am not sure how I learned that sometimes I can help an individual by setting an intention for Life, clearing my mind, cultivating deep breathing, and letting go of the outcome, but learning this technique has helped me at times to save lives.

 

As I watched the lizard recover I viscerally felt and sensed the power of interconnection to effect outcome.

 

I call that power Love.

Renewal?

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(author’s story as told by the child… note the Raven in the plant)

 

Renewal?

 

Just that one word dreamed as a question the night of January 1st.

 

Last evening all my Bear Circle animals gathered in front of the 8 flickering candles (intentions I had set for this coming year) – Most were about the loving the Earth, my body, the bodies of animals and trees, giving thanks for gifts offered in 2018.

 

The animals were walking towards the evergreen wreath, my Circle of Life, soon to enter the Great Round. My fervent hope was that during this human induced ‘sixth extinction’ some would find a way to survive…

 

Telling stories through stone animals is something the child has been doing for almost 40 years when I first dreamed the “Bear Circle”… Sometimes these stories ‘work’ and sometimes not. But I never stop the child’s meanderings for often she knows more than I do…

 

As I spoke my intentions, opened my palms and sang my song, Lily b offered his Blessing.

 

Heat pulsed through my upraised hands.

 

I had been heard.

 

Staring into the flames of the candle at the center of the wreath, I imagined the animals walking through to a kinder place where all creatures and trees were loved.

 

Even as my heart broke.

 

So many losses and more to come.

 

Renewal?

 

Even in the dream the word remains a question… perhaps opening to unimaginable possibility?

 

This morning there was no sunrise.

 

Eight Ravens brought in the day.

 

Messengers from the Beyond witness what is, will be.

 

 

Postscript: Many Indigenous peoples believe Raven is a messenger from the ‘Great Beyond’ who brings news – good or ill. What’s curious is that I lit 8 candles last night and this morning there were eight ravens sitting in near by trees…

For Love of Trees

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Yesterday I dreamed that I discovered a bird’s nest that was hidden in the center of an evergreen tree. This little dream moved me deeply because this is the time of year I celebrate my love and gratitude for all trees, but especially evergreens, and the dream felt like an important message. For me, the “Tree of Life” is also an evergreen at least during the winter months.

 

Outdoors, I recently placed a glass star in the center of my newly adopted Juniper here in New Mexico, repeating a pattern that began in Maine years ago with my Guardian Juniper in whose center I also placed a star…Inside the house an open circle made from a completely decayed tree trunk sits at the center of my Norfolk Pine. Indoors both boughs and tree are festooned with tiny lights. The point of these making these gestures was/is to remind me that tree bodies are sacred in their wholeness and each tree explicates the immanence of divinity. Another way of saying this is to say that Natural Power lives in trees.

 

I do not believe in god.

 

But the reality of “Natural Power” is an ongoing force in my life. When I am deeply troubled I turn to trees or birds or animals for help, and they always respond, although often it takes me a long time to understand their messages, mostly because my intellect and cultural conditioning gets in the way of intuition, sensing, and feeling.

 

Sometimes dreams help me to bridge the gap, and when I dreamed that the tree held a nest I felt a great comfort moving through me…

 

It seemed to me that the dream was showing me that the “little bird woman self” (most vulnerable personality) has a safe place to rest within the protected boughs of the evergreen, also her Tree of Life.

 

Because I am living in two worlds and must find a way to move between both, I am by necessity a “snow bird” migrating with the seasons. Thus, it means a great deal to me that I have a place to feel contained and nurtured among fragrant boughs anywhere I go.

 

The tree and her nest may be hidden, but it is there, and I found it.

 

Perhaps I have found home, after all.

I Remember Who I Am

 

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20180122_Lily_Hope_20100424.jpg  the road less traveled is one I walk…

 

Twice in the last week I have climbed a mountain road and walked around through healthy Ponderosa pine,  gray -green spruces, junipers, aspen, and cottonwoods recently shorn of their crowns, soaking in the oxygen rich ragged cliffs studded with thousands of healthy trees, delighting in deep green needles etched against deep blue sky… A few mountain peaks wear  white.

 

When I breathe this moist sweet air I feel the Source of Life moving through an aching body. She thrums a song through my heart, strums a song through my lungs. This precious Life. Tiny evergreens are sprouting, cacti abound. Bushy emerald sprouts on mature trees speak to adequate rain – for now. New growth tips are Nature’s promise. Black Bears slip through the trees on padded feet unseen, gentle denizens of the forest, they ponder the abundance of choices for dry winter rock dens. I slip on loose rubble gathering sweet boughs. Give thanks. The opaque stones speak.

 

Today is All Soul’s Day. And I remember who I am.

 

A Daughter of the Earth.

 

I have reclaimed my animal powers on the tree rich mountain where ‘woman changes.’ I wear antlers that touch the sky with tongues of flame. I am a woman who belongs to Bears, to Forest, and to Stone. I am the Soul of the River that calls my name.

 

I am a woman I respect, who speaks her truth, even as she stands alone.

 

I Remember Who I Am.