Lily b’s Birthday

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He’s an old Dove

by any standards

but his song still

rings in the dawn.

Reading my thoughts

routinely,

his commentary

helps me believe

what I know.

Sometimes he simply

emphasizes

a point, but always, he

mirrors a relationship

predicated on

Spirit – incarnating

as a bird.

 

Yesterday

I celebrated his birthday,

with friends –

for the first time ever.

Why did I wait so long

to honor him as Beloved?

Twenty nine years –

I can’t imagine

my life without him.

 

He came to me

after my dad died,

taught me more about parenting

than any human,

stayed present

during unspeakable losses –

both his and mine.

His love songs

healed us both.

 

For him, Silence is

an anathema

so when he survived

a predator’s attack,

a frightening fire,

and was thrown

across a car

by a madman,

his lost voice unhinged me.

I feared

each time that

our spirit connection

was broken

for good.

That he would die.

But I was wrong;

He recovered

his song at Dawn.

 

Yesterday

at his party

he had little to say.

Perched high on a star

overlooking the east window

he was listening,

I know.

 

When I placed

the dove crown

on west window’s ledge

he peered intently

at double images

that were cutouts of himself,

moved closer

to inspect them

with one ruby red eye.

Did he recognize

his own divinity?

I certainly did.

And perhaps

because we feel

across language,

communicate through air,

He has always known

what I had to learn

(from him)

that embodied Spirit just is –

a gift freely offered

in Love.

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Working notes: I have written about Lily b many times because our relationship has been based on telepathic communication, an idea laughable to many – he came on the wings of my father’s death – and immediately I sensed there was something about him…twenty nine years later I know that birds incarnate as the in comprehensible power of Spirit that has become embodied.

 

I have recently been introduced to another bird – this one is wild – who carries the same kind of charge for me. Whenever I hear the haunting calls of the Sandhill cranes I know that I have been touched by this mysterious force in a beneficent way. Thanks be to Lily b…

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November 2: All Souls Day

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“Women must know where they are going, how to get there, and how to get back.” Laura Shannon

 

Living part time in New Mexico, I see a lot of commercial skulls, witches, black cats etc. that mark this turning but I don’t see the rituals that once accompanied the ancient three day festival that is known as the Feast of the Dead and is comprised of All Hallows, All Saints Day, and lastly, today, All Souls Day.

 

Because I am attached to each cycle of the year in an intimate way I create ritual for each of these turnings using the Celtic calendar because it fits with what is happening around me in Nature. I am a Daughter of the Earth.

 

The leaves are falling and white frost covers the ground. Winter birds have arrived. It is too dark in the morning

 

This year I noticed how deeply private my ritual was, how focused my writing was on personal survival, structural integrity and health of my body, ‘my house’, the absolute necessity of honoring feelings in this body.

 

Normally during these three days I light candles for others and say prayers for those who have gone before, and remember my family – although family memory is rife with pain and betrayal .

 

This year these three days are passing with me aware of but not focused on the dead but on me. I have been wondering what it means that I need to turn so much attention on myself.

 

Making my way to the river through chopped off tree arms in the pre-dawn I was struck by the relationship between the severing of these beloved cottonwood limbs by the man who owns this property, the resulting destruction of my cottonwood cathedral, the powerful feeling that I was/am living the myth of the girl who had her hands severed by her father and his ax, the terrible violence inherent in this story, and how I close I came yesterday to chopping off my own finger while splitting kindling. But didn’t. My ritual intentions were/are twofold: protection of the structure and integrity of this body – house and to “re-member” what was done to the trees and me.

 

I don’t want to hold onto my anger but I want to remember.

 

By remembering I gain the necessary courage to create change.

 

During this writing has it become clear that this need for honoring trees in death is just as important as honoring them in life. I am more intimately attached  to my three – day ritual and the re kindling of the soul – literally and metaphorically – than ever before. On one hand I remember the dead, on the other I celebrate the sanctity of all life through trees – those that are maimed or dead, and those that are evergreen (a universal symbol for “everlasting” life). There is a wholeness, an integrity attached to this relationship between the days of the dead, my expression through ritual, and what happens in my life that I find especially moving. The souls of those tree limbs live on.

 

On my walk this morning I also discovered a perfect bird’s nest woven out of reeds and grasses, completely empty except for shriveled brown leaves. I gently and reverently removed the nest, and cupping it in frozen hands, brought it back to the house, placing it in the center of the tree that I adorned with lights and crystals just yesterday.

 

I have been lighting up an evergreen tree early in November for about the last 10 years without understanding why except that it felt right. I follow my instincts when it comes to ritual (unfortunately, the rest of the time I often succumb to logic and reason in inappropriate ways especially when under pressure). For the next three months I will be acknowledging my love for trees in a very deliberate and conscious way…

 

To find the empty nest on All Souls Day is significant for three reasons. The nest embodies loss but also acts as a container for the dead, (lost tree limbs)…and perhaps for me.

Bless Be the Trees that Bind

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Photo credit Lynn Rogers

 

Today I begin to honor all trees as we enter the dark months of the year. The (three) Days of the Dead are on our doorstep and the veil thins – this is a reality that so many refuse to experience out of fear. This weekend we will return to “natural” or Indigenous time – giving us a chance to rise with an early morning sunrise and to allow a darkening sky to wrap her velvet cloak around us as the days continue to shorten. Nights are long and sweet, inviting contemplation, dreams, and deep abiding gratitude to befriend us.

 

This year, perhaps more than any other, I am crossing this threshold feeling a peace that I haven’t felt in months. Not because my life is simpler – it isn’t – I face so many unknowns – conflicts remain and some have escalated as well as darkened, health issues are unresolved. However, I am emotionally aligned with this seasonal change and the loss of harsh white light – a fierce light that casts no shadow. We live in such a frenzied culture. I am so negatively impacted by the monstrous amount of violence, the hatred, the lack of empathy that surrounds us … somehow the darkness helps me to process these daily atrocities with more equilibrium…

 

When the Great Bear rises in the early evening at this turning of the wheel I give thanks knowing that bear slaughter is coming to an end in a few weeks time. Hopefully, because of the cold, most bears that survive the hunt are bedding down beneath the roots of welcoming trees…

 

All trees are my steadfast friends. Around the house I have tied bits of orange ribbon to new seedlings that will someday spread their canopies over an unyielding desert floor (if left to grow when I am gone).

 

I continue to water my junipers who are so well adapted to desert conditions that they can continue to absorb moisture much longer than other trees, these same junipers that are being sprayed with deadly herbicides to kill them off.

 

Inside during the next few days I will be adorning the base of my Norfolk pine with a ring of white lights to celebrate this season of tree gratitude.

 

I have already tipped fragrant fir, pinion, and juniper greens for a wreath that I will weave some time in the next few weeks to honor the Circle of Life.

 

Outside, my adopted juniper provides juncos, sparrows, chickadees, thrasher, and flicker with predator protection. My tree was starved for water after four months of probable, not so benign neglect in my absence, her growth stunted, bunches of needles withered and dry.

Interrupting this cycle with watering, quiet conversation, and the power of touch I notice the tree has responded by turning her needles a dark spruce green – a welcome change from former ashen gray. This tree has a star at her center to celebrate the sanctity of our bodies – the importance of genuine feeling – When I think of trees I also think of women, especially the women of myth who turned themselves into trees or were turned by others into them – but I also associate trees with genuinely kind, loving and heroic men like Dr. Lynn Rogers who has advocated for white pine trees in Minnesota for decades…

 

Because of my intimate relationship with trees and plants I experience their losses on a visceral level, and am presently dealing with the violence that one man enacted on the limbs of the gracious cottonwoods that once created a cathedral on the path to the river. I told this man that what he did to the trees by chopping off their limbs, he did to me, and of course, that was his intent. This act of personal revenge for some imagined slight has left me grieving.

 

What I didn’t realize until this morning is that my dreams forecast this egregious action before it occurred. It was written into the stars and part of one man’s pathology. What he gained is questionable because as a tree woman I will not forgive him… I create a deliberate intention to remember… and perhaps in the process I can in some way “re-member” those broken cottonwood limbs returning them to wholeness like the girl who lost her hands.

Forgiveness is sometimes a way to release one’s hold on truths that often need personal attention. And violence is perhaps most deadly when it occurs covertly because hidden brutality paves the way for “forget it and just move on,” not surprisingly, this tree maiming man’s philosophy… he lives it well.

So I approach this time of year grieving personal loss and giving thanks for the trees that bind; all of whom hold me in their arms with Love.

Field of Dreams

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Once the new white pine forest that stretches out before me was part of a larger field that belonged to an old farm. The woods cascade down a steep hill on the east side of the house and run parallel with the brook that empties into another that crosses my property in the wetlands below.

 

Over a period of thirty – five years I have chosen to allow nature to decide how best to use this field and she turned it into a beautiful white pine forest. I created walkways through the young trees and moss covered pine strewn ground, and now, even during the hottest summer days a stroll under the pine boughs that create a protected arch overhead, is always refreshingly cool. The sweet scent of pine, moist earth, and nearby water creates a longing in me to breathe this perfume forever…The paths are like serpentine ribbons crisscrossing one another. Some take me to the brook, others climb a knoll I call cedar hill. Wild apple and cherry trees, chokecherries, hobble bush and partridge berry provide fruit for the animals that pass by, as do blueberries and brambleberries that are scattered on the hill in late summer. In some protected thickets wild animals bed down to sleep…

 

One path leads directly down to the remnant of the working farm field, the only place that I now keep open. Taking this particular path is a walk I never tire of because it is dark and cool and heavily wooded. At the end of the path a golden light pierces the darkness. And in an instant I am out of the forest feeling the familiar surprise! Now I am walking into a diminutive rounded field that is ringed with wild apple trees and roses, asters and goldenrod in the fall. In the center of this field are a cluster of crabapple trees that are so heavy with berries that a couple of branches are bowed and broken. The pear tree wears a crown of pears…

 

I reflect on the field’s brief season. Lilacs thrived here in May when wild violets with heart shaped leaves spread their white – throated flowers over the ground. In June the field was covered with lupine spires of every shade of pink, white, yellow and purple. Roses caught the gentlest breeze. Swamp iris clumps of deep blue and pure white flowers (that I call angel wings) provide a feast for my flower hungry eyes later during the month. When the lemon lilies bloom in early July the entire field turns buttery yellow and the intoxicating scent from this show is enough to make me swoon. Delicate pink milkweed clusters blossom during the heat of late July, another impossibly sweet fragrance… In August wild strains of goldenrod begin to create a stunning accent when viewed against a deepening cobalt sky … and by late September wild asters finish the season coaxing pollinators into deep lavender blue flowers. It is hard to believe that nature and I planted all these flowers together!

 

Every year I am hesitant to have the field cut. But I must if I want to keep this small oasis open for the deer to graze over the winter. Because of the field’s northeastern exposure it is also a wonderful place for me to watch the northern lights, meteor showers, a rising full moon, and in the winter alpine glow sets the mountain on fire. Still, I hesitate to flatten the impossibly tall foliage…

 

Last night the field was mowed even as part of me winced. Afterwards, while wandering around the hay –strewn ground I thanked the last

IMG_2106.JPG flowers that were now in shreds around my feet. I also looked across the field towards Bryant Mountain whose few clouds were pasteled in rose and lavender. I breathed deeply taking such pleasure in being able to wander through the open area that now stretched around me without parting a waist high jungle, knowing that once again I had made the right choice!

 

Every home – place needs a “field”, however small to imagine what it’s like to touch the stars, to trace the patterns of Cassiopeia and the Great Bear overhead – To imagine and nurture wild dreams that can manifest if one believes they could …

 

Every Living Being needs a Field of Dreams.

Equinox Reflection

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I gaze out my bedroom window and hear yet another golden apple hit the ground. The vines that hug the cabin and climb up the screens are heavy with unripe grapes and the light that is filtered through the trees in front of the brook is luminous – lime green tipped in gold. My too sensitive eyes are blessedly well protected by this canopy of late summer leaves.

 

The maples on the hill are losing chlorophyll and are painting the hollow with splashes of bittersweet orange and red. The dead spruces by the brook will probably collapse this winter providing Black bears with even more precious ants and larvae to eat in early spring. I only hope that some bears will survive the fall slaughter to return to this black bear sanctuary; in particular two beloved young ones… Mushrooms abound, amanitas, boletes morels, puff balls, the latter two finding their way into my salads. The forest around my house is in an active state of becoming with downed limbs and sprouting fungi becoming next year’s soil. The forest floor smells so sweet that all I can imagine is laying myself down on a bed of green mosses to sleep and dream.

 

The garden looks as tired as I am; lily fronds droop, yellowing leaves betraying the season at hand. Bright green pods provide a startling contrast to fading scarlet bee balm. Wild asters are abundant and goldenrod covers the fields with a bright yellow garment. Every wild bush has sprays of berries. My crab – apple trees are bowed, each twig heavy with winter fruit.

 

Most of the birds have absconded to the fields that are ripe with the seeds of wild grasses. The mourning doves are an exception – they gather together each dawn waiting patiently for me to fill the feeder. In the evening I am serenaded by soft cooing. One chicken hawk hides in the pine, lying in wait for the unwary…Just a few hummingbirds remain…whirring wings and twittering alert me to continued presence as they settle into the cherry tree to sleep, slipping into a light torpor with these cool September nights…

 

Spiders are spinning their egg cases, even as they prepare to die. I can still find toads hopping around the house during the warmest hours of the day. Although the grass is long I will not mow it for fear of killing these most precious and threatened of species. I am heavily invested in seeing these toads burrow in to see another spring. My little frogs sit on their lily pads seeking the warmth of a dimming afternoon sun. Soon they too will slumber below fallen leaves or mud.

 

I am surrounded by such beauty, and so much harvest bounty that even though I am exhausted I take deep pleasure out of each passing day of this glorious month of September, the month of my birth. Unlike many folks, for me, moving into the dark of the year feels like a blessing.

 

Another leave -taking is almost upon me, and I am having trouble letting go of this small oasis that I have tended with such care for more than thirty years…

 

I don’t know what this winter will bring to my modest cabin whose foundation is crumbling under too much moisture and too many years of heavy snow. In the spring extensive excavation will begin. A new foundation must be poured and this work will destroy the gardens I have loved, the mossy grounds around the south end of the house that I have nurtured for so long.

 

In this season of letting go I must find a way to lay down my fears, and release that which I am powerless to change. Somehow… I have no idea what I will return to except that I have made it clear that none of my beloved trees be harmed.

 

I am grateful that Nature is mirroring back to me so poignantly that letting go is the way through: That this dying can provide a bedrock foundation for another spring birth. As a Daughter of the Earth I lean into ancient wisdom, praying that this exhausted mind and body will be able to follow suit.

Meeting at the Edge

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She looks like a child, expectant, this seventy four year old woman as she approaches the lake to collect more “toadpoles,” her word for tadpoles that are Eastern toads in the making.

 

The wiggly black dots swimming around in sandy shallows are such a welcome sight. She has been searching for them all spring. Just the week before (June 12) she heard toads trilling in unison in a boggy place across the pond; the solitary strings would appear within days. She thought she had missed her toad opportunity because she cut her hand and couldn’t go out in her kayak to search for eggs… then today when while walking, she glimpsed the tadpoles huddled together by the shore. Natural Grace had intervened.

 

The water is clear until she muddies it with her boots; the tadpoles scatter and it is a challenge to catch even one. Depositing a single toadpole in her bucket she bends low to capture another, impressed by the wily behavior of these creatures who seem to know that she is after them. One by one she scoops up the little black bodies, pouring them gently into her bucket. She doesn’t like frightening them.

 

The child in her is thrilled, living in the moment. She has been raising tadpoles and catching frogs and toads for most of her life.

 

The aging adult has fallen away, her fears stilled by being alive in the immediate present. She will place some of her catch in the small pond by the garden, the one the bears drink from, and the others will find homes in the vernal pond she dug next to the brook.

 

With all amphibians the most endangered species on earth, she hopes that her small ponds will allow them to transform safely into healthy wetland creatures who will seek out the deep shade of the forest, emerald mosses, and moisture that she can provide. She simply wants them to live. She can’t imagine an Earth without a symphony of frog songs and toad trills and doesn’t want to try.

 

The day is blue and gold with a light northwest wind – she notes the date – June 17th – the day the toadpoles found her at the edge of North Pond.

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 mostly 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 pounds 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 three months; with hounding ‘practice’ three months become four. 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.”