Quivers of Light

Fringed Wrinkled Lichen

“Quivers of light” pierce darkening thoughts when I examine a piece of lichen – part animal – part plant – these two live together in harmony, each dependent upon each other for life. Lichen are both a fungus and an alga – the latter a photosynthesizing organism… fungi receive sugar from the algae and the algal partners receive protection… this symbiosis or reciprocity is 400 million years strong. As I live with the drought that is stealing the life force from the trees and plants around me, I look at lichen and feel that quivering Earth Light shining through our present crisis. Earth will live on. 

Two Bridges

The felled trees

scented the air

with pungent pine

and spruce.

I watched this boy

carve the planks

that would become

the bridges,

not even minding

the whine of

the chain saw

because I trusted him,

his skill,

understood

that he was honoring

the forest

creating art

from each dead tree

he cut with Love.

 

 

The two bridges

crossed

the brook

binding the forest

to the hills

in both places…

 

One path leads

to the pool

where fishes swim

and I find refuge

from intolerable heat

bathing in crystal waters.

 

The other touches

a granite boulder

lets me climb

the rise to a child’s

room, hidden away

under balsams

and one intrepid cedar.

 

Someday I hope

to spend the night

inside the small

porch… sleeping

soundly, soothed

by flowing waters

awakening

in peace

like I used to

when my children

lived –

and bears

roamed silently

through fragrant trees.

 

For now

I cross this second bridge,

stand there

acknowledging the dead,

thinking of him,

steeped in longing…

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Peter’s Meadow

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(In memory of Peter 7/10/20)

 

 

I hardly knew you.

 

We always met at

the meadow,

the one alive in

your imagination.

Last fall you told me

how beautiful

it would look

when wildflowers bloomed.

 

I saw swaying grasses.

 

Tod was busy leveling

the earth, smoothing

her for re- creation

with a machine

that puffed like

a dragon.

 

When he mowed down

the sumac I winced.

So much winter forage

for deer and birds

no longer a gift.

I missed the

blushing wine berries,

fading ochre leaves.

.

But we agreed on

everything else.

 

Like you,

I too was conjuring

up a wildflower spring.

 

The soil was rich,

swelling

with seed..

I knew nature

held other surprises,

for you had created a “field”

of possibility, allowing Her

to take the lead..

 

And sure enough,

after the snow disappeared

Dandelions sprang up

splashing the earth

in gold as wild bees

gathered for the feast.

I picked a few tart leaves

for my salads.

 

When the

Indian Paintbrush

flooded the meadow

in lemon, bittersweet

orange, and red,

I met you

on the road.

“Aren’t they magnificent?”

You asked me,

blue eyes intent.

Your face lit up

when I agreed.

 

Soon after,

you were gone,

flying on the wings

of dandelion puffs.

 

Seeding the future.

 

I wondered where

you might land.

Just in case you are

sailing these skies

I keep watch for you.

 

I note the abundance

of bright eyed daisies.

Black eyed susans

burst forth in the sun.

Pungent yarrow is peppered

by fuchsia pink.

 

Each day

when I walk by

I feel that some part of you

lives on,

watching over

the Meadow

you brought to life.

 

Working notes:  Reflecting on the bridges that were crossed at this gathering.

This piece of prose was written for a memorial service that was held at 8 AM in the morning outdoors at my neighbor’s house. Just a few of us gathered less than three weeks after Peter’s death and this event, which also functioned as a bridge into the future for some of us, will stand out in my mind as the most peaceful memorial service I have ever attended. Surrounded by fruit trees, astonishing mountain views, extensive gardens and glorious fields we acknowledged the loss of a kind man that I barely knew, although I am becoming close friends with his widow. By attending this gathering I crossed a bridge that freed me from the past – a blessing I could never have expected and one that closes a circle for me while allowing me to cross yet another bridge into the future…

For so many years I was close friends with the former owners of this spectacular piece of property, walking through their woods, visiting the pond, soaking in the beauty of the flowers… I loved those two. He was a woodsman and a hunter, who loved trees and the animals he killed –  forever an enigma – I still respected him. She was a wealthy Victorian Matriarch who expected others to serve her and we did, gladly. When she chose another woman as her new friend – one I introduced to her – the two turned their backs on me – I became the “expendable” friend – this, after 10 years of friendship. Devastated, and unable to deal with the anguish, I let go… all that was left was a passionflower mourning…A year later, (and a number of other times thereafter) I attempted to re-kindle a little of what had been lost, but she would have none of it. When he died on a cold winter solstice night, the antlers he gave me fell off the mantlepiece. She slipped away a few years later but not before raping her land, butchering a whole forest for even more money. An atrocity committed against the earth that had nurtured her for so many years…

For Betsey this gathering created a bridge into a future she is ready to inhabit. Peter’s dying was protracted and she was able to stay emotionally present for the entire process. “Peter died just the way he wanted to” she told me a few hours after his death. As a result of his readiness to let go (an attitude I frankly envied), and her ability to be emotionally present for him throughout his dying allowed both of them to move into new lives.

At the gathering I spoke of how nature demonstrates that there is no death that is separated from new life – the process is an endless round. Peter’s Meadow was a perfect example – just last year the old house had burned down giving Peter the opportunity to dream and eventually co – create a beautiful wild meadow which is presently full of summer flowers.

When someone referred to the richness of the meadow I exclaimed “Life is bursting out of every “dead” decaying tree stump; there is no death – life and death are one” using my favorite fallen tree replete with its entire ecosystem as another example.

The second I spoke these words I felt the truth of what I had said in my body; specifically in my lower belly. It was only a momentary spark or flash but it was definitely a physical sensation.  Another bridge is being forged…

I am blessed to be forging a new friendship with a person on land that I love. I am welcomed, appreciated for my compassion and insight, my ability to see what others cannot. I can be who I am with Betsey. Every conversation I have with her leaves me gratified because I am seen and heard. I don’t have to get stuck in projection because she communicates her feelings and her understanding to me directly through her words and through her body. There is no room for projection or doubt in this kind of exchange. It should come as no surprise to the reader that Betsey has a close relationship with animals, especially her dogs. Dogs are our closest animal familiars tuned to frequency of intimacy that is true astounding.

 

 

Morning Meditation in July…

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I have just returned from the brook where I offered up my Toad Moon prayers early this 4th of July morning to the song of the hermit thrush and to the rippling waters that slip over stone – first honoring my body with a poem written just for her, and then by repeating my hope/belief/intention that the search has ended and my house will get the structural help she needs without invasive machines scarring my beloved trees and land… I release my doubt – a plague that has incarcerated me for months.

 

I felt my body rooting into forested soil… I belong here; I am loved here.

 

Peace filtered through the green – trees, seedlings, lichens, mosses, grasses and the clear mountain waters. Silence, except for Thrush’s morning benediction.

 

A prayerful moment at the beginning of each day opens a spirit door – a portal into the beyond perhaps, but also a sacred portal into myself – though I have experienced this lifting of the veil throughout my life it wasn’t until this winter in a New Mexican Bosque that the trees taught me a lesson I needed to learn. I must create space to do this morning meditation intentionally every single day – for myself, as well as for the Earth adding a third element to ritual. My walks to the river and Bosque began as a survival mechanism to deal with unbearable heat and transformed into a focused morning meditation that I hope to continue for the rest of my life … I didn’t plan it; it happened, and the Bosque full of trees, roots, fungus and hyphae was the medium… S/he opened the door.

 

Now the challenge is to stay strong and true to what I know… a four year journey into the hero’s (?) maze was the way I learned that this particular earth ground needs and contains me… Would her house timbers have cracked if I hadn’t abandoned her? She needs me to love her too.

 

It feels almost miraculous to experience a full moon in a grounded way after my experiences in the desert with an empty sky bowl of thin blue air, mighty winds that stilled the songs of birds and polluted the air, and nights that were rarely dark because the moon rarely slept perching in the sky for two weeks out of each month.

 

Too much air, too much stone, too much wind, a glaring sun… a sky bereft of stars for too long each month, no green, and no water….

 

How grateful I am for home…

 

Seal Skin – Soul Skin

 

 

This body is

my holy altar

my bounded skin

my embodied soul

my closet kin.

The Song of the Forest

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When He comes

I forget who I am.

My story vanishes.

Boundaries dissolve.

Emerald green,

leaf filtered light,

clear mountain streams,

trees, lichens, moss –

become ‘all there is’.

In the still dawning

Animals speak.

 

Nature’s ultimate gift is that given the chance S/he dissolves the artificial socially constructed  boundaries that humans have erected to separate themselves from the Earth who is burning in the Fire, unable to breathe as many of us are struggling to do now.

We have a choice to re-establish interconnection – to become part of the  original family that birthed us 500 million years ago… regardless of outcome.

Developing an intimate connection with Nature allows us to disappear into the whole. Ironically, dissolution is where peace is found.

Spirit Bear

June bear

 

When the bears come the waters will rise / sweet rain will fill the barrels / and cardinals will whistle love songs. When the bears come my feet will touch the earth / and I will feel the branches of root light illuminating the dark / revealing a direction that has been blocked by disbelief. When the bears come joy will climb up my spine / and fireflies will gather in my hair/ my mind will clear/ pinpoints of flashing light will lead the way/ the mist that blankets the mountain will part / dew will fall under a waning moon / and I will hug a furry body until I sleep / burying my head in his chest / feeling his heartbeat as my own / whole / if only the bears will come…

Trusting what we have been given?

It is hard to

witness the drought

steal lime green

shrink maple leaves

distort wildflower buds.

When I stand under

the apple tree

white snow petals

drift

around me,

I long to stop time

until the rains come.

Vernal pools

are disappearing.

This scalding gift

kills wiggling tadpoles

by the millions –

froglets not to be –

Frantically, I scoop

a thousand or more,

race to the pond,

make an offering

of reprieve –

Time to Breathe.

Afterwards

I reflect.

Murder by a scorching sun

is part of the story

but not the Whole.

This frog holocaust

is also Nature’s way.

S/he births life,

allows death

to have its way.

 

Working notes: This piece was written in response to a prompt given by a friend/facilitator before we met collectively on zoom (hideous name) – writers who need to keep on questioning and learning… that day I had witnessed thousands of tadpoles struggling to survive as their vernal (temporary) pools disappeared in the terrifying 100 plus degree heat wave in a month when all life is just beginning – May – Unable to stand by when I knew that frogs are the most endangered species on earth, I scooped up about a thousand and released them in a nearby lake, in my vernal pool, and kept a few to watch in a fish bowl knowing that bringing these last few to adulthood will probably give them a chance to survive. Frogs don’t need a heat wave to kill them. As it is only four percent make it to adulthood under the best circumstances. In that one pool  alone thousands more perished under a relentless solstice sun.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t get much feedback from my “non – poem” someone called it -unfortunately even sensitive writers aren’t tuned in to the ways of Nature…at least not like I am. In the scheme of things frogs don’t matter – and yet here we are in the midst of a virus crisis that kills impersonally… I see an intimate relationship between the frogs and people who are dying…

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The Pear Tree

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She was more

than a sapling,

so robust.

One summer she

bowed

her tear shaped body,

offering

a hundred sweet pears

to any creature

that sought her gifts.

Did the deer remember?

Fruit that fermented became

fertilizer for hungry plants.

 

When they

girded her slender trunk

that winter

I felt betrayed

by the herd of graceful creatures

I fed…

 

She was dead.

Her sweet cambium

stripped away

under rough bark.

Unable to carry

nitrogen, water, nutrients

from trunk to twig

the tree succumbed.

 

I would have cut her down

but she was hidden

below the house

in the lower field,

out of sight.

So the tree still stood –

skeleton gray against

new green

and wheat.

 

I continued to visit her –

murmured endearments,

stroked the scarred

trunk

“re- membering”

her life,

the wholeness

she once embodied.

 

Every fall I cut the field

Each spring I walked the

Round.

 

It was during

a May meandering

that I drifted

towards the tree –

startled when

lime green

caught my eye.

A few stunted leaves

were unfurling…

How could this be?

 

Bearing witness

to the struggle,

I cried out,

laid my head against

her trunk, caressed

a branch or two.

 

Some life force

had not surrendered –

 

During the summer

more leaves appeared.

I honored her tenacity,

placed protective wire

around her girth

under Autumn’s chill.

The philosopher held

the inevitable question…

How?

 

When I approached her

this spring

plump buds had formed

on branches over my head.

The Red Winged Blackbird

courted us both

from one of Pear’s

blue sky limbs…

 

After the heat wave

I couldn’t wait

to see her again…

 

Strolling down

the pine scented path.

I peered into the field

walked towards her

gasping in amazement.

A brilliant White Earth Star

stood there before me

festooned in

Bridal blossoms.

Honey Bees hummed

from every pearl -like petal.

 

“How did you do that?”

I queried in wonder,

recalling suddenly,

that I knew –

all trees communicate

underground,

ask for help,

exchange information

through rootlets,

mycelial networks,

miles of fungi,

woven into a tapestry

from tree to tree.

Did nearby white pine

or crabapple

nurture her

roots and trunk

when all seemed lost?

 

Miracles occurred

with regularity.

 

Like this one.

 

I was standing next to

a blooming pear tree

who would one day

bear sweet fruit!

 

Life had triumphed

for a cosmic moment.

 

Woman and Tree

were both transformed

by relationship

running deep.

 

 

Working notes:

This piece of prose was generated by the question of how much difference my love for this tree might have had on her return to life. Obviously there were biological/ecological forces that helped the tree recover, but my sense is that my love for her also helped in some mysterious way.

 

Developing a relationship with a tree or lizard or dog seems to create a reciprocity that strengthens both participants. And trees and women have an ancient relationship that stretches back through mythological time.

 

When we “re – member” some part of us brings what appears to be the past and the present together – my sense is that there is a wholeness inherent in remembering that also blurs the boundaries between the living and the dead.

May Eve – A Time of Becoming

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(unfurling three lobed Trillium by Trillium Rock)

 

Returning home to Maine in April has allowed me to experience winter turning her ancient wisdom filled face towards the maiden of spring. Although the month has been chilly, and until two days ago snow covered tree stripped mountains still held white dust, all Nature is celebrating renewal.

 

In the woods the maples are turning a deep rose red. Here in the yard all my fruit trees are waiting for May’s rain and the warmth of a waxing solar sun to set fragrant bursting blossoms, as are the lilacs. Blood red cardinals sing love songs in my pine forest, whistling up the dawn. Wood frogs croak in the vernal pools, laying jellied egg masses, young foxes race through oak groves crackling leaves in their wake. The goose stands watch over his nesting mate at the pond, a loon does the same, haunting the sky with his song.

 

On this still soft cloudy morning I peer into the forest beyond the brook noting a palette of grays  – the tree people on stilts – some slender, others thick, all well rooted – the trunks of some trees like maples and beech are smooth, others like ash and white pine are deeply grooved. All are well nourished by those who have gone before. Bare branches will soon be covered in feathery lime green. Balsam, Hemlock, Spruce and Cedar scent the air with Pinenes, those powerful healing oils of the forest whose fragrant breath heals damaged lungs.

 

This year I am listening to the sounds of woodpeckers – Sapsuckers bring in the first hummingbirds, Pileated woodpeckers carve oval doors, Downy and Hairy perch on telephone polls pounding deadwood when I walk to the pond.

 

On January 1st the first bird I heard was a woodpecker –a drumming flicker in New Mexico. The first bird sighting of the year always carries a message for me, and that day I had a vision of holes.

 

Something was coming… Now that this country is struggling with a pandemic that we humans have brought upon ourselves with our selfishness and disregard of non – human species – both plant and animal – we are reaping the first harvest of that which we sowed… And yet, all nature in the northern hemisphere celebrates this turning of the wheel, despite human suffering. Life goes on; and being able to participate in this process is a joy without parallel.

 

This year I turn towards May Day with reverence.

 

Yesterday I spent hours on my knees working in my overgrown perennial flower garden with the awareness that the position of my body revealed the depth of that reverence – I was bowed in prayer…

 

I feel overflowing gratitude for being alive, for being able to sit by still pools of water. I give thanks for ears to hear spring singing. I listen to the brook flowing – water rounding granite stone – just below the house. I walk through the deciduous wooded parts of this patch of land marveling over the tenaciousness of life to re –create itself out of a fallen tree stump, a rotting log. I count eight kinds of moss and lichen on Trillium rock. Emerald green sphagnum moss permeates my soul in the bog.

 

It is enough.

 

I am grateful, oh ever so grateful, to Nature for teaching me to see, to hear, to taste, to dream, to learn, to seek truth, to reflect, to feel fear, anger and heartbreak, and still to say yes to Love.

Red Bird – The Edge of Hope

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papa last summer…

 

Two days ago I had a dream that I saw my beloved male cardinal in the snow. Cardinals have been my spirit birds in the North Country for 35 years.

 

On the trip from New Mexico to Maine I heard cardinal songs every evening and morning. Listening to their symphony helped me believe that I was being welcomed home to the east.

 

We have been here at my little log cabin for nine days and although other dear birds have visited the feeder, no cardinals have been in sight – until last night.

 

At dusk I opened the door to the sound of the male’s mating call – “Oh, I cried, you are back – I love you” – my whole body/mind was thrumming with impossible joy. I kept talking and he kept singing. Tears of gratitude stung my eyes.

 

Over the past years I have had so many squirrels that I have had to stop feeding my cardinals on the ground. But every morning and every evening the cardinals would begin to whistle and I would run out with seed to scatter below the feeder.

 

Last summer I witnessed the male cardinal teaching this strategy to his young son. the little fledgling had such a high pitched voice! I have yet to see my friend in the flesh this morning, but just knowing he is here brings me to the edge of hope once again.

 

Blessed be the birds that bind us…