The Portal: How Do We Know What We Know?

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My favorite part of the Bosque

 

Every morning I walk to the river in the velveteen hour between the vanishing blue night and the coming of the first scarlet, pink, lavender, purple or golden ribbons that stretch across the horizon. Sometimes clouds with heavy gray eyelids mute first light. Either way all my senses except that of sight are on high alert; a deep peace embraces me in the dark. My body knows the way. I murmur to the willows as I pass through the veil and under their bowed bridge. Their response is muted, a song beneath words.

 

At first my footsteps are barely audible on the narrow serpentine dirt path but as I pass by the river I note that she too is singing; and my senses quicken. If the Crane spirits are with me I hear the first brrring of Sandhill cranes as they take flight. “Freezing” I am crane struck; the involuntary need to stand still is overpowering. Body -mind viscerally absorbs Oneness as I breathe in a multitude of crane songs or perhaps only that of a few. Now my eyes are suddenly open, straining to see the familiar brrring materialize into startling graceful heads, necks, and stream lined bodies…. I note the shimmering waters beginning to mirror blushing pastels or the gray smoke that stains the horizon. Sometimes these hues deepen into rose, blood orange, or scarlet.

 

The rusty creaking gate opens the portal to my refuge.

 

Papery heart shaped leaves crunch under my feet, cottonwoods, junipers, cattails, and scrub reach out to touch me with feathery or wiry fingers, perhaps thorns; I am serenaded, slipping into a light trance. I begin to round the Bosque feeling the earth moving under my feet. Listening for the voices that come through image, sensation, silver filaments threaded through thin air. Illuminations, and occasionally, revelations erupt like volcanoes. A profound inner silence soothes me as I follow my feet, touching smooth branches, prickly juniper twigs, ribbed trunks in response, raising my gaze to marvel over the shapes of bare trees branches, cross – hatched, twisting to reach the sky to bring down the rains, perceiving each unique pattern as if for the first time, flooded by awe at each turning though I know the shapes by heart. At this time of day the Bosque is humming her collective love song without interference and it is possible to discern each voice. As I walk through the inner cottonwood path, sometimes surprising a rabbit or two I can feel this particular family of cottonwoods rising up to embrace me. Listening to their collective voices strumming a song that speaks to Love without Boundaries, I offer my gratitude for ‘what is,’ this moment in time.

 

Working Notes

 

Almost every day I walk down to the river in the early morning twilight, that space between worlds. But it is not primarily the river that calls me these days, it’s the Bosque, and once I have entered this refuge I feel an eerie sense of Becoming One with All That Is.

 

Bosque derives its name from the Spanish word for woodlands. This diverse habitat is found along the riparian floodplains of streams and river throughout the Southwest, especially along parts of the Rio Grande. I am fortunate to spend winters on one of its tributaries, Red Willow River, and to have a dear friend and kind neighbor who cares deeply for this particular Bosque which is located on the boundary of this property. The little forest is full of Cottonwoods, Mexican Privets, Junipers, Willows, Russian Olives, Apache plume, Cattails and many other bushes, plants, and grasses that parallel the waters and are still receiving, what I hope, is adequate moisture to feed thirsty roots and a complex underground fungal network…

 

For me the Bosque is a magical place full of wonder; a true refuge – a place of shelter and protection from the ravages of sun and wind. It is also a sanctuary, a holy place where the veil of Nature is thin, allowing for both underground and above ground communication, some of which occurs through scent and touch, sensing and feeling. Occasionally I will hear a word or two emerging from a place inside and outside of my body. Other times our conversation occurs telepathically (instant knowing). All my senses are engaged – my body/mind, though I must stress that the latter aspect must be emptied of rational thinking or chatter in order to hear those voices. Seeking that trance state with focused awareness puts me in that mind- still place. The Bosque knows I love her and that I see her in all her complexity – this seeing is an inner state and has nothing to do with sight in the usual sense. I believe Love helps open the door. I also keep an open mind and am a receiver by intent as well as by nature, and I think developing this ability with awareness contributes to our daily conversations.

 

It was not always this way, although I fell in love with the Bosque the first time I entered it. It takes time and attention to develop an intimate relationship with place, and only after four years have the Bosque’s inhabitants begun to speak to me. Even now, virtually all of our exchanges occur only during the pre-dawn twilight hours. Stillness, inside and out, appears to be another critical key that opens the door.

 

Engaging intimately with place then requires time and attention, repeated contact, an intention to communicate born of love (and at least in my case a deep need for reciprocity), the use of all bodily senses, a quiet but open mind, an ability to receive, stillness, and silence.

 

All of Nature sings a song of creation and destruction, one that is predicated on joy as well as sorrow. I think we must be willing to embrace both aspects of this process in order to be fully present for this song to keep on singing. What I don’t mention in the prose above is that in the Bosque I also receive messages about the cottonwoods struggling mightily to survive ever-increasing drought.

 

 

Natural History Postscript:

 

Scientists are just beginning to learn something about how plants communicate, even over long distances. The complexity of this communication is as yet poorly understood but involves both underground networks that connect trees/plants to one another, and communication that occurs above ground through the air.

 

Here’s a great example of what happens underground. Coyote willows, which are abundant around here and in the Bosque sprout from a single root system that scientists call cloning. What this means practically is that clusters of willows are related – they have an identical genetic structure. Some of these willow clones are more than 1000 square feet in size; other smaller clones also thrive in different places. Cottonwoods, Aspens, and Poplars, the other members of the Willow family also use the same strategies for reproduction. 88 percent of cottonwood reproduction occurs through cloning, so all the trees along the property line on this property are also related, as are the cottonwoods in the Bosque. On that inner path in the Bosque the sense I have of being embraced by these trees is the strongest, and I think the reason for that is that this spot is a kind of epicenter for the rest. The Willow family by the way is relatively young – only about 100 million years old. All members have symbiotic relationships with other plants.

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(Coyote Willows and Cranes – Bosque del Apache)

 

How do we know what we know? Mystics, visionaries, Indigenous peoples, poets, and naturalists have “known” that trees and plants communicate between themselves and with us for a very long time even though we have rarely been believed. Now we have proof that interspecies communication occurs at least between plants, even if we still don’t believe it can happen with us.

 

 

Voices: Part 2

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Passionflower Vine climbing the screen

 

My first unusual experience with a plant occurred when I was a baby. I had been set upon a blanket and left in the summer sun. Above me a large sunflower bowed her head. As I gazed up at the disk it suddenly began to expand growing larger and larger and then shrunk again, over and over. What I remember best is that it seemed to be pulsing both inside and outside me at once. I was fascinated but totally accepting of my experiential reality.

 

I don’t remember when I started to talk to plants but I was gathering flowers as a toddler. By the time I reached adolescence I knew that my love for plants was reciprocated; but I certainly couldn’t talk about this intimacy because high school science taught me that these relationships didn’t even exist. Secretly, I reached the conclusion that I must be crazy.

 

It wasn’t until my late thirties that I began to hear tree and plant voices. They either spoke to me through dreams or through that same peculiar physical sensing or feeling/sense that seemed to come from inside and outside me at the same time. When they began uttering a simple word or phrase in response to questions I was thinking about or asking I was non – pulsed, dis-believing.

 

I rarely understood what the plants were trying to tell me. Trees were the exception; they told me in dreams (and through my physical senses by that peculiar pulsing) that because of humans whole forests were dying. I was also warned that the animals were going to disappear for good. These dreams and thoughts terrified me and I kept them to myself.

 

And then one day almost 40 years ago I became a plant. The dream seemed so utterly fantastic that I never forgot it:

 

I was a beautiful green vine that hugged the earth even as I crept along the ground; my tendrils seemed to be directing my movement along the forest floor but I had no idea what kind of plant I was or where I might be going.

 

By mid-life I was still dreaming catastrophic dreams about dying trees and animals but I had become a writer and began to advocate for nature in a creative way, an endeavor I continue today. Writing grounded me in my body and helped me to believe that someone might be listening. Maybe I could help the animals and plants survive?

 

I received a grant to study medicine plants with local shamans in Peru on one of the tributaries of the Amazon (I had become an herbalist early in my adult life), and two nights before my departure I dreamed a second vine dream:

 

I was the emerald green vine hugging the ground as I moved, only this time each of my leaves had huge eyes that were combing the forest floor.

 

During the course of these trips (I made three in all) the shamans “saw” that I was seer, someone who could read the future. Their recognition stunned me, especially since I didn’t really believe it myself. I eventually gained enough confidence to ask my teachers what the vine dreams might be trying to convey to me. Each shaman told me I needed to take Ayahuasca to find out. Dismay overwhelmed me. Two early experiences with marijuana had resulted in my having hallucinations in safe places. Here, I was alone in the jungle of Peru. I backed out.

 

A few months after my return to the states my neighbor gave me a passionflower cutting. I was thrilled! I had seen so many passionflower vines cascading over the river intertwined with a fantastic forest of trees and shrubbery. I kept passionflowers in my room in Peru and attempted to bring one home but the cutting froze en route.

 

There was something about the vine with its spiral tendrils that pulled me into a deeper relationship than I had previously experienced with any plant – or at least I was more aware of the strength of this particular relationship between the plant and myself. Some mornings I watched my passionflower climb through thin air her tendrils waving as she stretched towards the light. During these times it almost seemed to me that we shared a single mind. She moved almost imperceptibly and I would slip into a light trance to breathe with her as she crept along a ledge or window.

 

By the time I arrived in the desert I had a daughter plant and both mother and daughter vines came with me. I gave one away to a friend, and then the other one lost leaf after yellowing leaf, lingered, and then died ‘inexplicably’ with me begging her to live. During this period I was also in personal crisis and eventually became ill. It was impossible to escape the sense that this vine and I shared not only a mind but also a body.

 

I took a cutting from the “mother plant” and it rooted. Passionflowers re – entered my life and I was profoundly relieved. However, they no longer flowered for me with any regularity, or didn’t until I went home to Maine last summer. The one I nurtured there had a hundred blooms ready to open but a last minute crisis prevented me from bringing her back. I notice that although I love the flowers, that these days, it’s the presence of the vine that is so important to me.

 

Three weeks ago I potted cuttings that were pruned from one of the vines that had almost died during last summer’s absence (when I believed they were being cared for by someone who clearly neglected all my plants). I put the pot on the kitchen windowsill and within a week one tendril started up the screen and this is when I started asking all the cuttings to cover the area to help keep the late afternoon sun from streaming in because it hurt my eyes.

 

Of course, the vine is phototropic (it normally grows towards the light) so it is no surprise that the vines started to climb the screen but I am asking them every morning to climb to the right, not towards the south where the most sun shines, and the cuttings are complying with my request as I shower them with loving words, attention, and gratitude. Two days ago one tendril reached the top of the window and I asked her to turn right again. She did. I have absolute trust that this collaboration between us will continue.

(But what will happen to my vines when I leave again for Maine? This is currently my deepest concern. They seem to need me to be present for them on a physical level; reinforcing the reality that there is a very complex mind-body relationship between this plant and me).

 

Here in the house I am surrounded by green plants and two trees. Outside I have the Bosque. Every morning in the predawn hours I walk down by the river and into the bog with its cottonwoods and cattails, its scrub and wheat colored grasses. Pre dawn meandering allows me to enter an altered state as I traverse the Bosque in circles listening to faint tree murmuring, feeling Life bubbling up from under my feet. It wasn’t until I came to the desert that I learned that I have to have trees and plants around me to thrive, and outside the Bosque provides me with trees that tower over my head. Frequently, I have illuminations or the meaning of a dream becomes crystal clear in this tree and plant refuge.

 

The day before yesterday I had revelation in the Bosque that stunned me.

 

I “saw” the leaves of the emerald vine/self of my two dreams the first of which, I had almost 40 years ago. I was a passionflower snaking her way along the jungle floor!

 

I suddenly understood exactly what those vines were trying to tell me. I needed to seek truths about my life and the future by putting my plant eyes and ears to the ground, allowing the emerald vine/self to take the lead. (Humans, including myself cannot see. My plant dreams were trying to convey that open spaces like the sky where transcendence replaces embodiment take us out of our bodies when we need desperately to inhabit them and turn our attention towards the Earth. Had we done this in time it might have made all the difference). The eyes and ears of my heart were embedded in the passionflower plant body who was not seeking outer light but rather darkness, a place of germination/birthing beneath the jungle floor. My plant was directing my attention to the inner light, a light only visible when surrounded by darkness. My present job is to continue this process –and to turn my attention to that which lives below to prepare for further instructions.

 

First, I need to deal with the reality of the inevitable extinction of a species that includes myself (how do we imagine not being?).

 

Then, when it’s time, New Life will begin to emerge from below the forest floor.

 

 

Postscript:

 

I wonder in retrospect if taking any drug could have helped me unravel the meaning behind these dreams earlier in my life. I draw the conclusion that ingesting a substance probably would have not have made a difference because I was still being drawn to the sky gods – the transcendent ones. Embodiment was a word that had not yet entered my vocabulary on a feeling level. Even though I was in love with the Earth I couldn’t allow myself to be “known” by her. Even today I still fear being held captive by the underworld of my dreaming body, just as I fear death; so it appears that I have to continue my life’s journey in hopes of learning how to come to terms with these two personal fears…

Daughter of the Cranes

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When I see them

I enter the Dreaming.

In the background

a jagged coat of barren

reptilian mountains

frames bountiful bodies

standing on stilts as

undulating necks,

crimson crowns

beaded eyes

dive below the surface

in search of last year’s grain.

Each deliberate step is taken

in syncopated rhythm

with those of nearby neighbors

Each three toed talon

pierces still waters.

 

Ruffling six foot wings

clasped close to form,

serpentine ropes dip and sway.

Cranes leap into thin air

when encountering old friends.

Parachute back down.

Relaxing into the calm mirror –

each one casts a silvery shadow

trilling, rattling, rolling, whirring,

brurrring with excitement

when greeting relatives.

Circling around before

making their descent,

cranes bounce off the field

as they land!

 

Always in communion

the echo makers converse

with others in nearby ponds

in the hushed chamber

of the lowlands-

a Bosque of Cottonwoods, lakes,

and reeds –

Cranes are always listening.

 

No wonder one can trust them.

 

As twilight deepens,

they fall soundly asleep,

thin billed domes

nestled deep in warm flesh,

scaly feet sunk under oozing mud.

 

They dream an ancient language

tapping into fields

of primal patterning

Indigenous knowledge

Earth’s current keening.

Cranes know that

only by attending will they survive.

During the night,

One bird stands sentry…

 

Next month

they will begin

the great migration

a bi -annual flight made

year after year for millennium.

Cranes return to the same locations

thousands of miles traversed when

‘North Country’ calls them home.

 

Upon arrival, the birds

paint their plumage brown

blending into last year’s

wetlands to escape detection.

Mothers hover over two eggs

sinking onto nests

braided out of reeds.

A most attentive Protector

scans horizon and sky.

Nearby.

 

One chick might

survive to make the return journey…

 

But for now

these sentient Beings

celebrate community

by the thousands,

feeding in harmony…

 

The tranquil ponds echo

with a symphony of sound so

compelling, so enchanting

that I am swept

into the Heart of Creation,

folded into feathery down,

cupped by Primeval Wings

fringed ashen cloaks –

immersed in Natural Grace.

 

Working Notes:

 

The Sandhill cranes are called the “Echo Makers” by the Anishinaabe who are culturally related Indigenous peoples that live in Canada and the United States. The tribes include the Odawa, Chippewa, Ojibwe Potawatomi, Cree, and Algonquin peoples.

 

There are seven primary clans of the Anishinaabe people; loon, crane, fish, bird, bear, marten, and deer. Note that birds as a whole are included separately. Traditionally, the Loon and Crane Clans worked together as leaders and eloquent storytellers respectively.

 

These tribes have a wonderful tale about a girl who is standing alone in a mountain meadow when the Sandhill cranes are passing overhead on their journey south. They circle around the young woman and gather her up in their great gray wings and fly away with her. She becomes a ‘Daughter of the Cranes’… and this is why before arriving at their northern location each spring the cranes circle around before they land. They do this in memory of the girl.

 

When I first read this story I recognized myself. I too am a Daughter of the Cranes.

 

Many Indigenous peoples believe that humans were once cranes and will be so again…

 

Postscripts:

Cranes are receivers; they are always listening. Most westerners lack an ability to receive or to listen because most do not inhabit their bodies with any degree of awareness, if at all (this includes folks who spend time outdoors using the land instead of listening to her). The price for this inability is a split between body and mind, one that privileges mind, while dismissing body as irrelevant except as a machine. This makes humans very difficult to trust. It should be mentioned that because our feelings are carried in our bodies when we lose access to them we lose ourselves as well as being unable to be emotionally present for others in a meaningful way.

 

Being with Sandhill cranes allows me to enter their world in some non-ordinary way. I experience this oneness the moment I enter their field of influence; and the haunting crane calls – whirs, brring, trills, trumpeting – contribute to, and intensify this oneness. Whenever I am with them I am fully in the present moment. Nothing else matters. Although they are birds of the air I experience Cranes as being able to bridge the false western dichotomy that splits earth from sky to embrace/embody the Spirit/ Soul/Body of all there is.

 

Cranes are also prehistoric birds, 60 million years strong. It seems to me that they have access to truths on a level we can’t even imagine. It doesn’t surprise me that it is believed that they foretell the future or act as guides between worlds… They have for me.

 

Field notes of one of my crane experiences appear below:

Notes from Bosque:

“We found the cranes nearby and we left once and returned this time staying until sunset glorying in “the Echo Makers” – cranes coming in from all directions, one family at a time, and oh the sound was hypnotic – the air was still – the water like glass and the cranes were walking about feeding, brrring, trumpeting, rumbling, parachuting down with cupped wings onto the glassy water and leaping into the air calling to each other, welcoming mates and family. There were 3 areas – the first just to the front of us – one to the far left, and one far behind the larger pond all reflecting silvery light like a mirror -and with groups flying in for about two hours, some circling and dropping in front of us, some going to the left, and all in conversation – brrring, bugling, whirring – the sound was amazing and the birds in front picked their way through the shallows with heads sunk into mud, some in pairs and some isolated but all so peaceful – how did those flying in decide where to land? Great circular descents with those feathery fringed wings spread and legs dropping below them toes spread – they cushion landings by hopping back in the air – one was with a group that kept on flying towards the cranes gathering on the far left, but after a loud brrr from the ground, this one turned around in mid air and landed squawking. Another smaller crane immediately joined him and then another – do some fly separately during the day to different feeding places and then land on their return when they hear their mates/ family?…And all the time this intoxicating sound is resonating through my body. I am One with the experience of Crane, totally embodied, my mind recalling lore and mystery – “I love you,” I cried out at last to the darkening sky when we left. I loved it that the cranes were separate from the geese because I could hear “the Echo Makers” so clearly, each group’s conversation merged into a collective symphony and it wasn’t my imagination that the music came from every direction including the sky. We started out with about two dozen cranes and by the end of the day there were hundreds- maybe thousands, and oh yes, so many stayed out of the water huddled up on the far side of the marshes…. by nightfall my impression was that I was experiencing a world composed of these ancient birds, still waters, and sky and nothing else. Oh, those gray robed monks who stand in such stately grace – and when we left even more were flying in – it’s so open that even deep twilight is kind to the cranes. They must “see” through silver mirrors…..the sky reflects above and below – when the cranes move through shallow water they use a precise high stepping walk that seems so deliberate that one has the impression that it is has a syncopated rhythm especially when two or more cranes “high step” together. When in flight both head/neck and tail seem somehow equal in length and my impression is that in flight they appear white underneath…”

I haven’t heard the one group of 14 cranes that have stayed in Abiquiu for the winter for a few days. But whenever I write about them they come. As soon as I stopped this writing I heard them brrrring in unison -They reinforce the (heretical) truth that we are all interconnected and have the ability to communicate telepathically.

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.