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.

Midsummer Meditation

 

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It is past “midsummer” and we are moving into the hottest time of the year without a drop of nurturing, healing rain… When I walk around I find myself focusing on the many different ferns that grace the forest edges – ferns that hold in precious moisture creating damp places for toads and frogs to hide, places for young trees to sprout, places for the grouse and turkey to hide their nestlings, ferns whose lacy fronds bow low as if in in prayer. Sweet fern covers the hill above and around the brook. The Ostrich ferns are giant bouquets that sprout up around Trillium rock shielding tender wildflower roots. Maidenhair is being devoured by insects, sadly, the only fern having difficulty here. New York ferns are stiff with ladder like fronds and the few cultivars provide soft shades of dark red, blue and green. Along my woodland paths the tall pale green bracken stalks have to be pulled although I leave all that I can around the edges to protect the mosses. All the ferns are forever unfurling in a state of becoming, spiral gifts for any discerning eye.

 

Ferns are just one of nature’s ways of dealing with drought. Without this lacy lime, fading emerald, gray green covering the soil would crack because it is already so parched; I imagine I can feel the stress of thirsty plant roots. Small leaves are yellowing and falling from fruit trees even in June.

 

I find myself wondering what mycelium highways are being created beneath the surface of the soil. The hyphal root tips are seeking water to feed what plants? Nearby trees? New seedlings? We know from Scientist Monica Gagliano’s work that these mycorrhizal fungi hear the brook’s barely rippling water and are making their way to its source… but I can only imagine this… I cannot see it. I do however, trust nature’s ability to adapt, and this knowledge brings me the greatest comfort of all. Nature can be trusted; S/he has seemingly endless ways of managing even during the destructive age of the Anthropocene.

 

When I meander around the house under the thick shade of the many trees I planted so many years ago, feel the soft moss beneath my feet, and smell the scent of moist air and water preserved in part because of my effort to work with nature, I cannot help but give thanks for living in this hollow, a well forested glen, where I find reprieve from lack of rain.

Solstice Lamentation

George Floyd…

I awaken to the muted songs of birds… the spring cacophony is spent… the brook barely ripples below the house, although the summer green still calms me, a balm for eyes that ache in the waxing, too brilliant, solstice sun – too many hours of light leave me agitated, scattered, pushing me towards mindless doing. Professional writing becomes a chore. I am too tired to read at night because of so much daily physical activity. Beneath the surface, tension works against the part of me that simply wants to be… I long for longer nights to redress this cyclic extreme – an imbalance that also leaves me enervated. Agitation and enervation both. Too much light casts no shadows.

Tomorrow the solstice heat will begin to climb – my summer torment has begun. And with the heat comes the noise of crazed motorcycles and guns. Aggressive people love the Fire, take pleasure out of crushing breath out of the innocent resulting in yet one more death of a black man.* Numbed by this latest atrocity, one that is literally beyond my comprehension, I am at the mercy of flames that I despise, and heat that steals my breath away too. I want to go with the turning facing this fierce inferno but cannot let go of my yearning for stillness, sanity, water, and peace…

The rains have not come. The soil is pitifully dry – vernal pools shrink to a dangerous low; almost two months have passed since we have had a soaking rain. It surprises me that so few notice. Kingfisher hunts hapless tadpoles in a disappearing pond. It seems to me that life’s predators hold sway. I witness drooping leaves and plants, water my garden every day, and try to live with the crushing depression that haunts me. My short term memory is deserting me – I leave glasses in one room and can’t remember where, food gets left on counters, precious pictures are stupidly and mindlessly deleted, where’s my bug net? I can’t stay in my body. Too much pain.

This year I am desperately trying to find someone to replace rotten timbers in my cellar and to interrupt what has become a serious health threatening moisture problem. A local contractor backed out last spring, leaving me searching desperately for anyone to do the work I need done… I would have had all winter to find someone else had he told me he was not willing to do the job. This betrayal requires taking some concrete action that I have yet to take… Three months have gone by and still nothing. I am now wondering how I can get by without replacing the timbers… I am constantly on edge – frightened about what will happen to my cabin, and what this means for me – all this frantic movement going on around me, and I am standing still.

I am weary from repeating an old pattern – why is it that I have so much trouble getting help? Hopelessness rises out of the depths. He has pearl white fangs and too many teeth…

*George Floyd’s horrific dying, while he struggled for breath is a crime so horrific that it has taken a week for me to absorb it. It reflects the gruesome reality of human cruelty. I never saw the video – just one revolting look at the picture struck me dumb.

What upsets me the most is that no one seems to notice the underlying pattern that accompanies these atrocities. First the murder, then outrage and protesting, and finally a return to the status quo. Oh yes, and every time millions to speak to the “hope” that accompanies the protesting – “This time it will be different”. We are a nation addicted to hope.

By the way, what’s the difference between hanging black man from a tree and crushing the breath out of another? Racism is a brutal FACT of human life then and now.

 

If only my bear would come…

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If only my bear would come…

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.

June Moon: The Berry Moon

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I watered the soil thoroughly because it was so dry. I intended to plant my seeds and May has been a month of bizarre weather extremes. The last waxing moon frost occurred this week with temperatures in the mid 20’s. Finally, it was time…

 

When I awakened during the night a light drizzle sweetened the air as a solitary gray tree frog trilled from the brook. At dawn I was disappointed that rain had barely wet the leaves and yet the sky was soft with dark gray clouds, and it was delightfully cool, a perfect day for planting.

 

I felt excitement rising as I gathered my chosen seeds and began raking smooth the damp sweet earth, marveling of the fact that each seed contains the miracle of its own becoming. I was imagining the riot of color that would be visible by early August as I poked each seed into its home, tamped it down, and afterwards, watered again. Nasturtiums and Scarlet Runner beans would provide the back-drop for the perennial flowers in the lower garden all of which had escaped the frost. I was well pleased. Because of the light drizzle the seeds would not dry out today, I thought, with some satisfaction.

 

Finishing with the rock garden I moved up the hill to my herb patch. I planted four basil plants, the dill seedlings were nestled next to the lettuce, with parsley in between; happily the lemon thyme was recovering from its winter ordeal. Finally I seeded more basil directly into the soil and poked more trailing nasturtiums around the lettuce because the latter would be gone before the nasturtiums were big enough to shade the plants.

 

This simple little herb patch gave me as much pleasure as having a big vegetable garden once did. It was the relational act of co creating with the earth that mattered.

 

Afterwards I walked to the pond in the still gray air. I love humidity when it’s cool because the moist air holds the scents of so many trees plants, bushes and flowers. The combined effect is intoxicating. Especially now with the lilacs.

 

When the rain began I was back in the house. Instantly my eyes witnessed electric green emanating from the trees – all plants were breathing, saturating themselves with moisture. The evergreens stretched their fingers out, and the deciduous trees turned their leaves upward opening them to the sky. The grosbeaks, red wings, and cardinals sang love songs. Everyone loves the Cloud People.

 

Seeding in officially marks the end of heavy garden work for me. For two months I have been digging and moving plants from the big cottage garden into a smaller one that I can see from our screened and glassed in porch, our summer living room.

 

Reflecting over the past few years I remembered becoming disenchanted with gardening – the work was becoming too hard – so much so that I thought I was ready to let go. I was wrong. When the grass began to crowd out the delicate spring flowers and other old fashioned perennials so dear to me I realized I was missing my old friends.

 

At that point I left for the NM desert where I tried to garden in a hostile environment on land that did not belong to me. After attempting to create an oasis in impossible heat and wind I was forced to give up gardening for a second time, this time out of necessity. In that process I had developed a new perspective on gardening in Maine. It might be hard work but the rewards were worth it. I was ready to try again.

 

When I returned home this spring I knew that necessary construction would ruin what was left of the old fashioned overgrown cottage garden. Trusting that this work will happen ‘sometime’ motivated me to move plant after plant – choosing carefully what to keep and what to let go. The result is that I have created a lovely cottage garden that contains my most beloved perennial flowers. Hopefully I can care for these, at least for a few more years. It’s been quite a process, and I have learned the hard way that gardening is as necessary to me as breathing.

 

June’s full moon is upon us. Because so many wildflowers are sprouting fruiting bodies besides strawberries I have re named this solstice moon the Berry Moon… There is an old purple Berry Woman that lives in this forested wood inside an Elderberry bush I recently planted who can be coaxed out of hiding if the need is great. I hope she will help me break out of the paralyzed state I find myself in. I need help believing that I can find the builder, the help I need…

 

Once, a few years ago she left me a seed…

Tribute to Grizzly Bear Expert: Charlie Russell

(1941 – 2018)

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“Learning entails more than the gathering of information.

Learning changes the learner.

Like dwarf pines whose form develop with winter’s design, the learner is shaped by what he learns.”

 “Talking with Bears: Conversations with Charlie Russell”   Gay Bradshaw

 

 Learning from Nature;

A Personal Reflection on Charlie Russell

 

Naturalist Charlie Russell never went to college. Instead he spent his youth backpacking through the Canadian wilderness with his family. Nature was his mentor and home.

 

Charlie was a life-long student of Nature*. Although I never met him personally I read his astonishing books, Spirit Bear and Grizzly Heart. By the time I watched the Canadian Film about his work with grizzlies “The Edge of Eden” I recognized a kindred soul.

 

Charlie dedicated most of his life to befriending, studying, and educating others about Black and Grizzly bears. He spent 11 years in the Russian wilderness raising orphaned grizzly bear cubs and interacting with adult grizzlies, demonstrating to the public that these animals are not dangerous to humans unless they are hunted down by them.

 

Charlie never carried a gun and never had an altercation with a grizzly; he did carry pepper spray that was only used to protect the cubs he was raising from adult bears who sometimes prey on the youngsters. Most pictures show him walking in the wilderness with a wooden staff.

 

I was profoundly impressed by Charlie’s respect, deep humility and endearing compassion for the bears he encountered. He allowed bears to educate him through keen observation, keeping an open mind, asking challenging questions, reflecting, drawing his own conclusions and sticking to them, (a way of being that mirrors my own process).

 

Charlie Russell life’s work may someday change the way humans perceive bears. Charlie understood what it meant to love a bear and how this ability shifted the relationship between humans and bears to one where mutual respect developed into deep abiding friendship.

 

Charlie spent his life as a truth seeker. He wanted to understand how bears think and was capable of looking at behavior from the bear’s perspective. In addition to having a keen, discerning, open mind, he acted on his intuition and used all of his senses to educate himself about the bears he studied.

 

In Conversations with Bears Charlie states that learning changes the learner; the learner is shaped by what s/he learns.

 

Learning about bears certainly shaped Charlie into a remarkable human being.

 

Charlie understood that bears needed respect just as humans need it; that bears responded positively to apologies, just as humans do, that bears needed to be loved just as humans do – and if these criteria are met people have nothing to fear from bears.

 

Conversely, if the need to slaughter is on the mind of humans, a bear will pick up on the threat. Most bears choose retreat as a strategy when threatened but occasionally one will attack, and it is those bears that feed man’s fear and hatred of nature, while terrifying images of giant blood soaked teeth and jaws keep the NRA in business.

 

As Charlie stated, bears don’t become dangerous without a reason. If a bear is frightened or hunted down by people or by dogs s/he might retaliate. The same might be true for a bear that is separated from his food by humans, or a female grizzly with cubs that is cornered. Dwindling habitat and a sustained policy of shoot on sight has created a situation in which traumatized bears – bears who have witnessed their mother’s being shot or being targeted for the kill generation after generation – is taking a terrible toll on these animals, who left to their own devices would befriend humans only too willingly.

 

Charlie’s dedication to bears, his extensive life experience living in peace with bears (even as a rancher), his love, respect, and deep compassion for Ursus provides us with a model the rest of us could follow. Bears and humans could co –exist peaceably if humans would only allow them to.

 

To this naturalist who has not had any encounters with grizzlies or polar bears but has developed extensive knowledge of Black bears, thanks to the bears themselves, who taught me most of what I learned, Charlie was a beacon of hope and sanity. Personally, he was the one person who helped me the most to trust my intuition, my senses, the truths of my body, when working with bears. When Charlie asked questions I heard my own silent queries verbalized.

 

To be educated and shaped by nature like Charlie was allows us to re-enter the Circle of Life, a way of being in the world that would end the existential loneliness that so afflicts our modern population.

Cross Country Journey…

From New Mexico to Maine

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Last November I had a terrifying dream. I was looking down at a river from a great distance. A huge iridescent pulsing blue serpent (it looked like a python) was swimming along the river; it was bearing down on us; there was nothing I could do to stop it. For the Huichol and some other Indigenous peoples the presence of the blue serpent means death is on the horizon.

 

As a precognitive dreamer I recognized that some frightening force that involved a bodily threat was on its way (snakes represent the life force/body in most mythologies), but beyond this realization had no idea of the precise nature of this menace – just that it involved the whole culture. In late January I had two more precognitive dreams reinforcing the same threat before the C/virus struck the United States.

 

I was planning to return to Maine at the end of April because I had to be present for foundation work to begin on my little log cabin, but in early March I had a very personal precognitive dream. “It’s time to get going.” I began packing that day. More frightening dreams followed as my sense of urgency increased to an unbearable pitch. All I knew was that we had to leave as soon as possible. I barely slept, yet my dreams were relentless. I trusted the truths of my dreaming body because she is connected to the Body of the Earth… my earth body self knows things I cannot even imagine…

 

We left for Maine on the last day of March. A 2500 mile journey lay ahead but I was so relieved to be on the road moving away from an unknown threat even though we were also moving towards a peopled concentration of the C/virus. I had planned carefully for the trip. We slept and ate in the car, used the woods as our bathroom. Our only contact with people was at gas stations where we wore gloves, kept our distance, and paid with a credit card. With the C/virus escalating as we moved towards the east coast it was imperative that we took no chances.

 

There were some serious issues between my companion and I that went unattended. I believed we were not in any hurry and could take as long as we needed to make the trip safely. My driver disagreed, refusing to stop for any breaks despite knowing that this unexamined  willful behavior was dangerous to his health. We made a record breaking trip in three and a half days, arriving here in the middle of the night in heavy rain.

 

I was unbelievably grateful although my nervous system had been on scream because of the interminable high speed driving and stress. Two days later my companion was hospitalized. He paid a steep price for ignoring my pleas and (probably?) those of his doctor. Fortunately, he is all right now. For about a week after our arrival every time I closed my eyes I saw a speeding highway. I am still recovering from an acute PTSD episode.

 

What got lost in the chaos/trauma around our return were the special moments we shared during this trip. All the astonishing Rosebud trees were blooming in four states we sped through. If we hadn’t stopped each evening I never would have gotten a picture of one. Night became my Beloved… every morning I longed for her and the peace that would come at the end of that day’s frenzied driving…

 

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After finding a quiet place on a country road to spend the night I made sandwiches for us, fed the dogs, gave my dove Lily b his water and took my dogs Hope and Lucy for their only really long walk of the day exercising my aching back and body and breathing in the sweet night air in the process. On April 1st I heard the first peepers singing their hearts out. Every night I gave thanks for the day that had just passed. I experienced a strange sense of being protected by Something.

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In the morning I awakened to the whistling calls of the Cardinals, (my absolutely favorite bird except for Sandhill cranes). I was starved for the spring bird cacophony that had been missing in Abiquiu. I was relieved to see that diversity still existed elsewhere. One night we stopped before dusk to camp in the driveway of an abandoned house. Lily b had a chance to be outside; he perched on an old upended garbage can and stared at his surroundings with rapt attention. I watched a phoebe fly into an open porch with twigs in her mouth. Meadowlarks sang heartrending serenades. Awake before sunrise I walked the dogs for at least 15 minutes and gloried in the shimmering golden light of dawn… The pale green of unfurling leaves brought tears to my eyes. One night we camped on a hill inside a magnificent six-acre state park. While walking the dogs just before dark a whole herd of white – tailed deer passed by us in the valley below. It was here that I was able to take pictures of the Rosebud trees. That pre-dawn walk will stay with me forever. The rolling mountains were so astonishingly beautiful tinted in deep green and lime. I fell in love with spring again.

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These precise images stand out with a peculiar starkness and clarity, perhaps because overall the trip was exceedingly difficult and exhausting. For those moments at least, I was emotionally present, living in my body.

 

I am writing this reflection eighteen days later. The threat of the virus is minimized in this area because stringent precautionary measures were taken from the beginning of the viral outbreak. It is possible to shop, use a pharmacy and get gas locally. My vet, doctor and the dedicated folks of the Bethel Health Center are less than ten minutes away.

 

I wonder what specific threat was avoided by our hurried departure from Abiquiu. If past experience is any indication, I probably will never know.

 

However, with that much said I suspect it had to do with the virus itself. My companion repeatedly ignored my pleas to use protection when dreams told me the virus was “under our feet” before it was publically acknowledged in Arriba county where we lived.

Mother Tree Meditation

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A couple of days ago after an exhausting day of chores I lay out in the sun in my snow pants under the tree I call the “Mother Pine” because she shelters so many creatures from birds to bears. It was late afternoon and the sun was sparkling like a cracked diamond through a myriad of branches over my head. I closed my eyes and listened to an evergreen symphony. The songs produced by pines and other conifers as needles sway and touch soothed me. How much I appreciated the sound of light winds slipping through the trees.

 

I had recently returned from the desert where these sounds are totally absent. Instead, ferocious west winds hurl and churn dust and dirt in my face making it impossible to be outside in the winter and spring on many days. Because I have emphysema, I am too often trapped in my house by polluted air… To be present in this precious breezy moment allowed me to feel a deep abiding gratitude for all the songs of trees … and for this patch of land I call home.

 

While lost in this reflection I was startled as a small object dropped onto my chest. I opened my eyes to a nuthatch (who was perched on a branch overhead) who promptly released another piece of bark that fell on my belly. Laughing, I was tempted to believe the nuthatch was trying to get my attention…

 

However, the most probable cause was that the little upside down bird was hunting for insects. Either way this delightful creature had gotten my attention! I gazed up into other branches of the old field pine and counted about 10 nuthatches all ferreting out tasty insects. I noted a bevy of robins; the chickadees were chirping on twigs, or using the tree as a lift off pad to reach the nearby feeder. During the summer, a pair of Red winged Blackbirds nested here and the Cardinals camouflaged their scarlet coats in deep green needles as they too readied to visit the feeder. Last year a lone Grackle made a home in Mother Tree’s branches.

 

I shuddered, remembering how I had considered taking this tree down thirty – five years ago because it blocked my view to a few of the undulating mountains beyond, at least when I was sitting on the porch. Nature intervened by placing a double set of deer antlers just beneath the tree just a day or so after I had this thought. Since white tailed deer were aspects of the Beloved finding those antlers settled the matter permanently…

 

Above me the tree limbs and needles disappeared into a deep cobalt sky and as I lay there a deep peace flowed through my body and quieted a mind cluttered with fear over the Corona virus, other health issues, and a crumbling house foundation.

 

I breathed in the sweet scented mountain air …

 

Then lightening struck. Here I was lying under the Mother Tree on the same day my mother died in 1993. And I hadn’t remembered.

 

In the intervening years I had come to forgive my mother for her harsh treatment of me. I was never good enough, bright enough, kind enough… I spent my entire life trying to please her.

 

Only recently have I been able to face the stark truth. My mother did not love her daughter; and now it no longer matters why.

 

As I continued to peer up through the thick green and blue the peaceful feeling returned. I acknowledged my mother’s death day … thankful that despite her feelings for me, she had opened the door to that greatest Mother of All – Nature. And because of this gift I lived.

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…

Sand Hill Cranes 2019

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(early morning at Bosque del Apache)

 

All month I have been on alert listening for the calls of the Sand hill cranes as they continue their migration south. Last year a good number of cranes spent the winter here landing in the neighboring field to find food, and roosting down by the river in the riffles…

 

This year, except for a few sightings and an occasional singular “brring” call by a few, the cranes have been absent. The artificially controlled river is so unnaturally high that it is ripping the shore away in chunks; the torrents of raging water are drowning the riffles where shorebirds once landed to rest or fish. Even the solitary heron has moved on. It is hardly surprising that the Sand hill cranes are not staying overnight even if they pass by overhead.

I also suspect that the cranes’ migratory routes have shifted.

Sandhill Cranes have begun breeding in the fields around the Saco River in Fryeburg, Maine, not far from my home. Some research suggests that these birds have broken away from the eastern flyway. They were first sighted in Maine about 20 years ago and I am delighted to know that some may be making Maine their breeding ground.

We do know that one of the consequences of Climate Change is that many migratory birds are shifting their routes or not traveling as far south as they once did. The cranes used to have three distinct flyways that flowed into one great artery the further south they traveled, and conversely fan out with some cranes flying as far as west as the eastern coast of Siberia during the northern spring migration. These days it is hard to predict what may be happening.

 

Although it is almost the end of November I have only seen one good size flock of twenty cranes flying over the house; this group was traveling due west. I have seen a few in very small groups of two, three, and five in number, and my neighbors and I had a couple in their field.

 

Seeing and hearing Sand hill Cranes has to be one of the the greatest joys of living near the river in Abiquiu, and I keenly miss their presence and haunting calls.

 

This year’s trip to the Bosque del Apache assuaged my loneliness. For one whole day I was steeped in wonder and gratitude that such a place even existed (I almost forgot that this refuge is also open to hunting. This “create a refuge and then shoot the animals” is normalized behavior for all state Fish and Game organizations).

 

To have so many cranes and snow geese along with harriers and other raptors, eagles, ducks, herons, sliders, fish, deer visible all at once while listening to crane and geese cacophony put me in state that I call “Natural Grace,” where nothing but the immediate present matters. At one point I met a couple who asked to take my picture. When I asked why they both said in union -“Why, you are so beautiful, you look like you belong here.” Evidently, the cranes had transformed me! The day was perfect – absolutely no wind and temperatures that were so mild that I was able to sit on the ground watching cranes/snow geese through my binoculars until the sun finally set,and many groups of cranes and snow geese had taken to the sky. I recorded the birds calling out to each other, and now whenever I listen to my tape I am transported back in time to that wondrous day. I am so grateful to have been there.

We know from fossilized records that the Sandhill Cranes are one of oldest birds in the world, and have been in their present form for 10, 30, or 60 million years (depending on the source). They have apparently maintained a family and community structure that allows them to live together peacefully and migrate by the thousands twice a year when unfortunately many are shot along the way. Sandhill Cranes mate for life, and in the spring the adults engage in a complex “dance” with one another. During mating, pairs throw their heads back and unleash a passionate duet—an extended litany of coordinated song. Cranes also dance, run, leap high in the air and otherwise cavort around—not only during mating, but all year long.

In their northern habitat, the female lays two eggs a year in thick protected areas at the edge of reed filled marshes. Before nesting these birds “paint” their gray feathers with dull brown reeds and mud to reduce the possibility of being seen by a predator. Born a couple of days a part, the second chick rarely survives. The fuzzy youngster that does (if it survives the first year – delayed reproduction and survival rates factor into the difficulties inherent in crane conservation and to that we must now add Climate Change) stays with its parents for about three years before reaching sexual maturity and striking out on its own, but even then the adult stays within the parameters of its extended family, and it is these families that comprise the small groups of cranes that we see flying together. During migration, a multitude of these groups travel together. There are no leaders and often it is possible to observe what looks like an unorganized random group or diagonal thread made up of cranes flying above the ground. In every roosting place there are a few cranes that remain awake all night alerting their relatives to would be predators.

I think it’s significant that these very ancient birds have survived so long in their present form. I’ll repeat my original question: Could it be that the cranes understand the value of living in community in a way that has become foreign to humans who seem hell bent on embracing the values of competition, power, and control on a global level? Perhaps we could all benefit from watching Sand hill cranes with rapt attention.

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