Midsummer Meditation

 

IMG_5634.JPG

IMG_5626

IMG_5636.JPG

 

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.

Collapsing Foundations

IMG_5268

The slow greening of the spring…

 

I was writing an article when a sharp crack slammed through the house. I jumped out of bed to identify the frightening sound and found nothing. It wasn’t until I was in the bathroom that I saw that the floor had separated from its molding. Frightened out of my wits I crawled into my cellar to discover a supporting beam had collapsed. Others would follow. I was leaving for New Mexico in a week.

Frantic, I called around to find a foundation contractor, and cancelled my plans to go south. Why was it that every trip to New Mexico was preceded by omens, bad news and now a crisis? PTSD struck and I was walking on air. Uncomfortable with the person I found I managed to get the foundation propped up temporarily and left thinking I had someone who would do the work in the spring…

I arrived in New Mexico to a horrific jungle that had once been my garden, spent three weeks clearing a path to my front door (ending up with bloody hands from hand cutting and ruining two pairs of shears) eventually untangling and clearing an indescribable mess. Not one person had warned me… My closest neighbor would come over on some pretense or another and stand there watching me work in the intolerable heat of the sun never offering assistance. I succumbed to altitude sickness and 90 plus degree heat becoming ill within a few weeks. I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was not welcome here, although some acquaintances appeared friendly enough. One friend was kind enough to shop for me In Santa Fe, a city I could not go to on my own because of severe dyslexia.

So began my winter in Abiquiu. In time I adjusted to my isolation, took deep pleasure from my pre-dawn walks to the river, listened carefully to messages I received from the cottonwood trees and bare winter ground. Friends, I thought I had, disappeared. But I was no stranger to loneliness and had resources like my writing, occasional brief visits from my neighbor, and my love for Nature.

The previous summer I had been diagnosed with emphysema and I noted that the high altitude was affecting my breathing keeping me too aware that at some point this disease would kill me. I continued to long for the scent of pine and the clear air in Maine and burned balsam oil to deal with my breathing issues.

It wasn’t just that the foundation of my house in Maine was collapsing… there was a relationship between the state of my little cabin and what was happening to my aging body. And soon I would note a third correspondance.

I spent time in the present appreciating what I could. Sunrises, trees, early evenings and winter’s ground supported me. I felt deep gratitude flowing. Of course, gratitude is ephemeral and one cannot force it, so some days I simply endured, stuck in either the past, or the now, more terrifying unknown future.

During the fall I had frightening dreams that were personal and impersonal in content. I consciously worked with dread relying more and more upon the present moment for relief from suffering.

I reached a point in my writing when despair finally overcame my ongoing attempts to educate people about the abuse of the Earth. I had been an advocate for so many years, and it seemed to me that my life’s work had come to nothing.

At the winter solstice I had an extraordinary reversal occur after listening to a storyteller tell an audience that humans as a species had run out of time. When I heard these words, I felt like I had been struck by lightening. As the searing truth severed years and years of false hope that I had clung to in my need to save my beloved Earth I let go; felt my entire body lean into a peace I had never known. I had done enough. It was over. I was free.

At first my dreams were jubilant, their meanings crystal clear. Humans were an expendable species whose arrogant selfish behavior would lead to our demise – my gratitude knew no bounds.

In one dream I held a clear bubble in my hand. I quickly opened the sphere to allow the contents to breathe and when I did I saw the most amazing scene. There were thousands of animals, birds and trees of all kinds scattered over magnificent emerald green ground. I was stunned, riveted, and it took me a few moments to take in what I saw. This was a whole new earth waiting to be born! Then I saw an ark. An ark? But this ark had no people, just animals birds butterflies worms – all manner of living creatures streaming out of its center. Mesmerized, I peered into the sphere. This earth was free of humans and their destructive manipulation. I awakened weeping with joy.

In a 2nd dream I was walking through the Bosque in the pre-dawn hours when I had a vision. My beloved dying cottonwoods had disappeared but in their place were giant pinecones that had become trees that were securely rooted in the ground. They were already 5 feet tall and growing very fast! These weren’t ordinary pinecones; they were crane –cones, cones like those that I had picked up at the Bosque del Apache (Cranes are spirit birds for me). “The trees will live on; they will just change forms” a dis-embodied voice told me.

I awakened feeling a profound sense of relief because I loved all trees and had witnessed such heartrending tree destruction by logging and burning, and in Abiquiu, I lived with thirst driven trees that were succumbing to desertification.

For a month I stayed in what can only be described as an altered state of consciousness – ecstasy. My whole world had shifted. I began to write about trees and couldn’t stop. The primary emphasis was no longer on advocating for the life of trees but rather to invite people in to examine trees as remarkable living beings four million years strong! I wrote and wrote and wrote with joy in my heart.

When my dreams suddenly turned dark again at the end of January I was baffled, unsettled. Trees were losing their bark; there was a new threat on the horizon. Two dreams haunted me. In one there were just the words: a malware virus will strike. In the second, bugs were flying horizontally past my window. As is my custom I wrote P for precognition across the top of the two dreams and let them be. My unease turned to raw fear; I knew something was coming.

A month later the C/virus slithered into awareness through thin air. I recalled a troubling dream I had the previous November about a giant multi-colored python that was snaking its way down the river and bearing down on us. I awakened knowing that whatever this was it involved the culture as a whole. Beyond that nothing. In retrospect it was easy to see that the presence of the menacing serpent was the first warning…

The time was also approaching for me to return to Maine. I had trouble sleeping; my plans to fly suddenly took on ominous overtones. My neighbor who planned to accompany me on the flight told me that he didn’t want to fly under the circumstances. I called my doctor for a recommendation: do not drive. With emphysema I am in the highest risk category, and I was aware that the disease had worsened during the winter. We would drive instead. I needed to see my doctor (New Mexico is not known for its medical expertise I had learned the hard way). I agreed, though with some reservations… We were fortunate to make the trip safely by taking extreme precautions.

Arriving home so early in the spring was joyful. The first frogs were singing, the birds I so missed in Abiquiu were here in abundance and are still arriving as of this writing. We had a couple of spring snowstorms that bowed the evergreens, covering them in delicate white shawls. My woodland paths turned into a fairyland forest. I dug and manured my vegetable garden and began to reclaim my grass-choked perennials, a job I continue to this day. Because it has been cold the leaves on the trees are unfurling craftily. They know enough to pay attention to the unpredictable moods of Nature. Spring greening has begun…

Now it is mid May and foundation issues are still looming. The contractor backed out. So far I have not been able to find someone to do the work, although I have made inquiries. In this area people are very responsible about the C/virus so the threat is lessened. I am very grateful that our town, not to mention our Governor, has been put laws into effect that will help protect the people if we do our part. Unfortunately, this C/virus is creating a Catch 22 situation. People have to work so the restrictions will have to be lifted at some point, and when they are we can expect a resurgence of the virus and more deaths.

I think it is becoming clear to some of us that the virus is changing the way people can relate to one another, and that this change is not temporary. Yet I rarely hear anyone mention that if we had paid attention to Nature, respecting her needs instead of mindlessly using her as a disposable resource that we would not be in this position today. Humans unleashed this virus by their actions, and now we are beginning to take the consequences.

I am no stranger to fear having endured PTSD for almost my entire life but this virus has added another threatening layer because I am also dealing with the reality that I suffer from a terminal disease. I know it, but I am only in the early stages of feeling it. One day I shall wake up and be unable to breathe my sweet mountain air… Because of the C/virus much needed tests I need to have to be put off, so once again I am walking on air.

The future has become uncertain. The artificial socially constructed cultural reality that people call “the real world” is an illusion that is breaking down as Nature claims sovereignty. I am struck by the relationship between my house problems, worsening health issues, and the breakdown of the culture under the threat of this pandemic and those that will follow. I am quite certain I am not the only person experiencing collapse on both a personal and collective level.

Meanwhile, my strategy for dealing with fear and uncertainty is to take refuge in the present as always. Fortunately, my love for Nature provides me with a seemingly endless resource… the next unfurling leaves and flowers – bloodroot and wild violets, the songs of birds – the drumming of the grouse, the bittern’s guttural call – the orioles whose luminescent coats are brighter than the oranges they sip nectar from – emerald green mosses, tufts of lime green grasses, peepers singing at twilight all remind me that each day is a gift – and that it’s up to me to be open to receiving what is offered.

Last night I participated in an online conversation with a number of other women all of whom were writers like me. Again and again I heard words about the importance of being able to withstand this slowing down, the benefits of achieving a state of stillness, and how participating with Nature allowed us to enter a state in which it is possible to feel peace during this very difficult transition.

Words to Live By.

‘The Mother’s Son’

 

 

Ruffed_Grouse_DanielArndt_FlickrCC_1.jpg

Too many years

of punishment

have consequences…

Silence

slices the

Earth in two

steals fragrant

fertile ground.

The Breath of Life

is stilled as the Owl

strikes home.

 

She walks on thin air.

 

Years of yearning

have crushed a spirit once

open to Love.

Her body’s fire

burns like the forests do

destroying Souls

without mercy.

Deliberate

Relentless

Destruction.

What did we ever do

to deserve such treatment?

 

She can’t let go

although she knows

that its his twisted story

not hers

that she is living

against her will.

She’s been forced

to enter hell.

 

But yes, she chose it too

without Foreknowledge;

Unintended consequences

are woven into each choice,

part of each human story.

(Nature follows different rules).

 

Burdened by Hope

in the face of escalating hatred

She still can’t let go

Endurance is

her lover, but

when the nightmares

come

she can’t hold out.

They leave her haunted.

Her body is weakened by

tears that will not come.

Relief ceases to have meaning.

Resignation brings no peace.

 

She walks on ever thinning air.

 

Is there no end

to this suffering

except through dying?

She poses this question

repeatedly

to the deep green

religion of forest

field and stream,

and her dearest

companions.

 

At dusk he appears

at the door

piercing layers

of Bewitchment

with one sharp eye,

a mole brown feathery garment

blending with ever darkening sky

Four days ago

she heard him drumming.

 

Reclusive Grouse is

an Earth loving

forested friend –

and symbol of Her Spiral.

The Way remains veiled.

She’ll blunder on alone.

 

Yet, this unlikely presence

reflects, reveals, makes

a statement she cannot ignore:

Something is listening.

She’s not invisible –

After all.

 

Postscript:

Just before I publish this poem two beautiful birds appear at my window inexplicably – a little gold bird and a female cardinal – reinforcing the powers of nature to speak when all hope is lost.

Witnesses …

Tree Meditation

DSCN0146.jpg

 

Today I hugged

a Cottonwood

heart to heart;

we heard each

others pulse.

S/he is more rotund

than I …

a seventeen foot

girth supports elephantine

trunks and branches

that call down

high desert rains.

Bleached surface roots

crack hard pan

in a horizontal run

scenting water

even as West Wind

roars – a thief

stealing precious

drops of moisture.

S/he must find water

to drink or die.

Deep below ground

taproot seeks

serene lakes,

tendrils

listen for ripples…

 

Golden buds swell

on bare ranches

sticky with clear sap.

It won’t be long

Before S/he Crowns…

Leaves like scalloped hearts

flutter in late spring

breezes,

butterflies cooling

tender leaves and

twigs below.

Fierce

white light

and fiery heat

still Tree’s heartbeat,

stifling Life’s Flow.

 

Postscript: Anyone who loves trees like I do finds comfort in them during times of distress…

I love this tree’s shaggy bark… I love her shape, I love the little junipers that have sprouted around her feet.

From a naturalist’s point of view I believe that junipers and cottonwoods have a symbiotic relationship, meaning that they exchange nutrients – sugar etc underground. Most research suggests that desert junipers ‘have an intolerance for shade’… I certainly don’t see this around here. I live down by the river and the healthiest looking junipers are interspersed with the cottonwoods who provide them with bountiful shade from intolerable 90 – 100 degree summer heat.

I also include a little story about this particular cottonwood… S/he belongs to my neighbor/friend Bruce. For four years I have asked him to please remove all the rocks, and other debris from around her base so that I could photograph her. Just a couple of weeks ago I went over one afternoon – and there was the tree totally divested of sticks, slabs of stone, and a table. Bruce had done this to surprise me….He also indulged me by taking the photograph of me hugging this old tree. He’s not much for tree hugging.

When I touch her I feel a sense of wonder that such a being exists. And I recall the stories of cultures past and present who have reverenced her…

Turning towards the Tree of Life during times of fear and uncertainty reminds us that all life is a gift…but also that the trees have been around for 400 million years and know how to live sustainably. Humans are suffering now because we have not yet learned…

 

 

Kinship; The Messenger

 

 

DSCN0074.JPG

( ABOVE: A BELOVED FRIEND)

 

Lise Weil, author, teacher, editor, and most of all dear human friend invites us to read, reflect and really listen:

“I want to share this message from COVID 19 that came through my Dark Matter collaborator Kristin Flyntz. I hope it is not understood in any way to minimize the fear and suffering so many humans are experiencing at this time..”.

Just stop.
It is no longer a request. It is a mandate.
We will help you.
We will bring the supersonic, high speed merry-go-round to a halt
We will stop
the planes
the trains
the schools
the malls
the meetings
the frenetic, furied rush of illusions and “obligations” that keep you from hearing our
single and shared beating heart,
the way we breathe together, in unison.
Our obligation is to each other,
As it has always been, even if, even though, you have forgotten.
We will interrupt this broadcast, the endless cacophonous broadcast of divisions and distractions,
to bring you this long-breaking news:
We are not well.
None of us; all of us are suffering.
Last year, the firestorms that scorched the lungs of the earth
did not give you pause.
Nor the typhoons in Africa,China, Japan.
Nor the fevered climates in Japan and India.
You have not been listening.
It is hard to listen when you are so busy all the time, hustling to uphold the comforts and conveniences that scaffold your lives.
But the foundation is giving way,
buckling under the weight of your needs and desires.
We will help you.
We will bring the firestorms to your body
We will bring the fever to your body
We will bring the burning, searing, and flooding to your lungs
that you might hear:
We are not well.

Despite what you might think or feel, we are not the enemy.
We are Messenger. We are Ally. We are a balancing force.
We are asking you:
To stop, to be still, to listen;
To move beyond your individual concerns and consider the concerns of all;
To be with your ignorance, to find your humility, to relinquish your thinking minds and travel deep into the mind of the heart;
To look up into the sky, streaked with fewer planes, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, smoky, smoggy, rainy? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy?
To look at a tree, and see it, to notice its condition: how does its health contribute to the health of the sky, to the air you need to be healthy?
To visit a river, and see it, to notice its condition: clear, clean, murky, polluted? How much do you need it to be healthy so that you may also be healthy? How does its health contribute to the health of the tree, who contributes to the health of the sky, so that you may also be healthy?
Many are afraid now. Do not demonize your fear, and also, do not let it rule you. Instead, let it speak to you—in your stillness, listen for its wisdom. What might it be telling you about what is at work, at issue, at risk, beyond the threat of personal inconvenience and illness?
As the health of a tree, a river, the sky tells you about quality of your own health, what might the quality of your health tell you about the health of the rivers, the trees, the sky, and all of us who share this planet with you?

Stop. Just stop.
Be still.
Listen.
Ask us what we might teach you about illness and healing, about what might be required so that all may be well.
We will help you, if you listen.

My commentary: this is the animating force of Nature speaking to us all.

PLEASE GO TO THE FOLLOWING SITE TO READ HOW SOME OF US ARE DEALING WITH GLOBAL CRISIS…
http://www.darkmatterwomenwitnessing.com

Voices: Part 2

IMG_4066.JPG

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…

Carol Christ… celebrating the dark

Can We Celebrate the Dark? Can We Sleep? by Carol P. Christ

According to Marija Gimbutas, the religion of Old Europe celebrated the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and regeneration in all of life. Agricultural peoples understand that seeds must be kept in a cold dark place during the winter if they are to sprout when planted in the spring. People who work hard during the long days that begin in spring, peak at midsummer, and continue through the fall, are grateful for the dark times of the year when they can rest their weary bones on long winters’ nights. Long winters’ nights are a time for dreams, a time when people gather around the hearth fire to share songs and stories that express their understanding of the meaning of the cycles of life.

The Indo-Europeans were not an agricultural people. Herders, nomads, and horseback riders, they celebrated the shining Gods of the Sky whose power was reflected in their shining bronze armor and shining bronze weapons. When the Indo-European speaking peoples entered into a Europe, they married their Sun and Sky Gods to the Earth Mother Goddesses of the people they conquered. These were unequal marriages in which the Sun was viewed as superior to the Earth. The unhappy marriage of Hera and Zeus reflects this pattern, as do the many rapes of Goddesses and nymphs recorded in Greek and Roman mythology.

The elder Goddesses who refused rape and marriage were relegated to the dark crevices of the earth, which were viewed as the entrance to the underworld. These “chthonic” Goddesses emerged from under the earth in fury, causing death and destruction. For the Old Europeans, the snakes that emerged from crevices in rocks in the springtime were harbingers of renewal and regeneration. Like seeds, they slept in a cold dark place over the winter but emerged in spring to shed their skins and lay their eggs. The underworld was understood to be a place of transformation—not as it would later become, a place of death and destruction. The snake was a symbol of regeneration, not a symbol of evil.

According to Marija Gimbutas, white was the color of death in Old Europe, while black was the color of transformation and renewal of life. The Old Europeans understood life to be cyclic. Every thing would surely die, but just as surely life would be reborn. It was the Indo-Europeans who taught us that death is an ending to be feared. And it was they who taught us that light is to be revered and darkness to be avoided at all costs. It was they who developed the light-dark binary in which white is positive and black is negative. The Indo-Europeans entered into India as well as Europe. The notion of en-lighten-ment found in Hinduism and Buddhism is a legacy of the light-dark binary of the Indo-Europeans. The Indo-Europeans were lighter-skinned than the people they conquered: thus the light-dark binary could be used to justify the dominance of the lighter-skinned warriors and kings.

The light-dark binary is pervasive in the New Age focus on light and love. There is nothing “new” in that! Those who follow earth-based spiritual paths often claim to celebrate the darkness equally with the light. But do we? Or are we still in thrall to the Indo-European glorification of white and light? We celebrate the longest day at midsummer and the longest night at midwinter. And yet there remains a difference. At midwinter we rejoice in “the return of the light.” There is no parallel celebration of “the return of the dark” at midsummer. Rather it seems that we celebrate the light at both midsummer and midwinter.

What would it mean to embrace and celebrate the darkness as much as the light? If we allowed ourselves to sleep all through the longest nights, what dreams might come? Could we learn again that the cycle of life comes in threes: birth, death, and regeneration? Not in twos: good and evil, life and death, black and white. darkness and light?

We might begin by getting “a good night’s sleep” on these long winter nights. I think our bodies might begin to show us and to tell us that the darkness really is as important as the light.

Day Lily Feast

IMG_1681.JPG

Orange day lilies in my garden

 

July is the beginning of the wild day lily feast in Maine. Orange day lilies are springing into bloom in every ditch, field, meadow, and at the edge of every forest glade. In my garden the hybridized lilies I planted years ago have reverted back to their orange relatives, as my friend Lois Day once told me they would…

 

When I think of Maine and the month of July, I think of orange day lilies. I was amazed when I moved to Abiquiu, NM to note that Bruce had so many growing around his house. Orange day lilies grow in the high desert too!

 

Up until mid-life I had a rather casual attitude towards these lilies. Orange was not my favorite color. Perhaps that’s why I ignored the profusion that grew wild around my little house on Southport Island. One day while talking to a woman friend who was then in her seventies I complained about having too many lilies. Eileen who loved wildflowers as much as I did was startled by my callous attitude, exclaiming, “Sara, those lilies are just as beautiful as all the other wildflowers you love. Maybe you have not really looked at them. I’ll take some if you like.”

 

My stomach heaved – Eileen was right. I had never given these lilies a chance. When I walked home to dig some for Eileen I followed the lines of a single flower noting the delicate variegated stripe that ran down each of its six petals, petals that opened like stars, the lemony yellow throat, the salmon color…I gently touched the velvety flower, silently asking for forgiveness. From that day onward I felt a kinship with ordinary wild orange lilies that has stayed with me all these years, and every July I remember my friend Eileen with gratitude. She opened my eyes.

 

Hemerocallis fulva, the tawny orange day-lily has many common names like ditch or outhouse lily that give the reader the sense of where these lilies thrive – in places where there is a source of water. However, it seems that they will also grow in the most inhospitable landscapes. Amazingly, like wild roses, these lilies are not native at all but originally came from Asia. The day lily is not a true lily but gets its name from the similarity of the flowers to the genus Lilium and the fact that each flower lasts only one day. True lilies have bulbs and day lilies have fibrous tubers. Many true lily bulbs are poisonous.

 

Originally this plant was grown in this country as an ornamental because of its ease of cultivation and its long flowering season – one that extends for about two to three  months lasting well into fall. Eventually the day lily escaped into the wild and now can be found growing almost anywhere in temperate climates. In Northern landscapes it needs no care at all. In areas like New Mexico it does not grow wild but can easily be cultivated. Just a little regular water and some shade will keep the fans green and blossoms coming throughout the summer. The fact that theses lilies are so drought resistant should not be taken lightly with Climate Change on our doorstep. I plan to dig up some of Bruce’s tubers to plant around the casita next fall. I will  add a nitrogen fixing ground cover – probably clover or vetch – to feed the tubers. Healthy tubers help with drought.

 

Initially, I was surprised to discover just how many sites on the internet were devoted to getting rid of these prolific lilies that are considered “invasive” until I remembered my own casual attitude towards these super adaptable plants that are also edible!

 

While there are many gorgeous hybrid daylilies that one can also eat, the ‘wild’ orange ones are said to be the tastiest. Start with steaming or stir-frying the buds, which are tender and delicious with a little butter and salt. Harvest some opened flowers and fry them in tempura batter or fill them with herbed ricotta and saute’ them in a little olive oil. It is also possible to remove all the green parts of the first green shoots to expose the tender yellow centers and use these in spring salads. Because the tubers spread so fast it is possible to dig the tubers and eat those either raw or steamed. They are quite delicious with a unique taste all their own.

 

Bon Appetite!

April’s Frog Moon Resurrection

gray-tree-frog-on-rock-450w-762070366.jpg

 

The Frog Moon Mystery

 

April’s second spring moon was almost full as she rose through the cracks of the cottonwoods. The acequias were filling across/down the field and a small amount of rain had fallen two days earlier. Diminutive lime green leaves feathered the trees. I was just walking in the house when I heard the call.

 

I stopped dead in my tracks, stunned. Then wondered if I was having some kind of audio – hallucination. A paracusia, or audio hallucination is a form of hallucination that involves perceiving sounds without auditory stimulus.

 

After all, it had three years since I had heard one of the most beloved sounds that I associate with spring…I kept listening, sat down on the steps, my ears on fire. The unmistakable trill.

 

After a timeless pause, the practical side of me took over. I entered the house, got my recorder, and began recording the song.

 

I have been listening to the musical trill of tree frogs since I was a child, and I knew this song by heart. A gray tree frog was singing just beyond what I call the magic portal, a natural cathedral framed by bowed cottonwoods that opens into the next field.

 

After about an hour of listening and recording even the skeptic in me was forced to accept that this really was a gray tree frog. Sadly, I never heard a female’s answering call. It was also clear that this male frog was not being challenged by other tree frogs (who call out to establish territories as well as to attract females) because there apparently were no others in the area.

 

This latter fact did not surprise me. All frogs have been endangered since the 1960’s and many have become extinct.

 

“In Silent Spring” written in 1962 a brilliant and dedicated biologist, and true “mother of the environmental movement” warned us about the Great Silence that was about to descend upon us as a result of indiscriminate pesticide use, and no one listened.

 

Frogs and toads are the canaries of water, land and air. Because they breathe through their skin they are indicators of the massive amounts of pollution we are allowing to consume our planet “forgetting,” of course, that eventually these pollutants will kill humans too (the ultimate dis-connect).

 

Just before I went to bed that night I opened the door and heard the solitary tree frog crying out to the moon.

 

The next morning I compared my recording with the songs of grey tree frogs online, and of course they were identical.

 

For two days I researched every New Mexican tree frog and listened to about 50 recordings and came up with nothing that sounded like the recording I had.

 

How could this be? Grey tree frogs are denizens of the wetlands and forested areas of the northeast – east of the Rockies.

 

Meanwhile, my beloved gray tree frog is still singing his heart out even during the day, something I have never heard any of the Maine gray tree frogs do unless rain or heavy mist blanketed the mountains. At these times they sing periodically.

 

As of this writing, even in the wind my little friend is still calling – the voice of yearning crying out in the wilderness… Three days in a row.

 

At present I have no answer to this particular mystery and welcome any commentary the reader might have.

 

What follows is a little natural history on these one to two inch frogs that come in every shade of gray to green, depending upon the vegetation they inhabit.

 

The gray tree frog’s scientific name is Hyla versicolor. The frog’s ability to alter its skin color also changes with respect to the time of day and the surrounding temperature. When my brother and I were children we would capture these frogs and place them on leaves, lily pads, wild grasses, bark, lichen etc. just to watch how fast they could change color! Their skin becomes much lighter at night and darker during the day.

 

Gray tree frogs hibernate in the winter by taking refuge in trees. They survive sub -zero temperatures by producing glycerol to “freeze” during which time they also stop breathing while still being able to maintain interior metabolic processes. A virtual miracle, that.

 

Supposedly the gray tree frog’s range covers much of the eastern United States, from northern Florida to central Texas and north to parts of southeastern Canada but obviously, some of these frogs are moving west, or were here in the first place. Tree frogs are an arboreal species that occupies a variety of wooded habitats. They are most often found in forests, swamps, on agricultural lands and in wooded backyards.

 

All need access to trees and a water source. I don’t know when it occurred to me that I am surrounded by the perfect habitat here as well as in Maine. When gray tree frogs are young and newly metamorphosed, they usually remain near the forest floor tucked into bark, detritus, or high grasses; later they transition to the forest canopy. As an adult I have captured some that like to hide in the rough bark of the white pines next to my brook (Maine).

 

Adult gray tree frogs mainly prey upon different types of insects at night because they are nocturnal. Mites, spiders, plant lice, snails and slugs are common prey. They may also occasionally eat smaller frogs, including other tree frogs. They search for insects in trees, where they can climb vertically or move horizontally with their fantastic toe pads that cling like suction cups.

 

The males begin trilling in early spring, shortly after emerging from hibernation. In the mid-range areas males begin calling in late April to early May. In Maine I don’t begin to hear them until late May. Males call to females from trees and bushes that are usually close to overhanging streams or standing water.

 

The exact timing of breeding for gray tree frogs varies based on temperature and their location throughout the range. Most reproduction takes place early on, although the musical trilling lasts from late April to early August (May through September in Maine). Individuals may mate up to three times in a season.

 

Males are very territorial and will fight other males to defend their area. Fights may last 30 to 90 seconds and consist of wrestling, shoving, kicking and head butting until the subordinate male retreats. Females are sexually di-morphic (bigger) and initiate mating by approaching a calling male.1,000 to 2,000 eggs which are externally fertilized by the male. Since actual mating occurs while the frogs are floating in water, eggs are deposited into the water in small clusters, attached to a reed or some kind of floating debris. Tadpoles usually hatch after three to seven days, depending on the water temperature. As youngsters, these frogs are painted scarlet or orange-vermilion with black blotches around the edge of the crests, so unlike other species they are easy to identify. Bodies and tails are patterned with many specks of black and gold. Like most tadpoles, they eat algae and organic detritus found in the water. Tadpole development depends on water temperature and is variable, but vernal pools must have standing water for some time, a real challenge here in Abiquiu.

 

After three days of trilling this poor little frog must be exhausted. I can only hope that there is one female that will hear his call…

Personal Note:

I wrote the above piece for a publication after having what for me was and continues to be an extraordinary experience  with a tree frog that doesn’t even belong in the desert – a frog that is so dear to my heart.

My childhood memories are permeated with frogs. While most kids had dolls I befriended a large squealing amphibian which i took to bed with me at night. Additionally my little brother and I loved caught, and studied these remarkable amphibians and I cannot think about frogs without conjuring up my brother’s spirit from the deep. Tomorrow is the anniversary of the day I finally buried his ashes on my land in Maine (just below the house), nestled against a glacial  granite boulder covered with lichen moss and ferns, the resting place situated just beyond the brook. This burial of his ashes occurred after a waiting period of 32 years… I had no idea at the time that it was Earth Day because i never celebrated it – every day is an Earth Day for a naturalist like me.

Each year around Davey’s burial day I have unusual experiences – usually with a hawk – and indeed one occurred yesterday when a Kestral landed on the porch and just hung out there for about ten minutes even though the bird could clearly see me moving around. I thought, oh, Davey’s spirit is moving close by. I don’t believe in god or any kind of after life, but my lifetime experiences have taught me that something of the person must live on – or can be accessed after death. For me, these apparitions occur as an encounter with some natural force – an animal bird etc and I am always moved from one perception of reality to another – beyond or outside time – this is what mysticism is all about.

It wasn’t until I wrote this article that I realized that the visit from the hawk was only part of this year’s Davey encounter and that another one was already in progress with the coming of Gray Tree Frog. The hawk is a visceral presence year after year reinforcing the power of the relationship between us. But the frog signifies  – dare I say the word? – resurrection from death to life, transmutation, transformation, rebirth, are all part of this creature’s animal powers and are inextricably woven into this story about Davey and me. So, something is shifting here on a personal level, although I don’t pretend to have any idea what it is.

Add to this “holy week”. I have been writing about Earth’s crucifixion every day – submitting a few articles for publication even though I knew how radical my ideas would be perceived. Not surprisingly, only one essay was published – silence – around the others.  Evidently to write about Earth’s Bodily crucifixion during holy week just doesn’t sit well with the DOMINANT christian overlay, the SPLIT OF MIND AND BODY, the SPLIT OF SPIRIT from the BODY OF THE EARTH and the power of its flow even in otherwise broadminded venues… oddly I am not upset – especially because this gives me insight into WHAT IS.

But there is something to the fact that this frog who doesn’t belong here in the first place and surely will not be able to breed here is still crying out on resurrection day.

The Story of Changing Woman

changing-woman.gif

Changing Woman – who grows old and then young again. Navajo Sand Painting.

 

Myth and Commentary

I want to begin by recounting the story of how Changing Woman came to be and why she was so important to Navajo mythology. In these dark and tumultuous times I think Changing Woman’s story has a deep resonance for all of humanity. We seem to have forgotten who we are and are in desperate need of guidance that will help shift our current paradigm.

 

The Navajo word Diné means the People (every Indigenous group defines its inhabitants by using the same word in their own language).

 

Navajo mythology begins with the creation of the First World. The Insect People moved through the four lower worlds to the fifth world the place where the Navajo live today. In the first world there was no sun, moon or stars, only the oceans stretched out in 4 directions. A flood came and the Insect people moved to higher ground, the second world. The third world was inhabited by grasshoppers so the Insect people moved again, this time to a fourth world with snow covered mountains and Pueblo people. In the Fourth World the Holy People laid two ears of white corn and two ears of yellow corn on the ground and covered them with buckskin creating First Man and First Woman.

 

Frightened by a flash flood, First Man and First Woman rose up from below from the center of a lake to reach the Fifth World and the place where the Four Sacred Mountains are found today.

 

(One of these sacred mountains may lie to the west of the village of Abiquiu, New Mexico where I presently live. It is said that Changing Woman was found on a flat – topped mesa wrapped in many colors of light. Anyone who has been to the Pedernal can find pieces of rock called chert/flint cast in every color of the rainbow).

 

On a level place below the summit First Man and First Woman laid a turquoise figure on two pieces of buckskin that were spread on the stone from east to west in the sun. Wind and Water Sprinkler were there. When the Holy People began to sing the song the wind flowed under the blankets and a child appeared. The Holy People told the couple her name was Changing Woman and instructed them to take her and raise her as their daughter.

 

By the thirteenth day, Changing Woman had become a young woman, and on that day there was a celebration and the Navajo Night Chant was sung. *

 

Soon after Changing Woman birthed the hero twins.

 

In four days the twins had grown into boys. Talking God and Water Sprinkler tested their strength four times and were pleased.

 

The twins asked Changing Woman who their father was and when they were told they had no father the twins refused to believe her. “We must have a father and we need to know who he is” they responded. Changing Woman was irritated and said “your father is a round cactus then. Be still.” (!)

 

The twins went south to hunt and saw four birds – a woodpecker, vulture, raven and magpie – and when Changing Woman heard their stories she said they must flee because the birds carried a warning: monsters would kill them. Before dawn the twins ran to the West and met an old woman who lived in an underground chamber who told them that she could help them find their father who was the Sun.

 

Because the way was fraught with danger Spider Grandmother gave them a talisman to protect them and a special song that ended in “Walk in Beauty.” The twins continued West on the rainbow bridge overcoming four monsters that threatened to kill them. Eventually they reached the House of the Sun where they overcame two more tests to prove to the Sun that they were his children. Then they told their father that monsters were killing the People and the Sun replied that could make the passage from boyhood to manhood and save the Navajo people in the process, which they did.

 

After a time, Changing Woman became lonely and went to one of the sacred mountains to sit in the sun. The Sun appeared and tried to embrace her but she refused. He wanted her to come live with him. She said no until the Sun promised to give her a house that shimmered on the water and animals and plants for company while the Sun was away on his daily journey across the sky. Then Changing Woman said:

 

“You are male and I am female. You are of the sky and I am of the earth. You are constant in your brightness, but I must change with the seasons. Remember that I willingly let you enter me and I gave birth to your sons. As different as we are, we are of one spirit. As dissimilar as we are, you and I, we are of equal worth. As different as we are, there must be solidarity between us. There can be no harmony in the universe unless there is harmony between us. If there is to be harmony, my request must matter to you. There is to be no more coming from me to you than there is from you to me.”

 

The Sun balked at first but finally agreed that she was right and granted her requests for a House in the West that shimmered in the golden light that stretched over the waters at sunset when the Sun returned from his journey across the sky. In this place they came to dwell in Harmony…

 

In the myth Changing Woman never dies; she grows old and young again with the seasons. In the East she is Earth Woman, in the South Mountain Woman, in the West she is Water Woman and in the North she is Corn Woman.

 

Changing Woman embodies Nature’s as a whole and since the Navajo trace their lineage through a matrilineal line she is the Mother of all the People.

 

According to Navajo mythology the first way Changing Woman saves the world is by birthing the twins, the male aspects of herself. This embodied female/male energy is capable of taking action on behalf of all the people, ridding the world of monsters. It is important to note that the twins require the help of Spider Grandmother’s wisdom, guidance and protection because Spider Grandmother is Changing Woman’s older wisdom aspect, a continuation of her mother – line.

 

The second and most critical way Changing Woman saves the world from “monsters” is because she secures the matrilineal line for the People. The matrilineal system traces descent through maternal roots. Men who marry move to the wife’s residence (matrilocal) and become part of the maternal family. Mothers, aunts, and grandmothers bring up the children, protecting, guiding, and teaching the children the ancestral family stories. This system unites Navajo society and creates the social structure of the culture connecting generations through kinship.

 

Although in present day Navajo culture Patriarchy has eroded women’s power the four tenets (harmony, beauty, balance, peace) remain part of the judicial system of the Navajo people.

 

Commentary:

I love this story because it demonstrates the evolutionary and eternal nature of Woman; her intimate relationship to Nature, her ability to give birth, to mother, to let go, her ability to endure, her need for animals and plants as companions and her willingness to stand her ground until she is able to get what she needs. Changing Woman matures from a passive figure who is acted upon by the forces of Nature into a self-directed female power who knows what she wants, and one who finds peace in choosing relationships with animals, plants and humans on her own terms.

Initially, Changing Woman is impregnated by the wind – the power of the spirit moving across the land – and not through sexual intercourse. Spirit and the Body of the Earth are the two equally creative aspects involved in her birth. The same holds true for her children, who are male, but conceived and birthed in a similar manner without the need for male insemination (no room for Patriarchy to enter here), suggesting to me that all three are parts of one spiritual/bodily whole that cannot be separated. As creative principles (beyond gender stereotypes) they work together as a triad to rid the world of monsters, to make the Navajo world a safe place, and to secure the matrilineal line. According to Navajo mythology securing the matrilineal line is primarily how Changing Woman saves the world.

Changing Woman’s “divine” birth and that of her children also demonstrates the more than human aspect of Nature and that Nature is both Source (wind/sun) and Context (earth/water) of all there is, a belief that fosters equality of all species and interdependence upon the planet that is our home.

On one level, with the birth of her children we see that Changing Woman recognizes the transient state of motherhood and care – giving, knows that her twins must seek their own destiny and that it is important to let them go. Human mothers must do the same if they are to move into their own lives in the most creative ways.

When the twins seek out Grandmother Spider and are guided and protected by her we see the importance of the matrilineal line expressed as grandmother; the latter also knows how important it is for boys (and girls) to discover and align themselves with the father principle in order to become creative and balanced adults.

The twins ability to destroy “the monsters” that threaten the people suggests defeat occurs only by harnessing both creative female and male powers together because the twins are Changing Woman’s children.

It’s interesting to note that from a biological perspective we learn that the female x chromosome is responsible for creating both male and female children and that all descent comes through our “Motherline” so here we find concrete evidence for the importance of this female creative principle and the physical importance of the matrilineal line.

We live in a time when Patriarchy’s destructive forces – the “monsters” of endemic woman hatred, white male privilege, hubris, and arrogance, greed, war, lust for power, an obsession with technology, and profound indifference to the loss of species and the pollution of our planet – all Patriarchal values – are destroying Life as we know it. We must seek a paradigm that promotes relationships with others that is based on equal power, respect for all species, and one that promotes reciprocity and sustainability for all. This paradigm is the gift that the story of Changing Woman offers us. The paradox is we seem to need to return to our “original instructions” so that we can move on.

To shift the present pattern, we must heal the frightening divisions that Patriarchy has created between women and men. The Sun (son) demonstrates his willingness to comply with Changing Woman’s requests, and only by giving her the respect and equality that she deserves are they both able to walk in beauty and live in harmony. Walking in balance, harmony peace and beauty are the four tenets of Navajo mythology.

In conclusion it must be noted that Changing Woman’s requests include her insistence upon having the company of animals and plants, which demonstrates the importance of the intimate link between Women and Nature and how critical it is to recognize that it is up to women to lead the way in terms of advocating for the future of the Earth and all Life.

 

*Navajo Night Chant:

The origins of the Navajo Night Chant are ancient stretching back into pre- history for perhaps thousands of years to the original Indigenous inhabitants of Canyon de Chelly. This most sacred of ceremonies occurs during the winter months and is a ritual of healing performed to cure those who are ill, to remove chaos, and to restore order and balance within the Navajo Universe. This chant is also a stunning piece of poetry.

 

These words are some of my favorite and were taken from the Night Chant.

 

“Beauty is before me
And beauty is behind me
Above and below me hovers the beautiful
I am surrounded by it
I am immersed in it
In my youth I am aware of it
And in old age I shall walk quietly
The beautiful trail.

The mountains, I become part of it . . .
The herbs, the fir tree, I become part of it.
The morning mists, the clouds, the gathering waters,
I become part of it.
The wilderness, the dew drops, the pollen . . .
I become part of it.”