A Crack Between Worlds?

 

The day after the November election I found parts of a road-killed owl after walking just a short distance beyond a bird that hadn’t been there minutes ago. Oh no, not an owl. Initially, although I was deeply distressed that I had found a dead owl, I was relieved that it wasn’t a great horned owl, my latest familiar.

 

Owls, women, and wisdom have been an aspect of our mythology millennia before the Greeks created Athena, goddess of war, (born from Zeus’s neck). How can any male identified woman become a “goddess of wisdom” when only a male perspective is acknowledged? Leave it to the Greeks I thought in disgust. We are still stuck with Plato and Aristotle…

 

All that was left on the road was one bloody but still perfect wing and one talon; both were still warm. I carefully picked both body parts up and brought them home to clean and dry. The outstretched wing of the Saw Whet owl now occupies a place of honor below the Nicho that contains broken potsherds of the Anasazi and a broken micacious pot I bought for myself on my birth day. The South is the direction that makes sacred the fragments of broken cultures and bodies, past and present through witnessing and feeling what is, both joyful and horrific.

 

For the past year I have been in an intimate relationship with great horned owls that sang to me from the white pines in Maine and followed me here to New Mexico hooting from the Cottonwoods. And during this period because of my relationship with owls I have been able to make a final peace with the woman, my mother, who betrayed her only daughter by being male identified, teaching her how to do the same…

 

As I cleaned the wing I remembered the little dream catcher that I had made for my mother on her birthday long ago… I used the feathers of a dead Saw Whet owl that had been road killed. My mother loved that present… Women and all owls, I reminded myself have been intertwined since the dawn of humankind with one shapeshifting into the other, and owls are women with wings who see through unholy darkness and delusion.  It is these women who are capable of attaining wisdom.

 

The synchronicity associated with finding the dead body of any owl the morning after the election left me uneasy but finding this particular half eaten owl seemed to have a personal aspect to it. Long ago I had learned that I frequently tapped into the collective through personal experiences with Nature. If I had what was the message? Then I remembered a poem I had written about owls coming through the crack between worlds… manifesting in ordinary time. (I hoped that finding the owl didn’t mean that I would lose my new psychic connection to my dead mother- if I did who or what was going to fill that void in space?) The dead owl might indicate that my mother was starting to manifest in some concrete way and also that collectively woman’s power was on the rise. Although finding only one wing and talon indicated that my mother’s influence might only be periodic, and on a cultural level woman’s power was still very damaged with half the female population betraying the other by remaining male identified or indifferent it was still something. Out of death comes life…

 

The election results still lay over me, heavy like a shroud, wrapping me in a sticky white spider’s web of fear. I wanted to pull genuine hope out of what had happened. I hung onto the thread that some women had been elected to the House, that two were Indigenous, some Black, others Latino – Diversity was inherent in these choices but I also knew that women’s solidarity was sorely lacking, and it remained to be seen whether these women would act as woman – centered individuals.

 

The few token women in politics seemed to be male identified, siding with the “good old boys” who held most of the political power. I didn’t know the statistics yet but I guessed that similar to the horrific 2016 Presidential election most white Republican women voted for power over (still true). These women “stood behind their men”, mimicking their positions and excusing egregious actions because they were unable to stand alone. Emotionally bankrupt and dependent, they lived their lives through the men they supported betraying women as a group and as individuals in the most painful of ways even as they betrayed themselves. How many strong, bright, competent, brilliant women did I know that allowed a lesser man lead them around by the nose? Too many.

 

After having been a woman’s advocate for so many years I had just come through a personal crisis thanks to the Kavanaugh travesty that forced me to take a new position towards women who betrayed themselves and other women by taking a neutral position regarding rape, or even worse supporting perpetrators directly or by making excuses for the one male who had endured abuse from an angry abused woman. Rape of any woman was a crime against all women. Rape of any woman was a crime against all humanity. I was finally able to give myself permission to separate from these female impersonators without guilt. What I was also able to do was to forgive them, knowing that but for some grace, intense personal suffering and an enormous amount of work I might still be one of them…

 

Along with the mountains of grief that I had been carrying for so long over betrayal of women by women and the rape of the earth I was also able to feel my rage, and hoped I could use this friendly red dragon wisely.

 

Rage allowed me to tap into my own power, and galvanized me to keep writing on behalf of abused women and the planet. It also helped me with crushing depression. Over the past two years I had fallen deeper and deeper under the spell of a madman and his minions who were running this country, riding the horses of unbridled power, hatred, and misogyny.

 

Thinking about woman – centered women coming into office offered me a flickering light in the growing darkness of humanity. But I also knew the chilling fact that the Senate had gained Republican seats. This suggested the obvious – that power and hatred were still “winning” in spite of the apparent successful takeover of the House. (So many seemed to be inexorably drawn to a power driven demented man that cared nothing for humanity and openly despised women and the earth).

 

As things stand now we are headed towards another holocaust.

 

I had to face it. The future still looked dark but the manifest presence of even one wing and talon of the owl now suggested to me that “the women with wings,” women centered women, might be manifesting in a concrete new way. The flickers of hope fanned more flames…

 

At the time of this writing I am choosing hope as I put my faith in owls and “the women with wings,” the women who, if they can garner more female support, can lead us out of this unholy darkness into the sweet stillness of long winter nights.

 

It is with deep humility that I throw myself on the mercy of Nature asking for her support. I need to hold onto this awareness to keep on advocating for women, for animals, for trees, for the Earth, not with guns, not by murdering innocent people, not by building more walls, not through war but through interconnectedness – and by remembering who I am – a woman who loves women – a woman with wings of her own – a woman who deeply respects the woman she has become. Compassion, forgiveness, and ruthless honesty are the weapons I wield; these are the bones of my authentic woman – power.

 

I make this commitment on one of the two holidays we celebrate for the “heroes of war,” Veteran’s day… one of only two days a year American’s celebrate their dead.

 

The irony does not escape me.

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The Compost Lizard

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(  Top picture is one taken of one of the house lizards a while back – 2nd picture is one of the house lizards sunning himself today (his mate disappears every time I go to take a picture but she’s out too), and the 3rd picture is the little compost lizard in his lair taken at noon. All are sunning themselves as I write!)

 

There is a wily sagebrush lizard

peeking out of star dry flowers

sunning himself on

brittle decaying leaves.

All but two of his

kind have disappeared

since the night freeze settled

kindly,

blackening few tender plants.

How brilliant that he

should choose such a practical

abode, a circular container

warmed by an autumn sun,

full of rotting greenery!

Assured of food from insects

for a while yet,

his eyes are narrow slits when

he slumbers, dreaming his next meal.

Imagine

the variety of bugs

who still visit this

compost heap in

wild abandon,

buzzing madly

at high noon,

oblivious to Lizard’s

canny presence in their midst!

 

It is mid October (10/18) and the mountain peaks wear snowy hats. Here in the valley we have had more rain in the last ten days than we have had all year … the first flakes swirl. The dark eyed juncos have arrived. For the last few days I have been noticing the absence of my house lizards who seem to have vanished with the heat. There are only two left out of the original 6 and these two hide behind the slat closest to the door, slipping out to sunbathe when the sun warms my adobe walls.

 

When I first met the “compost lizard” I knew he wasn’t one that lived here all summer. Earlier in the season I had a large compost lizard that moved to the south wall as it got cooler. So where did the small compost lizard come from, clever little fellow? A compost heap is a lizard heaven of sorts with all the leftovers watered routinely to keep the worms happy, and with heat trapped in a round plastic cylinder the wind is kept at bay. At noontime I go out to visit him noting his blue belly hoping that he will stay around a bit longer, perhaps fattening himself up for an intermittent winter sleep. I would like to think that he will find a safe burrow in this mountain of debris, and that we shall meet again in spring.

 

I recently read that adolescent lizards are more active in the fall, this might account for the sudden appearance of the compost lizard. I also learned that occasionally lizards will “hibernate” together… I wonder if this might be true for my two house lizards who are currently hunkered down behind the slats and the house… I will be watching to see how long they stay there.

 

Lizards are not active during winter; they enter a state of dormancy called brumation which is not the same as hibernation. With both, metabolic processes slow down but with brumation the lizards alternate dormancy with activity. They need to drink water to avoid dehydration. Lizards build up a high level of glycogen (sugar) that can be used for muscle activity. They also need less oxygen to breathe and this is a good thing because some dig holes in mud where oxygen levels are lower. Other lizards will hide underground in old burrows, in a hole in a tree or under leaves. I love knowing that my lizards will still be around even if I don’t see them!

Bear Grace

In the Northern Hemisphere in both Europe, Asia, and the Americas, bears were the first animals imaged and worshiped as the Ancient Bear Goddess, Mother of All.

This is the season of bear slaughter and every year I feel powerless to help these animals.

Last night I had this dream:

Everyone is shooting bears.  I stand up for them confronting one man who loves to kill them. I am without anger. There is another man who loves bears who comforts me. I ask him to help me to understand why niches  (Nichos) were carved for these animals but the bears are absent. They are not inside these protected, holy, spaces. There is a third man who also cares about bears though he doesn’t say so. I feel so lost. How I long to see a bear again.

This is a big dream. The Great Bear Goddess is missing, She no longer inhabits the Nichos or holy places in our homes or in our global culture. The female aspect of divinity in body, soul, spirit is totally absent creating a terrible imbalance in perspective. This speaks volumes about the destructive patriarchal cultural system we live within.

There are some men who care about bears, but they are unable to stop the slaughter.

One of these men is Dr. Lynn Rogers who took the photograph. This bear biologist has dedicated his life (55+ years) to studying black bears… He and I both know that bears are peace loving animals that want to co- habit with humans. Their social structure is matriarchal with females and their offspring at the center.

I offer this poem to all Bears and the Great Bear Goddess who are One:

Thresholds…

In the Company of Bears

thundering past my window

I am thrown into prayer.

Rooted in dark space,

Shattered by Life,

the Power of Love

to dissolve all boundaries is

an invisible Presence

in this place

where possibility

crosses the Threshold of Becoming

a Moment in Time.

 

Postscript:

This morning after putting this prose/poem on my blog I took a hike along a rich riparian desert creek shimmering with gold and green Cottonwood hearts. Imagine my surprise when I discovered bear scat everywhere along this clear untroubled stream flowing down from the mountains. The bears are here, and just knowing that made all the difference.

When I came home I had an email from Lynn who is now in possession of my unpublished bear manuscript. He is going to include some of my bear stories in his forthcoming book…NOTHING could make me happier.

I think I can hear faint music coming from a song that floats through the air…. “Dancing with Bears.” Yes, for this moment in time I am dancing with bears..

 

No One is Listening

(author inhaling sweet scent, gathering a few boughs, bowing her head in gratitude)

 

In a couple of weeks All Hallows will be upon us marking the end of the Celtic year. Those of us like many Indigenous peoples who use this wheel to define the boundaries of our seasonal space will  move into the space – in – between until winter solstice. Reflecting, I am struck by the fact that my body has been submerged in “Great Sorrow” for eleven long months…

 

The grief I embody is both personal and Plant/Earth based. The boundaries began to blur between self and plant last November when I lost a passionflower, a beloved friend of 17 years. Now the two have completely merged, so that when, for example, I am confronted with the fact that my body cannot tolerate extreme heat and ongoing drought and I become ill from the smoke that is killing much beloved trees by the millions in unprecedented forest fires, the grief of one bleeds into and merges completely with the other. The Tree Woman in me is literally dying.

 

What can a statement like this mean?  One answer might be that on a personal level I associate the ‘tree woman’ with my mother who in her sixties gave me a juniper to care for without explanation. At the time, I felt the strangeness of this gesture, wondering what this passing of the torch of trees might have meant. My love of all trees including junipers has been a part of my life since I was a child who first remembers falling in love with an apple tree with golden apples outside my grandmother’s window. During my adult life two to three hundred year old apple trees sheltered my home by the sea, and later when I moved to mountains I planted crab -apple trees and lived in a forest of mixed maple, oak, ash, pine and juniper all of which provided me with dappled shade and protection from wind, winter storms, and sun. In the fall of each year the maples caught fire torching the sky with wonder.

 

When I moved to New Mexico at first I fell in love with the native gnarled junipers that dotted the sparse desert hills. More recently I have adopted a guardian juniper just outside my door that has grown a foot under my loving care during this summer’s horrific heat and drought. Why? This tree wants to live; and I have watered and loved her like a mother… The Cottonwood Matriarchs whose now golden fall canopies bow and grace the earth still offer shelter to a family of owls. Every time I walk under one I give thanks for all trees. Trees and plants are the legacy of my Motherline, which ends with me, a source of grieving on a personal level, I see now.

But the tree mother in me is also the one who has endured unspeakable family sorrow as well as the loss of trees and animals that I love. This woman who has fought to keep her family relationships intact has failed. Her deep abiding love for Nature hasn’t helped change the trajectory that we are on. This mother needs an infusion of hope to go on; she is losing precious life energy.

On a collective level the trees are the lungs of the Earth. Without their presence all oxygen breathing animals including humans will die, and yet this obvious fact appears to go unnoticed as we prescribe more “controlled burning” and ever more extreme logging.  As trees disappear by the billions humans continue to clear more land for building, for grazing animals, and for agri – business without a thought to what the consequences of this mindless behavior will mean for us and for the planet. Then there is the problem of disappearing wildlife. Trees offer shelter and food for the birds, create habitat for all forested creatures and keep moisture in the earth during times of extreme drought. At present The Earth has caught Fire a result of global warming and still we “soldier on” with the same destructive practices. So many stadning Tree Mothers are withering, dying from lack of adequate nourishing mineral rich water.

Just as my Motherline ends with my death and hope for authentic change dims I am also carrying the awareness that the lives of all trees are numbered. The first of these truths makes me sad, the second spirals me into depression, but it is the latter that crushes my spirit. I am myself and the spirit, soul, and body of every tree and plant. We have been  fighting to stay alive, for now (The word future has no meaning in this context). And all this effort has come to naught. And it has been made so much worse by endless rounds of denial on the part of individuals and the body politic of the collective. Most repugnant to me is the refusal of people to take any position on this catastrophic collective situation; this leaves the door open to false hope, so called positive thinking (another lethal form of denial), acceptance (We are supposed to be “accepting” of femicide with respect to women, trees, the earth?), and an irrational belief in the “magic” of mechanistic science to ‘fix’ our problems. This latter reliance on science serves no one, certainly not the trees who are screaming to anyone who will listen.

 

Mythologically, trees and women have been linked since the dawn of humankind. In story they frequently shapeshift into one another. And why not? Trees are expert communicators who thrive in a culture of containment and community. Their “tree culture” is based on nurturance – caring for self/others – those who are in need, communication, and the sharing of resources like water and food. Trees thrive on the interconnectivity between all species.

 

In the same vein, it is women that historically created human culture, sustained it until about 5000 years ago, when this egalitarian matriarchal culture that valued community, nurturing, relationships and peace began to be overthrown by warring peoples, a practice that continues to this day. Ironically, it is women’s perspective that is our only authentic hope. Women, if  given the chance, could address the imbalances in the thinking/behaviors that are behind the destruction of ourselves/other species/the planet if only their VOICES were heard.

 

Unfortunately, the voices of women are muted as we recently experienced when Dr. Ford courageously came forward to testify against the nomination of a man to the Supreme Court who had attempted to rape her as an adolescent. This woman had nothing to gain from her disclosure, was articulate and soft spoken as she stood up to her abuser (women are never allowed to express anger although men can cry and have tantrums) and yet she was deemed not credible enough. Millions of women including myself have been submerged in the collective grief experienced by all women who have been abused not just today but over thousands of years. Again and again we are shown that women’s voices don’t matter. We are dismissed and silenced, ad nauseum.

 

There is a direct relationship between women who are assaulted and the trees/plants that supply us with the oxygen that we must have to breathe. WE ARE BOTH BEING RAPED, and this grievous assault continues to be sanctioned by a culture hell bent on destruction of women, trees, and the planet herself.

 

How can it be that no one is listening?

Broken Pot

 

When Emmy handed me the pot I held it gently in my palm, marveling over its rounded shape, the warm earth tones, the sparkling mica speckled through smooth clay.

 

“It’s broken,” she said simply as I turned the perfect vessel in my hands, laying my cheek again her soft skin. How did she manage to stretch the clay that thin?

 

“I think it’s beautiful just as it is,” I responded gazing at the lines where the clay had cracked in the fire – almost as if it was meant to be this way. I peered inside the neck of the bowl to see two pieces of broken lip nestled in the bottom, two sisters asleep in the arms of their mother.

 

“Once I sold a broken pot,” Emmy murmured with a quiet sense of wonder in her voice.

 

“I see why,” I responded, replacing the pot on the table with reluctance.

 

The entire display was a collage of natural art. Bits of bone, smooth stones, shells, delicately strung hand made necklaces, hills of sand, strips of patterning crisscrossed the table highlighting the exquisite shapes of these small containers. Lush sedum plants provided an emerald backdrop. I was transfixed and couldn’t take my eyes off the table…

 

Vaguely, as if from a distance, I heard Emmy say to someone “ Oh, I probably came out of the ground somewhere” in response to a question about where she had come from.

 

Obviously, I thought. Emmy emerged with her pots.

 

I was so moved that this artist was able to create her own original style without copying Indigenous traditions. After being with, and touching each exquisite shape my eyes and hands would recognize these pots anywhere. The Spirit of the Clay spoke through each pot. Emmy doesn’t sign her work, a tribute to the Mother of Clay?

 

Mammitu, she is called by some.

 

That night, tired and deeply satisfied from the El Rito Studio Tour the image of the broken vessel kept re- surfacing in my mind… There was something about that pot…

 

The next day I returned to the art show to finish my sight seeing. It was my birthday, and this year like so many others I would be acknowledging the day alone. After visiting a number of other studios, I was drawn back to Emmy’s table.

 

“Will you sell me this pot?” I asked Emmy as I cradled the little jewel in my hands. She was thoughtful for a minute, and then nodded her head. We agreed on a price, and I left holding the fragile clay creation tenderly in one hand.

 

Not understanding why, but knowing I had made the right choice.

 

When I returned to the Adobe I placed the little pot in the Northern Nicho with the Owl’s feathers… but the pot was still speaking. ‘Not here.’

 

Where then? And suddenly I knew as I walked over to the Nicho in the South that held a clay vase full of Anasazi potsherds. I moved the large pot to one side and placed the broken jewel next to the Ancient Ones. Then as now, in the South, the direction of Fire, soft clay vessels were surrendered to this fierce element to be tempered… if they survived the pots became strong and durable, capable of storing water, grains, and seeds for the future…

 

I felt waves of amazement wash over me even as tears ran down my face – rivulets in the rain…Even though the little pot had a broken collar, she had survived the ravages of fire and held her broken fragments tenderly deep within her body as both an offering and a prayer.

Earth Woman Shattering

 

Where are the owls that sing through the night until dawn? Their Silence is deafening. When I walk to the river I feel absence keenly, a precursor to the anguish that will pour through each vein and artery of this aching body when I read the words: “Kavanaugh Confirmed.”

 

Dismissed.

 

Silenced again.

 

Rape wills on.

 

The Owls have gone into hiding, sequestered in the gracious arms of the Matriarchs of the Bosque, the Cottonwoods, whose butterfly canopy still protects them from unseeing eyes.

 

But the leaves are falling in drifts, scattering delicately scalloped hearts over desert ground. From lemon to bronze. Hearts that are broken fall to earth like the leaves do, I think, after witnessing the fall.

 

I thought I saw a luminous glow reflected on shining leaves just after dawn when the clouds parted for a rising sun, but now I see the trees were the Source of that Light, not its reflection. Like the owls whose dark eyes penetrate the night.

 

The absence of the owls today is no coincidence for they are in mourning for the women who love them.

 

The wind blows open my door as I write these words.

 

Nature’s response to sorrow is to open the door.

 

I remind myself that soon the trees will be bare and the owls will seek protection from caves carved into sandstone cliffs.

 

I want to follow these birds into the coming night, take comfort from “the dark ways of knowing” to find peace in this Earth Woman Shattering.

 

Allow a river of grief to flow unimpeded…

 

If only I could.

More on La Llorona

The Grief of La Llorona

Easy for a mother to grasp La Llorona,
despite each mean version in the myth
of her motives for ‘killing’ her children.
Every mother gives her children up.
The child for whom she would give her life
can never be retrieved from the river of time.
Every mother becomes
a Woman in White, endlessly crying.

She is the mother who asks,
*What is sorrow and what is not sorrow?
They are dead who do not weep.
The child divine become the suffering man,
and La Llorona, a living Pietá.

The flowers cry when she passes
and remembers her child
running to bring his Mama a bloom.
*Do not think because she sings
her heart is joyful. One also sings from pain.
If you see her weeping under a tamarind tree
or if you see her singing,
the Banshee ghost, the grieving mother,
know her haunting comes from being haunted.

I, too, wander the riverbanks
and notice every child who reminds me
of the beautiful boy who vanished
into the magnificent man.
The door of my heart always ajar
to the baby, the toddler, the child
who will never again walk through.
Every mother, La Llorona.

Every mother gives her children up.
But those whose children are ripped from their arms
at borders where they’re deemed illegal,
those whose children flee to find a better life,
whose sons and daughters ride the Beast train,
their mothers never knowing
if their children live or die;
not even the tears of La Llorona,
though vast as all the oceans,
can plumb the depth of grief these mothers suffer.
Every mother gives her children up, but these
who weep for children gone to ghosts,
these are the mothers who show us  today
the face of La Llorona’s haunted loss.

©Susa Silvermarie 2018

 

Postscript:

It is interesting to me that after just publishing a story on La Llorona (that is also on this blog) that I should find this fine poem.

La Llorona is much on my mind these days as I visit the river. I hear her weeping for all the women who have been assaulted/raped and are not believed. I hear her weeping for all the mothers who have had children ripped away from them. I hear hear weeping for all the animals and plants that are disappearing as I speak… her keening fills my heart with grief.