Firebird’s Song

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She came on the wings of the Owl
flew out of the crack of our imagining,
swooped low over the underground forest
hooing, hooing, hooing

screeching and clacking –
Haunting the night with her song.

I almost didn’t recognize her
inside the feathery brown cape with bars.

On Starry nights while the white moon sleeps
the cloak falls away and behold!
She steps out
in all her Firebird splendor.
Burning, crimson, gold, she crackles — turns blue
white light torching
the fire turned star.
Beaming second sight
she rises out of Earthen ashes

and soars …

To the edge
of the Universe

to the crack between worlds.

– Sara Wright

Postscript 2017

This poem was written/published in “She’s Still Burning” 15 years ago (2002) along with two unforgettable essays well worth the reading. At the time I was writing to save my own life. The poe m was a reference to the day Bush bombed in retaliation to the twin tower disaster, a day I was attending a retreat that involved walking in silence up a mountain. It was on this walk that I saw the owl, and the hole in the tree and “knew” that something horrific had happened. This “presentiment” followed me back to the retreat where I drew a brief charcoal sketch of the black hole in the tree.

Some of us knew what was coming. If the reader goes to Harriet’s site s/he will find an erudite letter written by Mary Meigs that expresses theses same sentiments.

Chilling, these waves of the future.

Women know.

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Every Foundation needs a bear den!

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Here is a picture that Iren took after she visited the foundation hole for the new Casita.

I think this is a most creative natural sculpture that only Iren could think of! Iren is a genius and can create art out of virtually anything. Art that leaves me in perpetual AWE.

I think EVERY foundation needs a bear den.

Bears know how to deal with inclement conditions, they sleep without losing muscle tissue, recycle waste, give birth (to young or creative endeavors) in the safety of a den or under the snow.

Bears are powerful plant and root healers having a complex relationship with both.

Bears know how to heal their own wounds.

Indigenous peoples revere the bear as protector and healer.

What better way to create the space for a new home?

I must also include Bruce’s intuition that the bear of the den in question needed eyes. I totally agree! I was surprised to learn that he pulled what he thought were two quarters out of his pocket and added them to the sculpture. Later he realized that he had pulled out one quarter and one nickel by accident! I didn’t realize until he told me that the eyes were made of silver – no wonder they gleam in the afternoon light!

August 28th begins the “official” bear slaughter in Maine (baiting, hounding and trapping). When I look at this picture I imagine a 70 pound shy and reclusive bear digging his own den in a very safe place and send bear prayers his way.

Thanks Iren (and Bruce) for providing me with such a wonderful image – one that has a heart full of hope and deep gratitude at its core.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dreaming Life

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I never could have imagined

 

the dream I am having now

 

of inhabiting a house not far from the river

 

where the sound of water

 

flows by a pebble strewn island.

 

A path winds from cottonwood

to scrub,

 

parallel to a sometimes raging torrent

 

down to the water’s edge,

 

winds over a bridge

 

into a cattail filled bosque,

 

where iris and lilies find home.

 

Mud swallows soar, Sandhill cranes

 

cry out as they pass overhead

 

heralding the change of seasons.

 

‘The peace of the wild things’

 

has spirited me to this place

 

where I am loved

 

for who I am.

 

A Gift beyond all imagining.

North Pond

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Loon on her nest – author

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Above: Eaglet at the nest  Barbara Haskell

One of the activities I look forward to most each summer is spending time in my kayak exploring North Pond that is just down the road from me. There is a wonderful marsh that is tucked in a corner of the lake (a portion of which was deeded over to me because it wasn’t useful i.e. build-able), and it is full of cattails and wild orchids, not to mention a loon’s nest and many Redwinged blackbirds who hang out on slender twigs of the swamp maples that catch fire in the fall.

 

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Above: loon chicks

 

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Above: Loon chicks  with parents Kathy Hurd

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Author enjoying wandering around on the rocks around one of the islands. Barbara Haskell

 

This year I have been spending time on the pond with a friend who likes to watch eagles like I do. We pack lunches and take our kayaks out to the rocks and moor them there listening to the eaglets’ cacophony. These youngsters are now almost as large as the adults, and are still screaming for fresh fish. Because we are patient we are always able to witness the parents flying into the nest with a silvery fish, dropping it in the there and then heading for the next island to get away from their youngsters’ incessant screeching, I am convinced!

 

Although never far away, the parents leave the eaglets on their own and the two spend a lot of time flapping their now huge brown wings to strengthen them for flight and jumping in and out of the nest. One of the mole brown eaglets is larger than its sibling, which is often the case since one is usually more aggressive than the other and gets more food. Sometimes, the second chick dies of starvation, but not this one. Last week we witnessed one of the eaglets fledge. One moment he was in the nest, and the next he was in the air awkwardly landing on a neighboring tree. Within seconds one of the parents arrived with another fish and dumped it in the nest as if to say “well done!”

 

While we pick a few berries from the bushes on the island and I scour the shallows underwater for sunfish and fresh water clam shells we also have also been watching two loons that fish quite close to the island. Loons like to fish in deep water and I am always amazed to watch one swimming along with his/her head under the water scouting for fish before a black and white herringbone body suddenly disappears below the surface. Barbara and I have commented to one another how curious it is that this pair hunt so close to the island where their would be predators nest, although an eagle would probably not be able to take an adult loon. I think it is the deep water that draws both eagles and loons to the same hunting area.

 

Eagles are, unfortunately, predators of loon chicks and as an Audubon loon counter for North Pond I often have conflicting feeling about the bald eagles because they predate on the young and for the last couple of years have gotten the babies even though the parents are so vigilant. This year it rained on the day of the loon count and I didn’t see one chick. I was so disappointed believing that once again North Pond was without the possibility of the next generation of loons.

 

Then, just yesterday I was talking with my neighbor and friend Kathy Hurd at her beautiful old family farm on North Pond when she spied two loons with two babies between them. I couldn’t believe it! These two adults were swimming with their fluffy brown offspring close between them and I watched spell bound as Kathy ran in and got her camera to take pictures of the little family. This sighting made my day!

 

With August just around the corner, I am looking forward to more kayaking on those glassy mornings when the water reflects the firmament above like a mirror. Kayaking as to be the most relaxing form of entertainment for a naturalist like me. And I never know who I might meet next.

“Under Distress”

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Overheard at a grocery store by someone waiting in line behind a woman speaking in another language on her cellphone.  Ahead of her was a white man.  After the woman has ended her phone conversation and hangs up, he says, “I didn’t want to say anything while you were on the phone, but you’re in America now.  You need to speak English.”

 

“Excuse me?”, the woman says.

 

The man says, very slowly, “If you want to speak Mexican, go back to Mexico.  In America we speak English.”

 

The woman replies, “Sir, I was speaking Navaho.  If you want to speak English, go back to England.”

 

Postscript: My friend Bob sent me this gem and I want to pass it on…

 

Changing Woman Speaks

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(Above photo of me taken by Iren Schio)

 

The two climbed steep hills

and rubble to reach the meadow.

The flat – topped mountain peered down

at the women

gathering stones (from her body)

as if they were diamonds.

Amber, moss, pearl white,

rose red and orange,

gray and ebony – a luminescence

emanated from each,

almost as if the moon had

infused each flake and boulder

with her translucent light.

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The mountain absorbed

their child-like wonder

with pleasure,

and gifted the one

who climbed to her summit

with a stone

that told a story

of a sea of shells and plants

that once lived here.

Stones speak to

those who love them.

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(Above photo of plant and shell fossils in the chert was taken by Iren Schio)

 

Working notes:

In Abiquiu, New Mexico the flat – topped mountain we call the Pedernal can be seen from most directions and has been painted and photographed from every angle. Indigenous peoples considered this mountain to be sacred. The mythical (Navajo) Changing Woman was born on this mountain, and it is said that she lives there still. Each year she is born in the spring, emerges as a young woman during the summer, becomes a mother in the fall, and turns into an old woman during the winter season, only to be born again. The multicolored stone called chert and its darker twin, flint, are structural (quartz) parts of this mountain. These stones were once collected to craft the finest arrowheads for hunting.

 

I have a passion for all stones but especially chert because of its colors. Chert and flint are microcrystalline varieties of quartz. Their crystals are so tiny that chert and flint fracture more like glass than quartz crystals. Skilled Native peoples chipped chert and flint pieces into arrowheads, spear points, scrapers, and other tools. The only difference between chert and flint is color: flint is black or nearly black, while chert tends to be white, gray, pink, or red and can be plain, banded, or preserve fossil traces.

 

When my friend Iren told me that chert/flint could be found around the base of the Pedernal I was very excited. She also told me that someday we could make a trip there to collect some stones. It is only after most of the snow is gone that the serpentine dirt roads become passable, so I have been waiting for that day to arrive for a long time. Yesterday, it came.

 

We made a very skilled (Iren is the best driver I know) windy, bumpy, truck ride up the back side of the Pedernal to a steep meadow. Shaded by evergreens and small stands of oak, we left the truck and stood below the peak in a place where hunks of chert lay on the ground everywhere. We “lost time” in the process, climbing around, exclaiming over colors, shapes and examining “chert caves” –places where the stone had been extracted by hand first by Indigenous peoples, and then perhaps by others. We picked up our favorite stones, filling our bucket, Iren’s backpack, and our pockets with these natural wonders. Iren, of course, carried almost all the stones back to the truck.

 

Iren, who I call “Mountain Woman,” scales peaks effortlessly, including this one, whose back side is a shear cliff face. She has stones of every conceivable shape, size, and type placed artfully around her house inside and out. (Not surprisingly, she is one of the finest artists that I know). All of these stones Iren collected on her mountain climbing adventures, and she patiently tells me where she found this one or that one as I follow her around her property. Whenever I visit her house the stones call out to me for attention instantly! When I am alone at her house “stone watching” becomes a form of meditation…

 

Hunks of chert line her pathways that wander in many directions making it easy to avoid trampling down the natural vegetation. The desert is a fragile environment and Iren is an “earth mother” who cares deeply for her land.

 

Yesterday’s adventure was highlighted when Iren discovered fossils in one piece of chert. We were so excited by this rock and mulled over the possibilities of how the fossils came to be embedded in the stone and what they were. I was so happy for her that I felt like I could burst.

 

This was the second time I had been with Iren when she found a stone treasure. The last one was an exquisite flint arrowhead. I told her that Nature had gifted her with this present (and probably all the others) not just because she climbed mountains but because the mountains knew how much Iren loved stone, and how generously she shared what she had with others.

Nature thrives on reciprocity.

 

Mountains know.

 

This morning when I looked at the multi-colored pile of chert in front of the house I decided I would simply leave them there for a few days before beginning to use them to line more pathways. I just want to look at them. As I pick the pieces up and turn them over in my hands, I wonder what stories they might still have to tell.

 

This poem emerged out of my gratitude to Iren and my love of stone.