Midnight Dreaming

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Carter, a yearling (20 months old) who I hope survives the hunt

Photo Credit:  Lynn Rogers

 

In my mind

I inhabit a small

cabin nestled in

fragrant red pines

where Black bears

climb rough bark

to peer

down at me

believing I

seek their company.

Boundary waters

surround me

with deep Silence

that allows

me to hear

the Voices

of the Forest.

The scent of

of hundreds of

miles of open water

wraps me in

a blanket of moist

air even as night sky

bowl cracks over my head,

pouring down tales of

primordial story.

The Great Bear

is a spiral –

spinning a cocoon of

Midnight Grace.

Here, living

among the bears,

trees,

and the creatures

of the forest

I remember –

We are all

spun from stardust,

meant

to live in harmony,

as relatives –

In Peace.

 

Working notes:

 

I have just moved across country from Maine to New Mexico – leaving one border- land for another. Yet my dreams do not follow me; Instead, they speak to the bear hunt that occurs each fall throughout this country, a land so hopelessly steeped in human violence. In my dreams night after night I cry out for the suffering I witness as young bears are slaughtered without mercy.

 

When I awaken I am not here or there but in a place in northern Minnesota where an ‘old man’ along with his kind neighbors seek to protect the innocent… Here bears and humans co –exist in peace.

 

How I long to join them…

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Stepping Out of Time

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Cicadas hum.

Blushing yellow apples

fall onto grasses that are

fading to wheat.

The velvet tiered buck crosses

the rushing brook,

climbs the

hill to stare at me

through the window.

His lady is not far behind,

her white tail switching.

Cicadas hum.

A single tree frog trills

from a slender swamp maple

whose leaves

are shining silver from

recent rain. Intoxicating scent

still lingers – the sweetest

perfume of all, this moisture

laden air warming

sleeping stones

and the toad who

lives under feathery ferns.

Cicadas hum.

There is a tapestry

of leaves laying around

my feet as I walk up

the woods’ road –

blood orange, lemon, lime

and crimson –

a sense of being suspended

in time.

Cicadas hum.

A few caterpillars spin threads

and hang in thin air

from trees still dressed

in various shades of moth eaten

green, to land upon crumbling

moss covered tree trunks

ripe with mushrooms

birthing new earth.

Cicadas hum.

Hobble bush offers luscious bounty –

Generous sprays of bright red berries,

attract butterflies and birds alike.

Fuzzy beaked hazelnuts are

ripening to warm brown

for hungry Black bears

to pluck and feed.

Acorns fall at my feet.

Canada geese honk overhead,

gathering for migration

as does the raft of loons

floating on a nearby pond.

Cicadas hum.

The sky bowl is full

of deep blue water.

She cradles

a golden star that glides

off center at noon.

And I think I

have never witnessed such

splendor as this prelude

preceding Earth’s passage

into Fall.

 

Working notes:

 

There is something so miraculous about this prelude to the fall of each year. Every day I make a deliberate commitment for time to simply be. I treasure leisurely woodland walks so that I might absorb earth’s subtle changes. The deepening shadows provide such delicate contrasts in color and shape. Familiar trails allow me to focus on details – fiery new blossoms, the ever – changing leaves on a single tree that I might miss otherwise. Unlike spring or summer I never feel the need to hurry or to explore new places. I lean towards the familiar during this season of stillness and waiting, taking pleasure from the places I know so well, a deepening blue sky, buttery yellow wildflowers, and a golden sun that streams in my window at dawn. It is at this time of year in the afterglow of summer’s heat that the sun and I befriend one another once again as we both move towards the darkening of the year.

Beneath a Canopy of Bears

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Two mourning doves

greet me

at dawn,

fluffed and huddled together

on a pine strewn floor.

Mist blankets a forest

that creeps ever closer

towards the door.

 

The strip of red cloth

tied to a branch

is a prayer

for life or a painless death.

Bears are under fire.

 

I am embraced by trees

whose leaves

are tattered and worn.

All are bowed,

bearing ripening fruit.

 

Clusters of emerald grapes hang from

my bedroom window

The light is scattered – soft

green, sifted gold

filaments stream

through heart shaped leaves.

 

I awakened last night

breathing in

deep woods air,

slow moving waters.

The scent of this

valley stream,

sudden showers,

keeps my senses keen.

 

I sleep under quilts

reveling in cool nights

snuggling into

silky softness

feeling the gentle

rise and fall

of my dogs breath.

Except for them

I am alone here

and content

to be so.

 

I am gathering memories

for a basket made

of reeds to take

with me when I

leave this sanctuary

made holy by

Love and Bear Attention

over so many years.

 

I knew before

I arrived, that summer

carried threats – (bone

chilling foreknowledge

seems so futile –

Dread equally useless).

One cannot change what is

Or what will come to be…

 

There were high points:

Beloved bears,

meeting the old man

who loves them,

kayaking on the pond.

Picking wild roses by the sea…

The horizon was unbroken as

I heard the words

“I am looking into eternity.”

Blessed rain – I listened to

Tree roots glowing, glistening

underground –

hyphae pulsing light.

 

One is always solitary

in unwelcome diagnoses.

A dark cloud hangs heavy

over this tired body.

I am closing the gap

between a life that has been

mostly lived and

the Great Unknown.

Five lives –

only two are human –

hang in a balance

I cannot comprehend.

 

And yet

With the advent

of early autumn,

the turning of the wheel

Silence births peace

A fall flowering –

a thinning of the veil

of fear.

 

Across the brook a single maple

turn crimson and gold

a few painted leaves

drift like the butterfly

whose deep orange coat

signals a time to journey south.

Not just this leave – taking

but others are ahead.

 

The children I bore are gone –

ebbing with this change of season.

Green frogs cheep,

nubbly toadlets trill

cardinal clicks abound.

 

Fields of yellow goldenrod,

purple asters,

spiraling passion plant tendrils

and a beloved yearling’s visit,

attach me to knowing

that to be Present is enough.

 

On going conversation sustains.

Hard truths are exchanged,

passionate

declarations spoken.

“I love you”

translates into action

by two –

Visionaries for Bears.

 

I am utterly real he says.

I say love is not distant dependent.

Who could have known

these insights would bind two

bear lovers as one

under a canopy of roots

crafted by bears?

 

Working notes:

Fall is my favorite season. I love the softening of summer’s harsh light, the deepening shadows, and cooler temperatures… the ripening fruit and seed pods, the sound of cicadas and crickets.

In September I ritually give thanks for the harvest, reflect, and gather in the events of the year through words…

Fall is also hunting season and each year I struggle with the ongoing bear slaughter that has already begun. This year I hung red strips of cloth on branches as prayers to be carried by the wind.

It is an Indigenous tradition belonging to many cultures to hang strips of cloth on trees as prayers to be carried by the breathing earth to the place where prayers can be answered…What follows is my prayer:

May death come swiftly and painlessly to those bears that are shot, or hounded.

For those that will be trapped death will be prolonged…I can barely write the words. Maine is the only state that still allows senseless trapping.

She’s a Lover of Bears

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She’s a Lover of Bears.

A poet, a dreamer,

enamored by beaded eyes

black and brown fur,

rotund bellies.

Heartrending cries.

Grunts, moans and huffs –

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

She knows that

a Universal Language

is spoken by bears.

Each nuance

and gesture deepens

a story that she

longs to share…

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

She slides

into a secret dimension –

slips through the veil into

thick green forest

where Bears

make their living,

make love,

dig dens,

have cubs,

sleep deeply and well,

live out their

days

in relational

Peace.

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

(If bears ruled the world

there would be no wars.

No wonder

She’s a Lover

of Bears!)

 

She dreams of them

in between the cracks

of the anguish

she feels

over the haunting

that overcomes

her each fall –

Too many will die

to become a rug

on the wall –

A snarling trophy

for

those

who must kill

for the high,

to feel

their own

life blood pulsing.

 

She yearns for

the sight of raggedy coats,

sleek new coats,

fur dipped in cool waters,

acorned – hazelnut fat bears,

each facial expression

so ancient with knowing…

 

She’s a Lover of Bears

who enter her heart – body –

soul

to be received

like a prayer.

She wants to climb

into those arms

to be held like a child,

Loved like a woman.

 

She’s a Lover of Bears.

 

8/10 /19

 

Working notes:

 

I recently attended a Black Bear Course at the Wildlife Research Institute in Ely Minnesota. Although I have been enamored by, and have studied Black bears for 20 years nothing prepared me for this total immersion into the bear experience.

To visit with so many wild bears in a place where humans choose to co-exist with bears was a revelation. I have never felt such peace being in the company of bears. For the most part these shy intelligent animals are allowed to live out their lives on their own terms (except for the fall hunting season that lasts six weeks, during which time any of these animals can be shot).

 

I was literally catapulted into another dimension, a timeless world in which only the bears, the Founder of the Wildlife Research Center, bear biologist Lynn Rogers, and I existed. Oddly, I experienced the other nine participants through a peculiar kind of haze.

 

Lynn’s groundbreaking trust based research challenges every fear based person and state wildlife agency’s “killer bear” concept in concrete ways, proving that bears and humans can co –exist peaceably.

 

Lynn thoughtfully answered so many of my questions and, of course, generated hundreds more. Although we have corresponded for about 15 years I had never met my mentor and friend until last week.

 

Returning to Maine I am confronted by the reality that our Maine bears are being lured to bait sites as I write these words. A three – month long hunting season will begin before the end of this month.

 

As a ‘Lover of Bears’ I feel this grief on a visceral level, but this year it has been tempered by this extraordinary experience that is open to anyone who wants to learn about these amazing animals.

 

Please visit WWW. Bear.org for information on courses, Lynn’s extensive research papers, daily updates, and to learn about the North American Bear Center.

Independence Day?

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She haunts me

little bear,

too slight,

too wary

to seek

seed I cast

for her

under

White Pine

in whose strong arms

she finds

comfort and safety,

if only for one night.

 

The animals are innocent

 

Where was she when

exploding fireworks

whitened a black velvet sky

split stars night after night?

Where was she

when mindless drones

spewed raging gunfire

screaming for Right?

Who comforted her

in her fright?

 

The animals are innocent

 

The deafening noise

punctures holes

in our bodies,

fractures cell walls,

jamming synapses

freezes thought

muddles our brains.

Caught in a vise

of metal rain

our terror increases

with each act of aggression –

mindless booming,

Indifference.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

So much for July Fourth –

the golden mean

of manifest violence.

Fraudulent strength.

I can’t even imagine

the terror a small bear must feel.

Her senses are so much keener

than mine.

 

The animals are innocent

 

How is it that we dare

celebrate freedom

in a country

where “independence”

is reserved only

for those

in power?

 

The animals are innocent.

 

The rest of us

lay low, desperate,

praying to deaf gods

for relief.

Bound by fear and abandonment

lack of integrity

choice is not real

for those whose trees

have been cut down,

whose health

is compromised,

whose money has run out.

Make no mistake – these

endings do not create

new beginnings.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

One night she

clawed her way

up rough barked pine

climbing high

into forked branches.

Peering down

hot coals

bore through

fragile skins

of difference.

The littlest Bear

and her woman bend light,

twist roots.

A common plight is exposed.

The glue that binds us both

is made of pitch.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

I try to comfort…

but her fright

meets my own

Towers of Steel

and Silence

insure

our anguish

remains un named.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

We are haunted,

and hunted…

bloodied by sharp yellow talons

we do not weep or moan

but swing helplessly

in a darkening

bitter orange sky.

 

The animals are innocent.

 

How do we accept what is

when we have been chosen

by America’s Eagle

to become its next prey?

 

 

Working Notes:

 

This poem has a number of themes – one is about a shy little bear who is too frightened to come for food when she needs it. I first met her the night her mother left her to mate towards the end of May. Too anxiety stricken to function effectively she was unable to relax enough to eat. Instead Rosie Marie dove into the trunk of the nearest white pine, climbed into its upper branches and remained there wailing pitifully for about 45 minutes. This bear was too small, weighing less than 40 lbs which puts her at risk for survival, as does her unbearable anxiety. When she disappeared I didn’t see her for a whole month and believed she might be dead.

 

When she re-appeared her extreme nervousness still prevented her from eating more than a few mouthfuls of the seed before racing to her tree for safety; the tree had become a surrogate mother. I have never seen this little bear relax enough to sit or lie down as her relatives do when eating. Although she isn’t afraid of my voice/endearments she runs the moment I step out the door and recently has taken to becoming a “night bear”. If she eats at all, she does so after dark. After spending just a few precious days with her she has become invisible for a second time. I think about her constantly, seeing those haunted eyes that first evening, hearing her keen… With the bear hunt looming I wonder somewhat hopelessly, how a little bear can survive alone in this hostile hunting climate? There is no one help her.

 

A second theme is that about the Fourth of July – and the flag waving “patriots” that force the rest of us to our knees under gunfire blasts that last until the last drunk passes out. Those boys (not men) that assault people with deafening noise from exploding fireworks, raging motorcycles, and semi- automatic rifles do it just because they can. The founding fathers of this country created laws that have given them the power to do so. After all, they are the righteous right – the good ol’ boys who respect no boundaries, stick together, regardless of age. Compassion, decency and integrity are absent. Where are the protectors, the men who model kindness, respect and restraint?

 

And what can we do but endure while our animal bodies and souls are shot full of holes? These bodies, human and non-human alike are in the fire and under assault just as the Earth is.

 

A third theme is about interspecies relationship and how one woman and a bear are bound by mutual commonalities.

 

A fourth theme involves the eagle. The bald eagle has become a corrupted symbol for power that our “democracy” has stolen from its original inhabitants along with its mythology.

 

For Native peoples the eagle is a literal messenger from the gods who watches over the people.

 

For Americans the eagle has become a symbol that celebrates power over and the belief that this country has been divinely chosen (with god on our side) to be a world leader. It follows, of course, that we are better than others. We talk democracy and demonstrate with power over – our words and actions don’t match up.

 

In the wild, eagles soar high in the air, “close to the gods” as Indigenous peoples once believed. What we don’t want to see is that these birds are also are top predators, treacherous bullies who rule the skies, birds who tear flesh without mercy. The natural history of the eagle along with its corrupted mythology should give us pause… When Americans stole the eagle they killed the “messenger of the gods” and “birthed” his dark side, a rapacious killer.

 

This is Independence?

Two Friends

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Iren by Iren Schio

 

Root Woman

Tree Woman

Sky Woman

Dear friends

Greet,

converse with one another

on the steely silver edge

of Truth and

Change.

Weaving together

roots

twigs, leaves,

clumps of dirt,

the two carve out

an underground story.

Mythic toads instruct them

about the Ground Way

of Being:

“Breathe

sweet summer rain

through leaf and root,

translucent skin.

We are all related.

Sing to the Earth

And S/he will comfort you.

Breathe …”

 

 

Working notes:

 

When I saw this picture that my friend Iren took of herself I knew that a poem would be forthcoming because I was struck by meaning at least for me. Iren sits amongst tree roots. I catch toads. We are both dealing with uncertainty, transitions, and deaths of one sort or another.

 

Trees are, above all, protectors sheltering the living from storms; even when uprooted they provide comfort. Under their gracious canopies new life begins…

 

In myth toads are almost always associated with women, older women in particular. Sometimes wise woman. Neolithic toad images are associated with death and signify the capacity for new birth. Toads live on the edge.

 

Toads shed many skins during one lifetime ingesting them in the process. This peculiar toad habit of eating one’s one skin after shedding it suggests to me the wisdom of not trying to escape one’s past. Being able to let go while incorporating what was into the present as part of the whole is a paradox, but one worthy of our attention.

 

The key to moving through transitions is to breathe through them, to stay as much in the present as possible, to be flexible, to know when to hide out, “to bend like a willow and flow like a river” (the latter phrase belongs to Iren).

I capitalize the word Nature to emphasize the importance of allowing the natural world to teach us how to become more human. We are the youngest species on the planet and definitely the one most lacking in wisdom.

Sons of Power

 

Scorched,

by

the merciless

sons of patriarchy

some rebel,

wear flaming orange

to express helpless outrage,

 

But the Sun is at its Apex.

Ultimately,

We will choose

“the right to bear arms” –

seduction by the righteous right,

continue to slaughter

without accountability.

 

Guns speak.

And when held

in the hands

of irresponsible boys

(of whatever age)

permit the weakest to reign.

 

We celebrate violence

as ‘Masters of War,’

rape women,

shoot children,

innocent animals,

pollute and

plunder the Earth,

worship

Power and Might

Even as the Night closes in.

 

Working notes:

There was a time when I would have protested gun violence…but during the last few years I have been struck by the futility of protest. The lords of power have no conscience and are not interested in negotiation of any kind. Men, powerful special interest groups like the NRA and our state wildlife agencies support the right to bear arms at any cost as does the madman I can barely name as president.

Late last night I was assaulted by a round of semi-automatic gun blasts – unfortunately a common occurrence in this area. More blasts follow this morning. I wish I could say that this behavior on the part of my Maine neighbors was triggered by the protesting. But I know better – any excuse will do to shoot up the neighborhood. It’s NORMAL