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

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Lizard Love

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The lizard I write about is the male in the foreground of his cottonwood house. Note the cobalt patches on his neck… He looks as large as his mate but this is a visual distortion – In actuality his mate is larger. I took this picture just after the two mated.

 

He was splayed out

in the pail,

waterlogged.

I gasped.

How long had he been there?

Placing my

hand under his

limp gray body I

laid him out

on a strip of sun warmed

cottonwood bark

noting his cobalt

underbelly- shimmering

emerald silk.

 

Identifying him as

one of the new mated

males, I blamed myself.

for his death –

It had rained the night before.

I hadn’t remembered

the upright pail.

 

Moments later

a gold rimmed eye

opened

into a slit.

 

Filling my lungs

with air

I ceased all

thought,

opened

my body

to the beyond,

(the place where living

and dying co- exist

in unbroken wholeness)

breathing life

into his exhausted

animal body,

walked away,

accepting uncertain outcome.

The sun warmed ashen flesh.

 

Five minutes later

I return to check,

Lizard raises his head

peers about,

his skin is regaining its pattern

of stripes.

I wonder how long

it has been since he has eaten?

He gazes at me intently as

I welcome him home…

 

 

Working notes:

 

Last year when I moved into this adobe house I made friends with each of the sagebrush lizards who lived here. I was privileged to get to know each one by sight as they greeted me in the early morning by appearing the moment I stepped outside the house. Just knowing they were with me helped me survive a summer of such intense heat that I was housebound for months.

 

Last fall I built a half moon garden on the south side of the house and all seven house lizards moved in for the winter, including baby lizard who was born in late August. I was thrilled, knowing that I had created an unintentional haven for these reptiles! During the winter I thought about lizards sleeping just beyond the adobe wall… I loved knowing they were nearby. When my friends emerged this spring (March) I noted that I hadn’t lost one!

 

One surprise was that soon I noticed new sagebrush lizards that were also making their home here (was some kind of lizard grapevine working behind the scenes?). The newcomers were shy, and it took me a while to show them that I could be trusted. One new pair also took up residence on the garden wall. The male had taken a special liking to me and often appeared from a crack in his cottonwood abode whenever I came by and spoke to him.

 

When the lizards began to pair off this month (May) I watched two pairs mate; one was the male that fell into the pail. I am happy to report that the mated females are pregnant and the couples continue to hang out together on different parts of the adobe house, some in the east, some in the south, two pairs on the garden wall. I placed rounded pieces of cottonwood bark as extra lizard houses on the top of this parapet. The lizards can bask there in the sun, hunt for ants, and disappear in seconds if need be. It was on the surface of one of these bark houses that I placed the lizard I thought was dead.

 

To find him floating in a pail of water horrified me not just because I knew I was responsible, but because the lizard was my friend.

 

When a lizard is dying his very distinct markings fade into a dull uniform dark gray; I was barely able to identify this one. That the cobalt patches turn to emerald was another surprise.

 

I am not sure how I learned that sometimes I can help an individual by setting an intention for Life, clearing my mind, cultivating deep breathing, and letting go of the outcome, but learning this technique has helped me at times to save lives.

 

As I watched the lizard recover I viscerally felt and sensed the power of interconnection to effect outcome.

 

I call that power Love.

Wandering Mystic

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We are

the golden sun

as it rises

over the luminescent

leaves

casting a lemony

haze over

sharply etched veins –

Sap is rising.

 

We are basking

in the early morning

light, saluting

each other

as lizards

in a universal language

we both comprehend –

Knowing too that

the steep price of intimacy

is loss..

 

The present is

my refuge

as I weave

through lime green

bushes and pale

gray scrub.

Delicately perfumed

magenta, deep purple,

salmon, and

buttery wildflowers

cry out for life as

we burst through

chalky alkaline soil

softened by rain.

Graceful giants, we

stretch our bowed limbs

Earthward,

gifting some with blessed shade.

Our roots

are starving sponges

soaking up

puddles of standing water.

 

I feel wonder at the stillness

that allows for Nature’s

Voices to be heard.

Towhees,

white crowned sparrows

doves and nuthatches

chant in harmony.

One cicada strums.

 

High Praise is offered

to Life in all

its complexity

without hesitation…

I envision the wolf

that licks my face,

a tangle of black snakes,

wiggling tadpoles,

pear trees birthing the fruit

of dreams?

 

 

These mental sparks

cast too dark a shadow

of separation,

and I breathe

deep

sliding back in.

 

 

Then I hear him:

My gray tree frog,

his throat blown into

a translucent bubble

trilling just beyond the veil…

 

 

I am both – him and me,

self and whole,

spinning Nature’s web.

I am the living land,

overflowing with her grace.

Breathing in like my frog does

intoxicating feeling,

sight, sound, vibration,

through fragile wrinkled skin –

open to impermanence,

‘predictable pain’,

and this precious moment

of Becoming.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Recently, I wrote that there are not enough visionaries and mystics left in our culture, let alone in the world. Sometimes I write to find out what I am really thinking/feeling and I realized when I penned these words that I had uncovered a belief I didn’t know I had. I do believe that modern culture has lost access to its visionaries and its mystics. We dismiss these people as folks who are at best impractical, unrealistic, at worst delusional or crazy. It occurs to me that without including visionaries and mystics any culture will eventually self-destruct from lack of Imagination and lack of Love.

 

One definition of a visionary is a person that thinks about the future in a creative and imaginative way, a person with keen foresight. Many artists and writers are visionaries. This kind of person often lives in what I call the crack between worlds, inhabiting a space that is outside time or ahead of linear time as most of us experience it. If non –conventional or radical ideas are not acceptable then individuals will be forced to live in exile. A good example of a visionary who went through this phase is the poet Bob Dylan who had a pulse on the culture of the sixties and beyond, and was despised for speaking out during the folk era that was so focused on a change for the better. When I listen to Dylan’s early songs it is clear to me that he knew “something” was coming but it wasn’t necessarily a positive development. A careful reading of Dylan’s early work, (The Times They Are A-Changin’ is a good example) will initiate the reader into the visionary’s perspective.

 

There is a relationship between being a visionary and a mystic but there can be differences too. Visionaries “see” what’s ahead but may or may not understand what they are seeing, mystics actually “enter” other realities to experience them. I believe Bob Dylan did both.

 

Visionaries may survive as artists of one kind or another but today mysticism has no place in global culture as it is generally experienced, with the possible exception of the probably insane person who is directly tied to a particular religion who is also tagged as a mystic.

 

Some partial definitions of mysticism that made sense to me focused on those who seek by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the absolute. Direct experience/intuition/apprehension or its opposite – an experience of nothingness seem to be intrinsic to the mystic’s experience. What isn’t mentioned here is that we are also talking about the experiential aspect of Love.

 

I personally like William James’s viewpoint which suggests that during mystical states we become one with the absolute and/or become aware of our oneness. This perspective contributes to the interpretation that mysticism is a distinct experience that highlights the importance of the senses to attainment of unity with the ‘divine’ however ones defines that word.

 

According to James mystical experiences have four defining qualities: They are ineffable; they cannot be explained in words. There is a noetic quality to these experiences; any insight into the depths of truth cannot be apprehended by the discursive intellect. Thirdly, these experiences are usually transient but their effect persists. And lastly, mystics do not come to these experiences as active seekers, but as passive recipients. It’s important to note that for James there was nothing inherently theological in or about mystical experience.

 

It is also argued by some that mysticism is part of the process of perception, not interpretation; that is to say that the unity of mystical experiences is perceived, and only afterwards interpreted according to the perceiver’s background. This may result in different accounts of the same phenomenon. For example, a nature mystic seeks union through objective experience, an individual mystical experience of union can also occur in the Great Void.

 

Visionaries and mystics allow us to perceive possibilities or actualities that are beyond our very limited human androcentric understanding. They also teach us about Unconditional Love. They lift us out of ordinary time, not through intellect, obfuscation, or denial but by opening a door through the present moment into a place where experiences have no past or future. The Now is all there is.

 

I have spent my life trying to function in a foreign culture that has remarkably little meaning for me; a culture totally disconnected from that of the natural world. Personally, Nature is both source and container – the place where both the visionary and the mystic originate and thrive because we are one. On-going communication with non-human species is a natural part of this way of being in the world, and all language, human and non human a like, is directly mediated through my body, which is, I repeat, also the body of Nature.

 

I always capitalize the word Nature because S/he is generally ignored, dismissed, despised, exploited (read raped) by humans; I seek to re-dress that imbalance by highlighting her importance, and not because I perceive her as some kind of deity.

 

The little poem I wrote attempts to illustrate how fluid this natural connection is for this nature mystic, and how easily I slip from one way of being into the other. It is also a reflection on what it means to be ‘in love’ in the largest sense of the word.

 

I should probably add here that I am severely directionally dyslexic – the universe does have a sense of humor – navigating the natural world may be effortless (although I am never the one orchestrating these experiences/relationships), while I am literally lost at sea in the violent culture I was born into.

 

As a dedicated naturalist and a nature mystic I also can’t help wondering how entering into an intimate relationship with Nature might change our attitude towards the planet we depend on for life. Perhaps instead of seeking transcendence we need to choose immanence?

 

 

Blue Truck and Open Sky

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I waved goodbye

gazing into

blue space

as rattling metal

dissipates,

leaving

dust

in its wake.

 

‘Change is the

only constant’

I remind myself

as I turn back to the adobe

to prepare for

my own leave – taking

with a hole in my heart.

Am I always saying goodbye?

 

The next day

I cannot get out of bed.

Is it too much to expect

that I can continue

to endure these ruptures

that catapult my body into

a coal black cosmos,

even as a spring veil

casts her grace

over the land?

 

I have no answers

to these questions.

I lean into gray – green

imagining warm rain

that falls quietly for hours

aligning myself

with elements

I trust – hoping

for insight.

 

I dream about Black bears,

those primal mystics of the forest.

Like them I must have a Tall Tree

to sleep under,  to lean upon…

 

On the outside

I endure

my body exhausted,

wrung out, as

I throw a furry coat

over a shivering child

who no longer trusts

that dawn will come.

 

Postscript:

I am struck by the personal truth that childhood abandonment creates its own powerful reality – a closed system that even the most self -aware adult cannot shift. Developing keen awareness regarding this issue may even make this ‘knowing’ more difficult because it becomes impossible to medicate this void with denial or any other kind of drug* induced coma. What is left is to endure. This is the position I find myself in as I attempt to create a bridge to move from one beloved earth-space to another.

*I use the word drug in the cultural sense not restricting myself to medical/ recreational drug overuse, although, of course, I include these with the others. We often cite medical/or recreational drug users as the core problem while the rest of us appear to be numb to the fact that unhealthy addiction includes any behavior that is taken to the extreme in every day life. It’s also important to recognize that we live in a culture that celebrates “doing” (read as addiction) as the way of life. In this way of thinking if a person is not actively engaged with some activity or machine every second of her/his time then there is something amiss. Being alive isn’t enough. Healthy doses of silence and self-reflection are not considered useful.

 

 

 

 

 

Our Lady is on Fire

 

 

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I entered the Silent Tomb;

the Mosque felt

devoid of Presence.

We wandered through

a myriad of glorious arched rooms,

ornately carved woodwork –

soft carpeted floors.

Removing our shoes

we spoke softly

in deference to

Something ineffable?

Each tiled courtyard,

Mute, yet

starred in

cobalt blue.

Opaque light streamed

through precisely cut

geometric shapes,

domed ceilings

cracked the heavenly stream

into patterned shards.

Outside,

unattended,

High mud walls

kept Creation

at bay.

Fruit trees

twisted by bitter west winds

ragged junipers

sagging in sorrow

rendered invisible

by those who choose

not to see…

I wept for the casually discarded

living breathing

Beings –

Pulsing with Light.

 

Beyond white sand walls

the stark white capped

Mountains cried out in torment

“Here we are!”

“Sangre de Christos” –

It is our body, our blood

that has been shed

not just his.

Stretching north –

Ridged, ribbed serpents

split the continent in two,

valley gorges meandered far below

arroyos flooded Rio Grande

and all the colors of

the rainbow streamed

out of mud and stone.

 

I picked a fragrant branch

on my way out –

a blushing apple blossom.

Re – attaching myself

to Her through a plant,

to what is tangibly real

helped me to breathe…

I felt the split

between mind and body

heal the artificial division

that I had just experienced

beneath words –

Inside and outside

remain perpetually at war

for so many.

 

I stared –

Transfixed by a miraculous painting –

bewildering beauty

stretched around me

from horizon to horizon

I bloomed with the usual awe.

Turning back I gazed at

the graceful rounded lines

of a “holy place”

where Nature was kept at bay

by stark walls,

lack of windows,

cold shadowy halls.

 

Why is it that humans

can no longer see

that the ‘holy’

may manifest

in man made structures

but containment

requires situating

oneself in the Whole?

 

At home

When I placed the

budded branch in water

I recalled another

holy place engulfed by flames.

“Our Lady” is on Fire

during this week of

crucifixion

as once again

body is severed from

the spirit to which it belongs.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Yesterday I spent more than two hours with a friend exploring a huge and empty Mosque situated just down the road from me… this beautiful structure was situated high on the Mesa with the snow covered Sangre de Christo mountains (Rockies) in the distance – other mesas and volcanic mountains stretched in every direction. The whole landscape was draped in pale spring green. A deep blue sky held a white star in her arms…

Once inside the enormous structure all light was diffused and entered only from ABOVE – mostly covered by some kind of translucent material or plastic… Each magnificent courtyard was enclosed – stone, tile adobe, star patterns carved into ornate wooden doors – The arched doorways and niches were astonishing to behold.

And yet, my body felt heavy – “de -pressed” in some fundamental way. It wasn’t until I was outside the compound that I realized that what I had experienced was a brutal and mind – body split as I was FORCIBLY separated from Nature’s beauty while wandering about inside this extraordinary building…

From my point of view this compound reflected in a concrete way how religions force us to make a choice between loving natural beauty and “worshiping” in man made structures. Churches etc. separate us from wholeness, creating a split that damages not only humans and all non human beings, but allows us to discard this beloved planet that is our home.

How in such a magnificent setting could people separate themselves from their landscape as effectively as this place had?

Then I thought of Notre Dame burning…. “Our Lady” is going up in flames.

I do not believe in coincidence. The message implicit in the burning down of the cathedral in France during the Christian holy week also speaks to what we are doing to the Earth.

Indeed this is the week of Earth’s Crucifixion even as Christians and Jews celebrate resurrection – freedom from the body, slavery, and redemption.

A Cactus made of Rainbows…

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(Author’s newest rainbow cactus garden – the stones are pieces of chert that were found nearby -note the tiny nubbins on the sides of these cactus that will soon burst into bloom)

 

Raspberry spines

prick my skin

but do not harm me

as I gently dislodge

you from stones

and soil,

praying out loud

for permission.

 

You thrive here

as the Bears do

under tall red pines

and lichened boulders.

Aspens, Spruce, Juniper

all murmur

love songs

on Changing Woman’s mountain.

 

Is that why they call you

a Rainbow cactus?

Were you there

when She was born

under soft deerskin

pulsing with a whole

spectrum of Light?

Did the Bears watch you

From swaying tree tops

offer generous blessings

for the gift of your life?

 

I step so carefully,

so as not to crush

your little village

thriving under my feet.

I gather you as

a small family, believing

you need to grow together

to thrive.

Your roots are shallow

hugging jagged rocks

at odd angles.

I feel amazement –

Such tenacity.

 

I note your need for protection

from merciless west wind and sun.

Yet you thrive with so little –

a blessing from the Cloud People and you

burst miniscule roses from thorny skin.

I imagine a waxing frog moon

overflowing with pride.

 

I found a bear paw

not far from where you lay –

White flint worked

by those who once

tread lightly

on sacred ground,

soul heart and body

bound to each rock

and tree.

(Bears still leave

their marks on smooth

white aspen bark).

 

The People

spoke in tongues

most can no longer hear.

Oh, my grateful heart

sings praises for this

precious body that

vibrates

ancient strumming sound…

Your collective Voices

vie for my attention

as I move effortlessly

through the veil,

bowing my head

to acknowledge your

Bountiful

Grace.

 

Time gathers herself around me

False lines and boundaries

disappear.

I am so easily comforted by Now.

If only I could stay here…

 

When I wend my way

down the mountain

with a prickly clump

of your people,

I am filled with Light.

Perhaps Changing Woman

was right –

Her children’s father

was a round rainbow cactus

after all.

 

Working notes:

 

Yesterday I visited the mountain that once called me to this place, although I couldn’t name her then… three years later I am drawn back again and again to this Mesa forged in Light to gather stones made of the flint that was traded throughout the Americas by the pre – Puebloan peoples.

 

The Powers of Place embrace me again and again as I climb, hearing voices, and I am  permeated with wonder…

 

In Navajo mythology Changing Woman – she who grows old and young again but never dies – was born under a rainbow of light created by a myriad of colors – orange, gold, gray smoke, ebony, pink and burnt orange – of the stone called chert that is found in a single band that stretches around this mountain. This flint was worked into tools that were traded throughout the continent…

 

Changing Woman (parthogentically) birthed two boys who left her. When they asked about who their father was she retorted that maybe he was a round cactus! (a tongue and cheek response?) Their grandmother later told them their father was the sun but my guess is that their real father was a prickly round rainbow cactus that grows close to the ground on the slopes of Changing Woman’s beloved mountain, the mountain where she was born.

 

This marriage was one woven from Light, tenderness, thorns, and tenacity.

Crucifixion

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When I saw

the mist rising

over the veil

of red willows

I heard Her cry out.

I had to heed the call.

 

I stood at the river’s edge,

a silent witness for

My Lady

of Sorrows –

La Llarona,

the Mother that Mourns.

 

I did not know

that today

was the beginning

of Her Dying;

Body severed from Spirit.

 

A 2000 year old story

lives on

through each heart-centered cell

year after year

regardless of personal

awareness or intent.

 

I must choose to join

Her as she rises,

for her grief

mirrors my own.

 

Not to acknowledge

the dark veil she must wear

is to deny the loss of her son,

the loss of my sons,

the Great Dying of

Earth’s plants and animals.

 

What can I tell her

this Lady who watches over

the Living Waters,

this Woman Who Weeps?

 

Only that I witness

Her anguish

with heartfelt compassion,

and commit to Presence

amidst the Great Dying

loss of children

and the death of one

whose benign and beneficent spirit

some continue to call a god?

 

 

Working Notes:

 

This morning I awakened to a hard frost, and a deep blue pre- dawn sky. When the heavy mist beyond the field caught my attention I felt compelled to walk to the river. I wasn’t thinking about the story of La Llorona, the mythical Southwestern woman who haunts the river’s edge, one who mourns the loss of her children … What I experienced instead was the Presence of My Lady as a Spirit of the River, a spirit who watches over the Living Waters, and one who mourns the loss of so many animals and plants. I feel a great kinship with this figure because I am a dedicated Naturalist who walks with the Great Dying as a way of life.

 

It wasn’t until I returned to the house that I realized that today is Psalm Sunday, the beginning of holy week according to the Christian tradition. Although I am not a Christian, I have Judeo- Christian roots and for some reason I seem to have to live this story each spring whether I want to or not.

 

So, I was not really surprised to learn that my first spring meander to the river included an encounter with the Mother who mourns the loss of her son, although I wasn’t yet consciously aware of this aspect while I stood at the river’s edge gazing into the mist…

 

What’s different for me is the focus of this week’s story. I identify and align myself with the Woman Who Weeps not only for lost children but for all the losses the Earth is presently enduring.