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.

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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.

Seed Bearer

Yesterday old eyes

stung –

fierce white

heat –

blurred vision.

 

Singing love songs,

I scattered seeds

in furrows

raked smooth,

tucked tufts

under stone…

 

Imagining

a Wildflower riot!

Bittersweet orange,

blue and gold

winding through

rice grass –

sage scrub,

vining over

wave -like gopher mounds.

 

I curb wild imaginings.

High Desert

discerns

what springs

to life – who

will bear flowers

or fruit –

not me.

 

I am Seed Bearer,

Earth’s Daughter –

a woman who

honors her Mother

by aligning herself with

Her Will.

 

Seedcasting

opens the door

to Ancient Story –

Original Memory is

restored.

 

“Mother’s day”

occurs just

as the snow

recedes,

on the cusp

of dark wings

who flash crimson

in the heat of the

son.

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(Cattails dispersing seeds just as I do…)

Working Notes:

I wrote this poem on March 25th without the conscious awareness that I was participating (for the first time this year) in the most ancient practice of seed sowing while honoring that first mother’s day with seed songs…

Because women’s stories live through me it no longer matters what my conscious intention may or may not be. My mind – heart body knows what to do and just when to do it.

Originally, ‘mother’s day’ was a celebration of the Earth Mother whose early spring stirrings begin in the northern hemisphere in late March. Thirty years ago when I first discovered this information in a book of women’s mythology I was struck by the feeling sense of discovering a profound truth that has been buried by Patriarchy.

So it remains to this this day.

 

Spring Benediction

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Earth celebrates the season

in a thousand shades of gray.

Black and white bleed

stark contrast into

a horizon birthing light.

She stands under towering trees

soaking in their strength

– feeling –

a Sense of Wonder –

the miracle of spring snow

for a thirst driven desert…

 

She gazes upward lost in canopies –

Cottonwoods bending sturdy

arms seeking to embrace…

each patch of bare skin

breathing diamond flakes…

Wearing furry mink coats

her heaped up heart

opens to Love.

 

Trees know

her Mother and Lover,

both hide inside

Rough Bark,

That spring Sap is rising.

 

As Father,

trees dip and sway

but do not break

or walk away

in the fiercest of winds

even

when mighty walls

fall…

 

The child needs protection

from those

who left her

behind.

 

She leans

towards steadfast trees

dripping water from each limb…

Their shelter is her symphony.

Tangled in

Underground conversation –

she listens.

Trees sing love songs to Water,

to ‘Changing Woman.’

A Rainbow covered mountain –

has blessed her

with a Spring Benediction.

 

Working notes:

 

As I stepped out the door at dawn the words rose unbidden – “this is a spring benediction”. Last night the Cloud People came and offered the Earth a gift of wet snow that covered each branch and bush, altering the landscape in the most magnificent way.

 

This winter and early spring the desert has been given a reprieve from drought.

 

No matter how temporary, I am celebrating for the trees, scrub, wildflowers and myself, for all of us must have our feet dipped in sky water to thrive.

 

Spring on the Wing

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Red Willow River

waters are rising.

Sea green waves

wash whittled

beaver sticks

against pebble strewn shores.

I bend,

filling a

miniature vessel

to hold her song:

Water Is Life.

 

Spring is on the wing.

Bird migrations,

wild winds,

leave – taking,

these are the

elements of seasonal change.

Prayers for rain

may be answered.

Pale green desert rosettes,

toothed scorpion rounds,

purple filigreed ferns,

swelling Cottonwood buds,

all create a chorus of rain chants

sweetening the night.

Blackbirds trill from

tallest branches,

flash crimson

in morning flight.

 

March is the month

of the seed moon…

I found a soggy bean pod

She held three seeds.

Three old women called out

as I plucked that shriveled husk

from the river’s edge.

 

Three swollen capsules –

I held them tightly.

Would they

sprout a bean tree

flowing with fragrant flowers,

converse with Iris?

Persephone?

Frog woman?

Three faces of the

Goddess of Spring.

Just in case,

I dug them in.

 

I have scattered many seeds…

Few have taken root.

This is the way of the desert.

She withholds spring planting,

sometimes for years.

And who am I

to decide what grows

or not?

 

On the first of March

my passionflower

dropped tender leaves and died.

Twice death has taken her

this vining heart of mine

in exactly the same way

to make her point.

 

Nature makes no exceptions

for a soul that wonders

too far from her roots.

And mine belong to water.

 

Caught up by others’ needs

I forgot to tend the garden

of the vining heart of me.

My dreams grew dark.

I suffered from absence –

unable to capture my own attention –

even through poetry.

 

When plant death intervened

suddenly it dawned, the golden eye…

Her Light grows ever stronger

the moment I turn inward.

 

Forgive this foolish meandering…

I must turn back to me.

 

 

Working Notes

 

This poem was written for, and is dedicated to my friend and scholar Dr. Helen Hye Sook who reminded me that I needed to follow my passions…

 

In Greek mythology Iris was the Goddess of the Rainbow. She represents the daughter aspect of the Goddess manifesting as bridge between Earth and Sky. Persephone is also a daughter who spends half of her life in the Underworld, returning to the Upperworld when the first crocus blooms in spring. Frogs spend the cold months buried in the earth in a state of suspended animation and only emerge to breed after the Earth thaws and the rains come. According to Gimbutas, the goddess has a frog aspect, and frogs have been associated with Rebirth since Neolithic times. All involve spring transitions, which are rarely easy. I am struck by these faces of three daughter – like goddesses who also act as bridges from one world to another. Each births something new and each is related to water or the underworld.

Elk Speaks – For Andrew

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( Fire at Dawn Births Hope)

 

In the dream

the elk’s antler

was a tree made

of bone.

Silvery tines –

tongues of flame

hummed at dawn.

 

“Embodied Light.”

I would use these words,

if asked to describe

my young friend’s

personality.

But words fall short

of wonder.

 

Andrew is an artist

writing a story

into the land

with his hands.

She opens the gate

of his imagination

as he leans into her curves

Someday their collaboration

will change lives…

 

With stones, willows,

sand bags,

red dirt and

underground water

his vision apparent

to anyone who sees,

He demonstrates

through love

and architecture

that there are no limits

to sustainable

possibility.

 

Such pristine beauty –

Desert wilderness

stretches out

in every direction…

Water cascades

down his rounded hills

creating cause for celebration

mirrored by

flourishing trees

that will one day

bear more of his fruit

as well as their own.

 

Frogs and toads sing

love songs…

 

Birds cling to

Juniper snags,

Sage green bushes

thrive in winding arroyos

scent the air

when Cloud People come .

Wave – like cliffs

startle the sky.

 

I come away astonished

giving thanks for

Andrew, whose star – like vision

eclipses muddy waters…

No wonder he loves the Dawn.

Here is man who

supports the Earth

each creature and shrub

and this ‘old woman’

with his own hands.

 

No wonder that

I see in him

a majestic Elk

and a towering,

steadfast Tree…

 

 

Postscript…

 

Not too long after Andrew and I began to befriend one another, Andrew told me a story of how he ran into an elk, and emerged unharmed. Andrew expressed his dismay that the elk had died. I was struck by the incident because I have had a relationship with friendly elk at a local elk farm for more than twenty years (in Maine) where the animals were cherished and ran free over hundreds of acres that include a river. When I built my log cabin, I named her “Elk House” because elk have such a solid relationship with the Earth and yet their majestic (male) antlers reach towards the Sky…

 

I “ran into” Andrew who was selling fresh vegetables last summer at a little outdoor market that he initiated for the benefit of the community. There was an instant sense of feeling connected to this young man though I didn’t know him at all.

 

As our friendship began to develop I realized how unusual Andrew was. His kindness, honesty, integrity, and deep humility opened my heart. As an unapologetic (eco) feminist I was deeply drawn to his ethic and ability to work with others. Only later did I begin to see how this ethic extended to his love of, and ability to work with the Earth as her partner.

 

Here was a man who had learned how to be a man, a man whose ability to love, nurture, and protect were priorities, a man whose ability to work so well with others makes him a shining light and a powerful example for other men to follow – regardless of age – if only they would.

If more men chose this path we would live in a different culture, one where women (including ‘old women’), men, animals, plants, and every aspect of Nature is loved, appreciated, nurtured and respected…

In my eyes Andrew is the kind of human being who brings me hope that it’s really possible to topple the toxic and deadly edifice of Patriarchy… a culture that is destroying us all.

How grateful I am to call him my friend.