A Ladder to the Stars

 

Every evening at twilight

she climbs a ladder

to the stars…

 

Venus is her guide …

As the Evening star

(who also rises at dawn)

this Goddess of Love

is her Muse.

 

As a woman who

respects herself,

she stands up for others.

She has learned how to Love.

 

Giving is as natural

to her as breathing;

every gesture is grounded

in caring for people and the Earth…

 

She honors the gift

that She has been given –

Life in all its heartrending complexity –

embracing both joy and pain

with equal intensity.

 

 

A wise woman, she reflects

a choice we

all have been given –

(regardless of personal story)

to live with an open heart.

 

Becoming a mirror for

those who might

have forgotten,

her actions remind us

that only Love endures

Amidst the Garbage and the Flowers

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A couple of days ago my friend Iren and I visited a place that spoke to me of the Bear People. Lots of wild earth and free flowing water made this area home to ancient Puebloans who understood the necessity of having astonishing beauty in their lives as well as precious water. Beauty keeps the soul in tact, and Water is Life.

 

The undulating mountain ranges – some appearing quite reptilian, stretch out as far as the eye can see in every direction and some are snow covered. The white light that emanates from these pristine mountains make me gasp in wonder. So much   indescribable beauty. Wild animals are still abundant here as are the artifacts from those who have lived and traversed this land before us.

 

This is a place where “deep time” (see earlier blog post for a discussion on deep time) can easily be accessed, a place where it is possible to visit the ancestors…both human and non – human, in spite of the hoards of garbage thrown carelessly on hallowed ground, much to our disgust and grief – stricken hearts.

 

Iren captured “deep time” through the photograph she took of me staring into the future… reminding me that in these junipers, hills and mountains – in this high desert – I have finally found home amidst “the garbage and the flowers.”

“You are not an artist.”

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Yesterday I completed a little sculpture for a woman artist who is also a friend. It is her 75th birthday. I had been collecting sticks and pine cones, and my friend Iren had sliced sticks, cut noses, and provided me with giant acorns from Texas (which I had never seen before) and a glue gun for the three owls I was going to put on a unique piece of river driftwood that Iren picked up when we were wandering at the edge of Red Willow river… “Perfect, we both murmured at once.”

 

(Iren, I have come to see, is a Muse without parallel as well as my friend.)

 

All I knew yesterday was that I was going to make owls…

 

As the little sculpture emerged I heard someone in me say, “don’t think just do it.” I listened to this voice. However, reflecting on this thought as I chose eyes for the owls I noticed that I felt very nervous. No one was pushing me to do anything and yet I felt as if someone was peering over my shoulder whispering “this is not good enough, you are not an artist. Hurry up and get this silly thing finished.”

 

The intrusive idea became boringly repetitious as I worked. Annoying in the extreme. Discovering that I was making “reindeer owls” because I had simply made them up delighted me! And yet, there was that voice…

 

Suddenly, I had an illumination. My mother was a gifted artist who worked in many mediums. The child in me recognized very early on that there was no room in our house for more than one artist, although she did support my brother’s love for music, his athletic ability, and even complemented me on some of my poetry as a midlife adult, saying once “there must be some place for that kind of writing,” a kind of back handed complement, I see now. When I began publishing my work about 20 years ago my mother remained silent. Needless to say I had already spent 40 years as a closet journal keeper up to that point.

 

Throughout her life my mother was tight – lipped, sharply critical, and short on praise, a perfect Victorian woman. Eventually I came to understand that much of what she said was more about her than me, but unfortunately this mind/body knowledge and personal truth became mine only recently.

 

The fact that my mother’s voice was still attempting to kill off childhood joy and my need to create also reminded me that her perspective was just that, and not “truth.” It also speaks to memory in Nature and how this can manifest through family systems. It is amazing to me how pervasive childhood words and phrases stay with a person throughout her life. Gosh, I am 73 years old now!

 

My mother has been dead for many years and the difficulties between us have been resolved. Mostly, I just feel sad that she was never able to please herself, which is probably why she could not tolerate having a creative daughter. Envy stole her life in many ways… but it freed mine to appreciate the work of others.

 

I finished my little sculpture thanking Iren in my heart for helping me deal with a destructive part of myself that still lurks beneath the threshold waiting to sabotage any creative effort.

 

It is true. I am not an artist. I have no formal training although I grew up in New York’s metropolitan area and spent my childhood at art museums with my mother, and did inherit a sense of proportion, love of color and form as well as my mother’s love for Nature, although her connection was academic and mine comes through my heart.

 

Here in Abiquiu, especially with Iren, some part of me has been set free, and even though my humble creations are simple, I am possessed by the joy of making.

 

Thank you Iren

“Plant Your Gun”

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Working Notes:

When I first saw this powerful image I thought “That’s exactly what we have to do.” There is something about containing a lethal weapon under glass and earthing it that speaks to the need to bury these guns once and for all before they destroy  us.

A deeply moving memorial to the death of gun violence and war.

My companion Bruce notes that bullets are made of lead and even if the gun is discharged, lead is being returned to its source.

Thank you Iren for creating images that speak to us from the depths of our hopeful hearts.

 

 

Little Wild Hedgehog

 

 

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(Above: The Crowning)

When I first moved to Abiquiu in 2016 I was living in the hills and was exploring the arroyos and surrounding Juniper scrub when I discovered a desiccated little hedgehog cactus somewhat hidden under a Juniper’s canopy. Thus far I hadn’t seen any cacti at all except for cholla and prickly pear so I was somewhat surprised by this hedgehog’ s appearance. I decided to transplant the cactus into a pot and dug it up, watered it, replanted it and left it on my outdoor step in partial shade (now I know that it is wiser to uproot the cactus and lay it on its side to rest in the shade for about a week before re-potting to insure that the roots heal to protect them from parasites). For the rest of the fall and winter it just sat there sort of shriveled on one side and I wondered if I had made a mistake.

When we (my dogs and telepathic bird, Lily b) were finally forced out of this inhospitable rental (without heat or a stove to cook on) in mid February by a terrifying fire I took the cactus with me, not wanting to leave it in such an unfriendly place. I re-potted it again, this time in a smaller container and left it outside at our new home by the river. Soon I discovered more wild (pincushion) cactus growing on the mountain slopes, dug them up along with bits of their rocky soil and added them to the solitary hedgehog who sat on a bench outdoors (Each cactus was surrounded by bits of rock that I had taken from the site where I found them, along with their native soil). I inspected the little cactus community each day when I stepped out of the trailercita. Was it my imagination or were the cactus responding to my attention? I watered them sparingly and gave each some fertilizer. By early April, I noted an amazing change in the hedgehog. She grew plump and turned a brighter green, her damaged tissue on one side seemingly repairing itself. I was absolutely thrilled. This little cactus had decided to live! Showering heaps of attention on all my spiny companions, the rest of which were also doing well (I had five in all), I often reflected upon how little it takes to make a plant or animal thrive. And how heroic these wild plants are, subsisting on so little taking what minerals and other sources of nourishment they can from the rubble around them, while leaving the cactus vulnerable to whatever the weather might bring – harsh winds, thirst, hunger, snow, or ice.

It seemed to me that these tough little cacti were a model for survival that a person could emulate if s/he chose.

Imagine my astonishment when I first discovered the tell tale bumps on the two wild pincushion plants that would one day become flowers. It was mid April now and the sun was hot and each dawn broke into deep cobalt blue skies. I began to water my cactus family weekly with child-like anticipation as more bumps appeared.

When my now not so little hedgehog developed two bumps around her crest  in late April, I simply couldn’t believe it. This cactus had undergone a reversal – from death to life – and now she was going to bloom!

The first two deep pink – almost magenta – blossoms with their bright yellow centers took my breath away.

Little did I know that this was only the beginning. My hedgehog cactus bloomed four different times between May and the end of June. The third time she blossomed she had five flowers in all and wore her wreath like a crown (Although I have researched these plants all the sources say that they bloom just once a year).

I was leaving Abiquiu to make a trip east for the summer and couldn’t bear to leave the hedgehog cactus behind, even for a few months, so she came to Maine with me with one other cactus. My hedgehog bloomed once more about a week after my arrival as if to let me know that she appreciated the fact that I had not left her behind…

Over the summer she thrived and grew positively rotund, her damaged side now completely healed. She turned a brighter green, now resembling the rest of the Maine foliage that surrounded her.

About two weeks ago I brought her inside because the sun is so low on the horizon that it is no longer shining anywhere around my house for more than a few hours a day, and knowing that she was a New Mexican native I feared the lack of sunlight might harm her. Placing her on a western windowsill in an upstairs window, I decided to let her soil dry out to prepare the plump cactus for dormancy, and reminding her that we would soon be returning to Abiquiu where she would once again feel the warmth of a sun star that was closer to the equator… “This dull sky is temporary” I remarked repeatedly, to reassure her.

Because I rarely use the upstairs, I didn’t see her every day, although she’s not alone because she sits next to the other cactus that I also couldn’t bear to leave behind. When I went to water my hedgehog last week, just a few days before my birthday, I had another shock. Where once all her flesh seemed evenly distributed I now noted an egg shaped bump on one side. Could this be a fruit?

Excitedly, I opened my computer to find out and discovered that indeed my now very robust hedgehog (she has doubled in size) was putting forth fruit! Reading on eagerly, I discovered that the fruit would ripen to a dull orange and that these fruits were edible. Not for me! I am going to let the fruit ripen and collect the seed. I have visions of teeny little cacti that will grow from the seeds that are already forming inside the egg shaped capsule with its black top knot. Once again, I am thrilled! In one year, this plant has completed an entire life cycle and is putting forth new life – all this might not have happened had I not come upon this little cactus in the first place.

Now I am visiting with my hedgehog every single day to keep a sharp eye on her fruiting body. The day before my birthday while peering at her spiny skin I suddenly noticed another bump forming. More excitement! Altogether, I discerned that there are four in all; the others were barely noticeable as yet, but the protrusions are there. And because I want them to keep developing I think I will water a bit more frequently… Yesterday, on my birthday, a second egg was quite visible.

(Below, a picture taken yesterday. There are two distinct “eggs” visible, but you have to look carefully! to see them)

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The fact that my little hedgehog chose last week to show me her fruiting body seemed like an amazing birthday gift. I had another when the Great Horned owl family’s deep and resonant whoohing surrounded the house, lasting for about an hour the night before my birthday. Since, these days are always poignant with longing because I have spent so many birthdays alone, I am particularly grateful to Nature who always remembers and brings me gifts that I could never imagine. Lily b sings at this very moment reinforcing this thought.

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And then again, on my birthday, another little jewel came by air.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sense of Wonder…

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Whenever I go to my friend Iren’s house I am astonished anew by the art – work that defines this particular landscape, inside and out. Iren creates art in every medium I can think of often utilizing Nature as her collaborator by using found objects, wood, stone, bones, shells, metal, glass to create highly original sculptured art forms.

Take the garage for example, not usually a place one thinks of as an artist’s canvas. The windows are made of old bottles whose colors shine brilliantly – amber, grass green, and cobalt – in the late afternoon sun. There are wooden panels replete with metal objects arranged in such a way that my eye returns again and again to the powerful and intriguing designs; these panels are hanging on the walls above the carpenter’s equipment that lines one side of the room.

Iren uses the chain saw like an old friend to cut the log I brought with me in two. Turning next to the table saw, she shapes one piece of the pinion pine into what will become another piece of Iren’s most original art. Awed by her expertise using these machines I ask her where she learned these skills. Iren tells me that her father taught her to use these tools as a child. I suddenly think of the gorgeous dining room table and chairs inside the house built by her dad…

I am delighted, excited, honored to be witness to this process of hers. Ideas are flowing, even as she runs the edges of the split log over rough sandpaper. We both comment on the sweet intoxicating scent of the newly cut wood as she shaves off its irregular edges effortlessly. We run our hands over the extraordinarily beautiful design that the bark beetles created while they devoured the cambium layer beneath the bark of what once was the trunk or branch of a tree. I am amazed by the fact that this destructive beetle created such beauty while it was killing the evergreen, and how Iren’s creative mind and hand is turning a piece of this conifer into an object that is more than a canvas depicting natural art.

“We can drill three holes in the top for sticks.” This remark excites me. The use of the word “we” is more than generous, since I am simply observing. But it reveals a lot about Iren’s character, her generosity of spirit, the manner in which she invites and draws a person into her world… I suddenly imagine gnarled roots coming out of the newly flattened and lightly sanded top with its three holes… “Which size drill shall we use?” she asks next, as she shows me the different sizes and we both agree on the same one.

“We could bore holes for some stones on the side,” she states more as a question to which I instantly agree. In the next breath she hands me the wood and gives me a pencil to mark the places where the holes will go to complement Beetle’s designs. I love every idea that springs to her mind. Iren picks up the drill and I watch as the drill bit grinds three holes in seconds. Each is quickly sanded. We discuss what we might do to bring out the design. Perhaps a little more sanding. Olive oil and beeswax are two other possibilities.

We leave the garage in the golden late afternoon sun walking swiftly to the studio. My eyes fasten on the rounded metal sculpture with scissors to my left, and then jump to the beautifully sculptured adobe wall with a niche containing what looks like a small statue of a goddess that Iren built to hide a gas tank. Every time I pass the wall I want to go through the small inviting wooden door! As usual I am lagging behind her. There is just too much about this landscape to feast my eyes on.

Once inside the spacious studio with its tower that overlooks the river, and which has to be the best place in the world to watch the full moon appear over the eastern horizon, Iren pulls out tin boxes. One is hexagonal in shape. Even Iren’s containers intrigue me. I pour through the stones with the eyes of a child, thrilled. There are three holes to fill. The blue green copper pieces catch my eye. I choose two. “How about a piece of coral?” she asks. Perfect, I think, as I choose a small irregular shape, a fragment of the sea creature that lives at the bottom of the sea… Iren’s already rolling little glue balls and puts a couple in the holes before handing the wood to me to press the last glue ball and the three chosen objects into place.

Just like that we are done.

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“We’re running a bit late,” Iren remarks as I snap back into linear time. I shake my head trying to catch up with the switch. This whole art-making process took less than two hours and it’s time to go back to the house to feed my two little girls (that happen to be canines)…

As always I leave here with regret. Once again I have spent a mystical, magical afternoon at Iren’s house with a woman who stops time, allowing me to become the child I once was. Thank you Iren.

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Above: Picture of half a log – look at the designs!