Blueberries for Bears

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Above: Andrew Wyeth Print

 

This morning I went to our local blueberry festival and ate blueberry pancakes with blueberry sauce and started home with three quarts of blueberries, one of which was delivered to my friend Roy who is almost 102 years old.

 

A second quart went to the bears who are already under fire for the coming slaughter which begins this month…that quart contains a bevy of earth bear prayers.

 

The third quart became the blueberry sauce that I lovingly make every single year in honor of this Turning of the Wheel. The month of August signals the beginning of the harvest and for me, like gathering the first ripening pods, making blueberry sauce speaks to my participation in the great round, a holy undertaking.

 

The recipe I use is one that I created, but it has its roots in this wild blueberry festival and the local folk, the men and women who painstakingly pick the berries. Traditionally it is still the women who make pies, muffins, tarts, and cakes to sell – but for me the lure is those fresh berries picked with so much love and attention to detail (no green berries end up in these quarts).

 

As I am stirring the sauce, my mouth literally waters in anticipation of what’s to come and at the end of the cooking time, I scoop up spoons of this deep blue concoction savoring the flavors while staining my mouth and teeth an impossible dark purple! Making blueberry sauce is a wonderful way to preserve the fresh fruit and once the season has passed, opening a jar of the sauce brings late summer back to the table.

 

My young pine forest was once a field that provided me with more berries than I could ever eat. The field fed birds of all kinds, coyotes, foxes, and mice, voles, and squirrels, while bears combed the steep field with claws raking whole bunches into their mouths at once; We all feasted on Nature’s bounty and I felt such child-like gratitude to be part of what was then, still an unbroken whole. Memories of time spent with my little brother picking berries for my grandmother’s pies were startlingly vivid during that period as were those spent with my youngest son, who once loved to gather both strawberries and blueberries for the pies and muffins I used to make. Those days are gone now along with most of my berries, though I still know places along the pond where high bush berries and huckleberries still grow in abundance.

 

Today I thought about my two beloved women friends Iren and Harriet and wished that somehow I could have spirited them both from their kitchens to mine to smell and taste this sauce, the color of which defies categorization.

 

Perhaps I think of them because creating delicious concoctions from wild berries is an ancient practice that women have been engaged in since the beginning of humankind.

The Turning of the Wheel

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Today heavy mist shrouds the apple trees and rises like puffs of smoke over the mountains. Every twig is still covered with lush green leaves and every time I look out a window I feel that gratitude pulsing through me – the wonder of being alive. A brilliant green frog inhabits my toad pond. Last night a Datura blossom literally opened before my eyes etched with pale lavender – a moonflower of exquisite fragrance and beauty, and if anything, I appreciate these moon blossoms here more than I did in the desert.

IMG_3296.JPGMy shrinking garden, (now taped in lime green to remind Spencer that flowers grow here along with grass!) has exploded into raucous crimson, deep orange, yellow, pink, a cacophony of color and sound. I say sound because I can imagine that I can hear the flowers singing a song of abundance, gratitude, and praise to all there is…

The first lemon lily pods are ripening, green apples bend the trees low, grapevines are heavy with new fruit, wheat colored celandine spikes are bursting with seed, queen anne’s lace makes nests full of seed, diminutive pale pink poppies keep popping out of a tangle of ajuga runners and fledgling grosbeaks hug the feeders while little gold birds flit back and forth, sunbursts singing up the dawn.

The light is changing. High sun – dappled shade slides into deeper shadow as the sunstar slips lower on the horizon. We have already lost 45 minutes of sunlight to a sultry dusk; that steel sword edge of white summer light is softening, although here in this sanctuary of trees the thinning grassy hair of the Earth’s body is still active growing new shoots and creating more carpets of velvet moss. I can still hear the brook flowing but the sound is muted now. The water table is low from ongoing drought, although this July has given us a lovely reprieve with so many cloud driven days, some with real rain.

I have eaten the first blood red beets and greens from Kathy’s garden and my basil is providing me with salads and pesto that delight my tongue. The scarlet runner beans have bright orange blossoms and early this morning I watched three deer, an aunt, a mother, and a delicate spotted fawn grazing in their bountiful “kitchen” around the house. The fawn trotted down the mossy path as if he knew safety awaited him in the lush pine thickened hollow below.

I have to remind myself that everything I planted here was for the animals…especially when I see the place where my guardian cedar once stood so proudly until the deer stripped her of bark and leaves irreparably mutilating her. When I cut her down, I grieved the loss but accepted it too. I planted this tree as a seedling. I believe that she knew she was loved – oh so deeply – and I hope that was enough.

I have once again become a hermit, except for spending time on the pond watching the eagles take flight from the nest high in a red pine, and walking through this peaceful forest when the gunners sleep.

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I also write on behalf of bears because the killing season will soon be upon us…Knowing that educating the “white” (death oriented) people around here about these gentle creatures is hopeless I do it anyway for Bb who has suddenly become a night bear… May the Spirit of the Bears step in to redress an imbalance that runs so deep in the hearts of these people that I am left without any hope on a rational level… nothing short of divine intervention can help these intelligent animals who are at such risk. I feel flickers of hope when I think about New Mexico, because they kill bears there too but not with such vengeance and cruelty.

For every season there is a sacrifice and this year my cedar took the fall at my own hand…

The Corn Mothers come into their own at this Feast of the New Grain. Corn is the mother of the Pueblo people… and this year my heart is with the Tewa who are celebrating the coming harvest, giving thanks for whatever rain has fallen, and saying goodbye to the Katsinas who are returning to their mountain homes.

Blessed Be this Mother of the Corn, and the abundance that comes with her Presence, first as Seed Maiden and now in readiness for the coming harvest.

At this Feast of New Grain I give thanks for being alive, for the gift of my beloved dogs and bird Lily B., for the generous hearted people who have stepped in to enrich my life in ways that I could have never imagined, for finally coming to the understanding that I have two home places, not one.

I also cut away what is no longer needed…

Blessed Be.

The Woman Who Respects Herself…

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The Woman Who Respects Herself:

(A Tribute to Bears, Women, and the Men who love them)

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love.

 

She stands up for the Hunted,

the Abused,

for Herself,

no matter how steep the personal cost.

 

The invisible are real to her –

animals, trees, and people.

They call themselves the Anawim –

“the forgotten ones.”

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love.

 

She has not accomplished this act alone.

She was mirrored by animals, plants, and people

who saw her as she was,

and did not despise vulnerability.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Bears first taught her about Trust,

how fragile the connection

between self and other remains,

dependent upon respect for Difference,

Mutuality in relationship,

the Gift of being Seen.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Even now He comes,

Medicine Bear, Healer, Friend,

denizen of the forest

slipping through a veil

of emerald green.

 

Thanks to Him –

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Yet fear grips her heart

for a mangled paw

and a blood spattered head –

death strikes in a can.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself.

has learned how to Love.

 

Yet she cannot help Him.

 

Even a Medicine Bear cannot protect

his fierce attachment to Body –

to Survival.

 

Few recognize that the Spirit of All Life

is snuffed out in these multiple acts

of mindless violence.

 

The Woman Who Respects Herself

Has learned how to Love.

 

Keening, she cries out in protest

of murderous men.

Those who would slaughter

the innocent –

women, men, and bears.

 

This Woman Who Respects Herself

has learned how to Love…

 

Postscript:

 

There is a lot happening here in this poem. On one level it speaks to the Power of Love to shift personal awareness. The poem alludes to a personal story of how this woman was taught by a bear how to love and respect herself by interacting with some over a period of many years. Some people also helped and they know who they are…

 

The poem also addresses the issue of relatedness because what we do to these animals we do to ourselves. Every single time we snuff out an innocent life we also slaughter the Spirit of Life on this planet.

 

By writing this poem I am also protesting the slaughter of bears in Maine. This egregious practice of bear butchery begins on July 29 and extends to November 25th, and black bears (who are prey animals that co- evolved into their present state with trees during the last ice age) and who are generally shy and reclusive by nature are cast as the Demonic Killer Bear by men who project their own fear, violence, and hatred onto these animals and then massacre them without mercy.

 

Bear baiting involves baiting a bear in the woods when s/he is most vulnerable. Bears are simply shot with their heads in a can while eating. Females “tree” their first year cubs before entering a bait site. The black bear depends upon berries for caloric value and this year the berry crops are failing so the bears are more desperate than usual, needing to put on enough fat in order to survive hibernation. They will eat anything with fat in it and are usually baited with donuts. Worse, the young males are seeking new territories, and so these youngsters are the most vulnerable of all. Most of the bears killed are these yearlings, bears weighing less than 100 pounds.

 

Bear hounding pits dogs against bears (the two species are related) and hounds chase the unfortunate victims until they are exhausted, separating mothers from cubs and often killing them (in Maine almost as many females as males are murdered). First year cubs will perish without parental care.

 

Bear trapping is illegal in every state except Maine. Bears sometimes gnaw their paws off to get free of these steel snare traps and then starve to death because they can no longer walk or protect themselves. Bears are eventually shot by the trapper, who might not check his lines more than once a week. The pain for the trapped, starving bear is unbearable.

 

In Maine a bear can also be shot at any time “if s/he is considered a threat” which means that any bear that is passing by through someone’s backyard can be annihilated without consequences. Bears have no rights.

 

It is true that one in about a million bears does become a predator of man, so occasionally the tables are turned, but not often enough to suit me.

Summer Rain

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The sun burnishes the horizon

in spun gold, as he slips beneath

flat topped mountains at dusk..

The summer solstice

is nearly upon us;

Earth is heating up.

The merciless sky is

bleached bone at noon.

 

The third week of June

marks the end of the sun’s

relentless journey

to lengthen Earth’s days.

Sun seems oblivious to Shadow.

Twilight shrinks in his wake.

For a time it will seem like the star stands still,

Then a gradual reversal of directions

reinforces Nature’s truth –

Change is the only constant.

 

With his northern journey completed,

the sun will soon arc to the south.

His coming and going is both

Earth process, and cosmic event.

 

Within a month or so

after the longest day of the year has passed

silvery sheets of rain will slip

through thick gray clouds.

Instantly the earth turns green.

The summer rains are an act of becoming.

 

Who puffs up the clouds?

Some say Thunderbeings

stir the sky into frenzy.

Bolts of jagged steel lightening

strike randomly,

zapping parched cracked ground.

Rumbling ominously,  storm clouds

threaten to erase the line

between horizon and mountain.

Roaring arroyos fill,

spill over, flood fertile fields.

 

Did you know that an inch

of pure rain water

nourishes the Earth

more efficiently than

any water drawn from the ground?

 

This dance between the sun

and his lady,

Keeps the Earth in Balance.

Gardens explode with chilies, corn and beans!

When Cloud Woman weeps,

tears heal wounds.

Frogs and toads hum.

A flaming orange oriole

nests by the river

and sings from the Bosque

at twilight.

Women sing love songs

to honor our Blessed Mother

who brings the Gift of

Summer Rain.

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Working Notes:

 

The term “Blessed Mother” is used as a metaphor for the Soul of the Earth, and has nothing to do with religion.

This is the time of year that I find myself longing for twilight, that space in between, where light from the sun meets the one who dims the light.

I also dream of rain.

I have practical reasons for wishing that dark and light weren’t so extreme at this time of year. My eyes ache from being exposed to the fierce sun, even with sunglasses. I don’t sleep as soundly, or dream as deeply during the late spring and summer months. My energy shifts without warning. The mid -afternoon fiery heat is too intense and lasts too long into evening.

I also miss the shadows that are cast over the mountains during other seasons, revealing sharp contours and a depth that is no longer visible during the late spring or summer. Here in New Mexico the absence of rain often characterizes spring, although heavy winter snows at high elevations bring forth the most beautiful spring wild flowers, flaming orange globe mallows, crimson, purple, and sky blue penstemon, fiery Indian paintbrush, cornflower blue flax and the delicate gilia, purple mat, heron’s bill, violet vetches and an endless array of buttery yellow flowers. These lovely long months of spring are also sometimes clouded by fierce winds that blow in from the west stirring up spiraling tunnels of dust and debris. And tender seedlings curl inward crushed like paper under the shock of sudden frost.

And yet, whenever I am tempted to complain too much about the sun’s fiery rays and light that lingers too long, I remember that without the searing heat of this star, life would cease to exist. Plants and flowers couldn’t blossom, or produce seeds, or pods. The wild cactus wouldn’t swell with magenta, pink, yellow or red buds. The trees wouldn’t leaf out gifting us with precious shade like the elephant arms of the cottonwoods do as I pass under their cool canopies on my daily morning walks. The rabbits wouldn’t give birth and lizards couldn’t bask on rocks warmed by early morning sunlight.

I appreciate all the seasons for different reasons. Today we know that the solstice is an astronomical event caused by the earth’s 23.4 tilt on its rotational axis and it’s elliptical orbit around the sun. In the northern hemisphere, midsummer, or the summer solstice marks the longest day of the year, the day when the North Pole is leaning closest to the sun. As the earth orbits the sun the position of the two hemispheres change in relation to their starry center. At this time of year we lean towards the sun and summer begins, while in the southern hemisphere the earth is tilted away from the sun creating winter. A solstice happens at the same instant for all of us, everywhere on earth.

Oddly, it isn’t until after the summer solstice that the earth really heats up even though the days are already shortening in duration. This phenomenon is called the lag of the seasons. It’s the same reason that it’s hotter in mid-afternoon than at noon. Earth takes time to warm up. Even in June ice and snow still blanket the earth in some places. The sun has to melt the ice and warm the oceans before we experience summer heat. With global warming this process has been speeded up so we are, on the whole, experiencing hotter weather throughout the world. Our once permanently frozen polar ice is melting, flooding the oceans with more water and raising the water level on each continent.

As I approach summer I look forward to astonishing sunsets that stain the sky purple, crimson, gold, and midnight blue. I will walk through cool blue mornings. I imagine the clouds puffing up like tufts of thick cotton appearing on the horizon sometimes before noon, billowing skyward, nature’s balloons. Every afternoon there’s a chance for a shower, and this year I long to hear the Spadefoot toads that have been buried underground who appear like magic, with the advent of the first monsoon. I missed this serenade and no doubt, those of other amphibians, last year.

What I love most about summer is the rain. Indigenous Pueblo peoples believe that when thunder and lightening rule the skies a torrent of “male rain” floods even the high places. “Female” rain falls gently from a slate gray sky soaking every root, leaf and flower transforming the desert into an oasis teaming with life. Have you ever noticed that after any kind of rain the birds sing their hearts out, hummingbirds chirp wildly, and bees hum even at dusk?

Certainly a marriage between the two is needed to sustain life on this precious blue green planet.

Personally, I think the gender of the sun is male, while rain feels like a female element. Some would disagree unless they were eco – feminists like me! An eco – feminist, not a popular term today, links the abuse of women to the destruction of our planet. For example, I come from the northeast where the rape of the forest is ongoing, while U.S. statistics tell us that rape of women is on the rise. Women have been associated with trees in myth, story, and cultures since the dawn of humankind. No coincidence here.

Sanctioning one form of abuse seems to promote others. Our present U.S. political situation supports horrific abuse of all kinds.

Wild Flower Moon Pyre and Prayer

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I stood out under the thick gray clouds

And listened to the bird song,

the roaring river flood,

watched the swallows

soaring overhead

cutting the invisible link between

earth and sky

with sword like precision

and wished I could stay…

I stopped the thought

pulling back the thread –

Coming here at all

was a gift beyond imagining.

 

Earlier I stood at the window

soaking in

flaming orange and ebony,

sharp avian beaks spearing fruit with skill.

A red headed tanager peered

at me through olive sage.

Redwing black birds hovered.

A banquet for this hungry heart

spread herself all around me.

 

I had forgotten about the moon…

She brought us the gift of two days

of rain that brightened each sage and lime

to vibrant green.

I picked redbud tree pods.

Twice, I

shelled and soaked them,

softening coats that

that gazed at winter through a legume lens.

I want to put down tree roots here –

not just shallow iris runners

(though I love them too)

but a sturdy taproot that grows

towards a fiery center

dives deep and finds life giving water

to succor her

when the desert floor heaves, splits, and

cracks from raw heat.

The star of summer has no mercy

for rabbit, flower or tree.

Only darkness brings cool night air.

 

I have a life here, I say.

Because it’s true,

Friends, a few people

who accept me

as I am – (more or less)

and I do the same.

This is a blessing

I have never known,

until now – except for one woman

who lives too far away.

And under a white wild- flower moon

that lies hidden behind

a sky rimmed in shell pink,

I think I hear the maiden whisper.

Has this possibility always been real?

Did I close the door in fear?

I was woven and spun

distorted by others,

and perhaps most by myself

into a woman that I was not.

But fate, like life, just is –

And even in uncertainly

I can feel the need for

acceptance of what has been.

That I want to

comply is already known

to that grandmother of moons –

the one with a hare at her side.

Hummingbirds sip

sweet nectar.

I give thanks

For what is,

and with some reservation, for what was.

It’s the best I can do.

 

At the rivers edge

I offer a song,

dip and fill my cup

with the moon’s blessing.

And as I climb

the steep mud swallowed slope

buff meets wet red ground,

the luminous stones mark

The path I meander…

Inside my dove and I

enter our room.

He sits on my shoulder.

I bless the dogs, the bird,

and also myself

in Her name.

 

Aphrodite and her Dove.

Rainbow Goddess

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Winged Iris flew over earth and sea.

Rainbows luminesced in her wake.

Messenger from the clouds,

she gathered up the rain,

pouring it on dry cracked ground.

 

One transplanted rhizome bore

three green swords, and

a single grassy stalk,

unfurled ruffled velvet blossoms.

Furry lemon tongues lured

hummingbird and bee…

Iris thrived, spreading a delft blue sky

amid flaming orange mallow.

 

Working Notes:

Early this morning when I went out to water my plants I experienced a moment of wonder. The single stalk and leaves that had grown out of a rabbit ravaged Iris rhizome that I had rescued, was unfurling its first bud. The unexpected sight of this large delicately fluted blue flower in the early morning light sparked a moment of pure joy as a hummingbird hovered over her … Bright orange Globe mallow is an astonishing wildflower that springs up without assistance and it covers my desert backyard making a delightful contrast of colors.

In Greek Mythology Iris was goddess of the rainbow and a messenger from the gods. She was also a goddess of sea and sky. Her father was a god of the sea. Her mother was a cloud nymph. For the coastal dwelling Greeks the rainbow arc spanned the distance between cloud and sea, and the virgin goddess (as in one unto herself having nothing to do with being celibate) Iris replenished the rain clouds with water from the sea.

The Woman Who Listens

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Oh, the sun is burning up the sky

turning it white under smoke heavy air.

Crackling tree bark keens but no one listens.

It’s just another “burn.”

 

I am a woman who listens.

 

Twilight lays down her starry blanket.

A half moon floats through the sky.

Desert air turns cool.

The Canyon towhee and white crowned sparrow

Converse, quenching thirst at a shallow well.

 

I am a woman who listens

 

Hummingbirds

dive and climb, wildly whirring wings

speak to a multitude of avian presences.

Fierce and vulnerable in the extreme,

humming and buzzing they call my name.

 

I am a woman who listens…

 

A long guttural trill breaks the silence.

He sounds like a tree frog!

Is he singing a song for his lady,

under sun warmed stones?

A desert oasis is a holy place,

for a woman who listens.

 

Working notes:

Yesterday, the sun was fierce and the air thick with smoke that didn’t clear until twilight. I ached for burning trees. It was so hot that I went for a dip in the river. And then after dark I heard him singing from the little pond. I don’t know what kind of frog sounds that long guttural trill but just knowing that he was out there singing allowed me to sleep.