The Doorway

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When I look into his face

I wonder

what he is thinking

as he loses himself

in sweet mountain mist.

He’s alone now.

His fear of the unknown

keeps him vigilant

ears erect,

mouth tasting air

standing on two legs to see

beyond summer’s diaphanous veil.

No wonder he climbs trees.

 

He’s not yet two.

Did she warn him

about the others

before she left?

Two legged threats armed

with hatred,

the need to destroy life

men addicted to power,

who will gladly spew fire

through his gut,

strike out an eye, maim a paw

so he cannot flee?

 

 

He slaps chipmunks

in repose,

scents fragrant white lilacs

clasps a metal can to his belly,

kicks it down the hill in play.

He bounds

towards the brook

for a bath,

circles back for protection

in a thicket of

young pines

for a nap.

 

He tolerates me

if not as friend

at least as one

who wishes him

no harm.

He peers around

rough bark like a child

playing hide and seek.

He’s curious to identify

to whom I am speaking.

He listens intently

when I caution him

like an anxious mother.

Do not trust.

Do not trust them.

I am the exception

to the rule.

 

Most want him dead

Skinned and hung –

a furry black skeleton –

a shroud on the wall,

his jaws forever frozen

in an impossible roar.

 

Always present,

Death stands at his door.

Water – Sky Woman

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(Photo taken by Iren Schio at Abiquiu Lake)

I am a woman who is in love with the Water and Sky!

This photo was taken a few days ago when Iren and I went to the lake to swim – it captures the joy of the moment.

Last night we had real rain – the kind that soaks the desert ground and brings even the most withered plants to life.

Here in Northern New Mexico we are suffering a terrible drought that has chilling implications for the future. Living by the river under the cottonwoods I am spared the  visual reality of drought, although it is impossible to ignore the dry cracked earth beneath my feet, or the scarcity of wildflowers.

The light rain we had yesterday morning wasn’t enough to keep me from watering thirsty seedlings and plants… but the birds were taking baths on the wire fence and I had a flock of western bluebirds, phoebes, flycatchers and towhees that all participated. The first fiesty Rufous hummingbird appeared at my feeder.

Last night, as if in anticipation of heavier rains the great horned owl hooted just outside my window at dusk – twice. The nighthawk identified himself  by his high pitched peet.

When the skies opened last night it seemed like a holy thing. This morning on my walk to the river mist rose off the water obscuring the mesas.

The thick gray cloud cover keeps the scorching solstice sun at bay, and all my windows are open allowing inside and outside to become parts of one whole.

Unlike so many this time of year is my least favorite because of the heat of the sun, so to have two mornings of reprieve seems like the greatest of blessings and my gratitude overflows…

Three Old Women, Owls, and the Spirit of Place

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The Three Old Women In the distance

 

Every morning as I walk down the river path, climb prickly pear hill and enter the lower pasture that nurtures the sage garden I feel a powerful pull I am afraid to trust… I exchange greetings with the Cottonwoods, listening for fluttering heart songs. I feast my eyes on the red dirt road under the soles (souls?) of my feet, soaking in her rich crushed rock, peer at wily lizards scurrying through leaves like lightening. I bathe in the deep shade and light breezes as cottonwoods tufts drift around my legs. Although I can no longer hear the river roaring behind me I know she’s there, just beyond the willows that line the acequias… I remember the “good red road” that Indigenous people walked, the same road I am walking now from west to east. Fire and Ice are my steadfast companions.

 

Raising my eyes from the forest floor I gaze at the simple lines of a new adobe structure that seems to belong to this patch of earth. Surrounded by a few junipers, silvery Russian olives, a Squawberry bush or two, and a forest of recently battered chimiso that I have trimmed with loving attention, the stepped mud walls rise to the sky… perhaps the Cloud People will visit here. The portals are inviting me to enter the house, their cedar wood railings a pleasing contrast to textured sand walls. Lizards climb the adobe walls with ease, their delicately splayed feet finding firm purchase on nubbly mud skin.

 

Once on the porch I stare at another stand of giant cottonwoods with thick fissured trunks and branches that arch over my head. How I have come to love these trees! Whenever I walk under them I feel blessed by Tree Presence, blessed and loved.

 

In early May I scattered wildflower seeds in the holes that my neighbor dug for me. I grimly uprooted plants with injured roots, and we transplanted sacred Datura, an apple tree, and two kinds of sage. One day this man surprised me by saying “we work well together” and I realized that this was true. Was it my imagination or was peace growing between us in the space between words?

 

Each day throughout the month I continue to climb the prickly pear path, and walk through the cottonwood forest to water seedlings that generate hope for new life. I fear the coming heat. The sun burns my shoulders, and some days I feel woozy from the rapidly approaching fire of the summer solstice sun.

 

I search for more wildflowers because my neighbor has taken the time to water barren ground while I water seedlings. I am never disappointed! New green shoots appear like magic. I wonder if he knows that I appreciate his watering. I have tried to tell him, but he is not much of a receiver.

 

Scarlet gaura spiral upwards transforming rose to red; delicate white primroses seek the morning sun. I find clumps of salmon globe mallow, pull tumbleweeds as I stare across the mesa visually climbing the steps of the mountains I call the Three Old Women. Could they be my Desert Mothers too?

 

I think that in the beginning The Powers of Place first seeped into my blood through these three wise “Old Women” who live in the hills beyond the adobe house. When Place casts her spell, an ordinary view becomes the Beloved crying out – “see me, feel me, I am you and you are me” blurring edges between us…weaving mystery and magic through sight and senses, irrevocably marrying me to a piece of Earth without my knowledge, let alone understanding. Place determines the strength of our relationship not me. If this hadn’t happened to me before I wouldn’t have believed it…

 

I am afraid to Love. This bond binds me like no other to Beauty, animals, plants and people, to internal truths, to knowing what I might not want to know, to Life in all its complexity, fragility and strength, and finally to a possible homecoming after two years of wandering in the high desert without any sense of direction. This year, winter/ spring illness eclipsed my body, robbed it of will, sapped precious energy to hike or explore. Six months of soul loss leads to crushing depression and loss of hope.

 

Both the miracle of seeds growing and my attention to watering, birth a tentative hope as I open the door to loving place again. Is this piece of Earth a sanctuary where I might find friendship and peace?

 

Was it necessary to wander alone in the wilderness – to live without knowing, to mourn what was to reach this turning?

 

Of all my fears, self – delusion frightens me most of all. Could I still be desperate enough to imagine this feeling of belonging?

 

I sense not.

 

When I open the door cool rust colored tiles gently massage my feet. The walls warm me with pink sand like hues, the light is soft and inviting, yet the air is blessedly cool and sweet. An immense wooden beam slices through the slanted wood ceiling above my head. In every direction windows open to Nature’s beauty, trees, berry bushes, chimisa, mountains, red dirt, and wild grasses. Wood and mud make the finest of houses, and I have lived in both.

 

Walking towards the kitchen, cobalt tile counters shimmer like spun glass. Over the sink the Three Old Women gaze in at me through the window; our eyes lock in silent recognition. A few nights ago I smudged the rooms with sacred sage. The next morning an elk ran by my front door. An elk antler and a chert fragment had been embedded in the Northern foundational wall. Was this synchronistic occurrence a personal sign? It was tempting to think so. Nature routinely communicates with me through the appearance, disappearance, or death, of animals and plants.

 

When I picked up the owl thread on May Day I felt bewildered…

 

Discovering a great horned owl feather just beyond the east door of the new house meant something I was sure. My neighbor told me that he had been listening for owls in the evening, which seemed hopeful to me for some unknown reason.

 

As friends we had spent the last six months having star crossed encounters many rife with raw anger, and it seemed to me that it was impossible for us to amicably share this piece of land. Hadn’t our differences divided us permanently? When I spied the great horned owl feather I was surprised that he seemed as moved by it as I was. Taking it into the house, he placed it in the Nicho that faces East (where it has found a permanent home). This simple action carried a deep resonance for me although its meaning was veiled. It also reminded me that for the better part of the last eight months owls and I had been in ongoing conversation…so I digress a moment to return to the past…

 

The night of my birthday last September – I was still in Maine – a symphony of owl song brought sharp memories of my mother and I felt the usual fear and ambivalence because my mother loved great horned owls but we also had a deeply troubled relationship… Great horned owls are harbingers of death to some, birds of wisdom to others. They carry a charge that is either positive or negative in every culture and in my life as well. When this trio of owls sang just outside my window the hair on my arms prickled. A Visitation, I thought. Each night thereafter, I was serenaded by these magnificent birds who had moved into a still untouched forest for the first time in thirty years.

 

When I arrived here in November I couldn’t believe it. Great horned owls were perched in cottonwood trees around my neighbor’s house. They sang out on starry nights and heralded pre-dawn skies with me rooted to their whooing seeking out their presence on star cracked winter nights and bittersweet orange (pre-dawn) mornings. This couldn’t be coincidence. Whatever the owls portended I knew I needed to listen with careful attention … I surrendered, even found comfort in their haunting songs. I knew I was being called. Was I being warned?

 

The day I moved out of my neighbor’s house two paired owls flew over my head after hooting to one another in the cottonwood tree… I couldn’t escape the feeling that they were saying goodbye… I experienced an unbearable sadness.

 

I had a very strange dream a day or so later. A strange dis-embodied voice informed me “I am the Spirit of this Land and you shall dine with me.” I awoke with a sense of awe and mystery, believing I had been called for a third time by the Power’s of Place, this time not by Three Old Women, or Great Horned owls (old women in feathery owl capes?) but by another Voice that was clearly male.

 

This dream was followed by another in which I peer in at many diminutive fluffy owls who are sitting at a table and all of them are waving to me! I wave back jubilantly.

 

After moving into the Trailercita owls hooted infrequently and from a great distance. I missed them.

 

I didn’t fare well. This winter was hell.

 

But to return to the present…

 

In May the owls left me a feather reweaving our dormant connection, and owl presence preceded May, the month of my seeding…

 

Each spring all creatures, plants and people participate in Nature’s round – the resurrection of soul, body and spirit as the greening approaches full bloom. Our Mother adorns the Earth with bouquets of flowers… And seeds that have lain dormant for months or years burst out of moist ground… rising from the dead.

 

Will the seeds lying dormant in me grow into blossoms of fragrant flowers?

 

Will the owls finally speak in a language I can comprehend?

 

I look towards the mountains as a bat flies across a waxing full Mayflower moon… The Old Women stand steadfast in silent contemplation.

 

The future remains veiled.

This Tree is Bent Too Low

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A long and winding road…

 

I see an old woman

in the mirror

and think of the troubled years

I spent mothering children

who keep the fires of blame

fanned through mid life.

 

 

They will not change now.

 

 

Indifferent

or hostile, both are

still stuck in “mother hate”

endemic to a culture

that judges women

unworthy.

 

They will not change now.

 

That I did the best I could

running on empty

wasn’t good enough.

Past and present meet

an ever dimming future.

 

They will not change now.

 

All that’s left is to accept what is –

 

They will not change now.

 

 

 

Working notes:

 

Another Mother’s Day dawns – last night raccoons dug up my seeds – uprooting the dead along with tender roots. Will I bother to replant? Or will I leave hope untended?

 

I think of the young mothers who, like me, were children having children (in part) to be loved?

 

Yet how tenderly we cared for these “seeds of becoming” that grew from our bodies, in spite of mistakes and shortcomings.

 

We loved fiercely and were turned away…

 

I also think of the global slaughter of trees…

Sayain

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Photo credit: Tewa Women United

 

“If you’ve come to a Tewa Women United event or workshop, you may have noticed the presence of our beloved elders in the circle – always there, in the background and sometimes in the lead, supporting with love and wisdom.

The Circle of Grandmothers – Sayain in Tewa – is the nurturing breath that infuses and inspires the work of Tewa Women United. This inter-tribal, multicultural circle of women are either grandmothers themselves or supportive elders.

Sayain provide spiritual grounding and cultural guidance to the whole Tewa Women United community – staff, board, and program participants. Their presence reminds us how the reciprocity of inter-generational learning and sharing strengthens individuals, families, and communities.

On any given day, you’ll find Sayain creating healing gifts for trauma survivors (often pouches of lavender and other herbs), organizing and helping at community education sessions, hosting inter-generational support groups, and sharing knowledge of traditional language, arts. and practices.

As Beata Tsosie-Peña, coordinator of TWU’s Environmental Health and Justice Program says, “Beloved Tsaya In’, thankful for all these powerful women in my life who are there to guide our work, share wisdom and support. My heart is full when I’m with them. Make no mistake, they are fierce community activists and organizers!”

I have been privileged to attend  two seed gatherings where the Tewa women are recognized as elders who are leaders in their communities. Each time I have been moved by the power of these women who continue to fight injustices of all kinds.

Women like this offer me a glimmer of hope that it may be possible to return to more egalitarian practices – practices which celebrate our female elders for the wisdom keepers they are.

I have taken this material directly from their site.

What it means to be a Saya (grandmother) in the Circle of Grandmothers (Sayain)

I have totally embraced my age of reflective thinking.  I have always been an introvert and have great conversations with Creator and our ancestors for a long time. But I have never really shared such conversations with fear I might be deemed crazy. And when I do share, I am so far out that others really do not  get it.

But now 30 years later, I can share thoughts and prayers and not care if others get it or not. I love the slowness of time and I can go where I find myself to be. I love the laughter and joy sharing time with others. And now maybe I have some wisdom to share with the conversations at hand.

Grandmothers, young and older have spirits of earthen connections to other avenues of supporting each other. I love the ways of spontaneity. These times call for Sayain to be aware of so many aspects of lived narratives in contemporary times.

 

The Abuser was someone I loved

Dedication: I dedicate this writing to all animals, women, children who have been violated, brutalized or murdered by men.

 

The Abuser was someone I loved.

 

I will never forget

the look in her eyes

when he kicked her

the ugly brown shoe

smashing the domed

brown skull –

the daze – vacant

uncomprehending

falling to the floor

her eyes glazed

still find mine

“What did I do?”

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I scoop her in

my arms

and flee

slamming a door

to get away

from him –

my terror – her fright

a matrix of confusion

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I cannot comfort her

or me

shock waves

pass through this animal body

rocking her in my arms

keening,

I beg her for forgiveness.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

I scream into the silence

He will never

touch her again.

My thundering heart

replays the scene in my mind

how could he?

In seconds he shattered

the bond between us.

I believed.

I’ll never trust him again.

 

Is death stalking us both

will she die?

 

I cradle six

pounds of silky fur

and fragile bones

in equally fragile arms,

 

she growls

shaking convulsively

shivering with fear

tears of white anguish

fall on soft skin.

“I’m sorry

I didn’t protect you”

The fault was mine.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

Carved out of stone

raging with fury

I spit out words

a fiery forked tongue

“If you touch her again

I am gone”

Her life is my life…

(And this he doesn’t yet know)

“I would rather

you murder me than harm her

DO you understand?

don’t get near her again”

In a frenzy

Truths tumble incoherently

filling a dead room

(that moments ago seemed to be filled

with peace)

But the promise I make

to us both,

this dog I love

more than my life

is one

that I will not break,

this much I know.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

And meanwhile

concussions take time

To resolve – or not

I can’t wait

I must get her into the

Night, let her walk beside me

feel her body

moving against mine

let the air calm my

racing, rabid heart

let the stars return me

to the woman

I was before

I witnessed this threat

to her life.

 

Is death stalking us both

Will she die?

 

When I look up

at the stars

I see the Great Bear

circumnavigating the sky

feel Nature’s arms

close around me,

the only real comfort

I have ever known.

 

When I return to the house

she jumps up next to him – the man

who could have killed her

with a single blow –

circling back to her abuser.

I know, I once did this too.

 

Is there a concussion still waiting

to strike in the wings?

 

The Sphinx is silent.

 

My god I am sickened by the specter

of bullying, violence, abuse.

 

But I will not live with it.

This I know.

 

 

Working Notes:

 

Veterans Day Weekend 2017 – the weekend we celebrate having “almighty power over” at the cost of human lives.

Lupita

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Lupita,

Your points of light

glow in grave darkness.

 

Hecate’s Moon was red.

The raven sliced the sky into shards.

The river caught shivering stars.

 

We remember our First Mother…a She Bear

Patiently, painfully,

we return broken parts to the Whole.

 

See the Wolf who hides behind the Tree?

Welcome her in.

Only then can we begin…

Again.

 

Working Notes:

Last night I had a conversation with a dear friend of mine that addressed the non- generative aspects of darkness. Just in this last week we have covered the problems of both envy and hatred. Yesterday I spent much of the day struggling with negative feelings, knowing from experience that these would pass. Sometimes, we need permission from others to feel what we feel, and validation that our feelings no matter how fiery are temporary.

When my friend’s partner (who is called Mr. Bear) heard the wolf singing, he came in to get her and she went outdoors with him to listen to the iconic cry of the wilderness. It was All Hallows Eve. Later I learned that when she heard the wolf howl, she howled back, and also howled for me!

Both generative and non generative aspects belong to this dark time of the year which in some traditions begins with the Feast of the Dead, the honoring of the Ancestors, and our own journeying through the dark. Late fall is an uncomfortable time for many.

The above poem was written last year at this time to acknowledge the importance of creating space for the wolf in us and her wild wolf feelings, both positive and negative. Animals incorporate both positive and negative attributes without fear and live out their lives in a state of wholeness that we humans can only imagine.

To think about what it would be like to feel naturally whole I personally am drawn to the ancient image of the Great Bear who circumnavigates the skies, and whose son provides direction helping humans to navigate the dark and the unknown. The celestial bear meets the bears on earth who are preparing for hibernation underground or under the snow. In January, mothers will give birth to cubs, beginning a new life cycle. Together these earth and sky images of the Great Bear offer comfort and remind me that the cycles of living, dying, and birthing are One.

Is this why the Great Bear was worshiped by Neanderthals at the dawn of humankind and later by other humans? These peoples looked to the stars and saw patterns that helped them navigate, and could easily see the shifting seasons on earth mirrored by stars in the sky. More than 50 thousand years ago bear skulls adorned cave walls in Europe and elsewhere. Although we continue to speculate how bear skulls, bones, and later bear effigies were used (in spite of Marija Gimbutas’s scholarly work), attests to our refusal to align ourselves with the Power’s of Nature as wolf, bear, bird or frog. I wonder about this obsessive need to substitute a human image for an animal when it comes to the divine. I think it reveals the terrible split that allows humans to cry out for peace and continue to wage war. We are a broken species that has lost touch with our bodies and that of our mother, the Earth.

 

(Lupita, by the way, translates as Little Wolf in Spanish.)