A Crack Between Worlds?

 

The day after the November election I found parts of a road-killed owl after walking just a short distance beyond a bird that hadn’t been there minutes ago. Oh no, not an owl. Initially, although I was deeply distressed that I had found a dead owl, I was relieved that it wasn’t a great horned owl, my latest familiar.

 

Owls, women, and wisdom have been an aspect of our mythology millennia before the Greeks created Athena, goddess of war, (born from Zeus’s neck). How can any male identified woman become a “goddess of wisdom” when only a male perspective is acknowledged? Leave it to the Greeks I thought in disgust. We are still stuck with Plato and Aristotle…

 

All that was left on the road was one bloody but still perfect wing and one talon; both were still warm. I carefully picked both body parts up and brought them home to clean and dry. The outstretched wing of the Saw Whet owl now occupies a place of honor below the Nicho that contains broken potsherds of the Anasazi and a broken micacious pot I bought for myself on my birth day. The South is the direction that makes sacred the fragments of broken cultures and bodies, past and present through witnessing and feeling what is, both joyful and horrific.

 

For the past year I have been in an intimate relationship with great horned owls that sang to me from the white pines in Maine and followed me here to New Mexico hooting from the Cottonwoods. And during this period because of my relationship with owls I have been able to make a final peace with the woman, my mother, who betrayed her only daughter by being male identified, teaching her how to do the same…

 

As I cleaned the wing I remembered the little dream catcher that I had made for my mother on her birthday long ago… I used the feathers of a dead Saw Whet owl that had been road killed. My mother loved that present… Women and all owls, I reminded myself have been intertwined since the dawn of humankind with one shapeshifting into the other, and owls are women with wings who see through unholy darkness and delusion.  It is these women who are capable of attaining wisdom.

 

The synchronicity associated with finding the dead body of any owl the morning after the election left me uneasy but finding this particular half eaten owl seemed to have a personal aspect to it. Long ago I had learned that I frequently tapped into the collective through personal experiences with Nature. If I had what was the message? Then I remembered a poem I had written about owls coming through the crack between worlds… manifesting in ordinary time. (I hoped that finding the owl didn’t mean that I would lose my new psychic connection to my dead mother- if I did who or what was going to fill that void in space?) The dead owl might indicate that my mother was starting to manifest in some concrete way and also that collectively woman’s power was on the rise. Although finding only one wing and talon indicated that my mother’s influence might only be periodic, and on a cultural level woman’s power was still very damaged with half the female population betraying the other by remaining male identified or indifferent it was still something. Out of death comes life…

 

The election results still lay over me, heavy like a shroud, wrapping me in a sticky white spider’s web of fear. I wanted to pull genuine hope out of what had happened. I hung onto the thread that some women had been elected to the House, that two were Indigenous, some Black, others Latino – Diversity was inherent in these choices but I also knew that women’s solidarity was sorely lacking, and it remained to be seen whether these women would act as woman – centered individuals.

 

The few token women in politics seemed to be male identified, siding with the “good old boys” who held most of the political power. I didn’t know the statistics yet but I guessed that similar to the horrific 2016 Presidential election most white Republican women voted for power over (still true). These women “stood behind their men”, mimicking their positions and excusing egregious actions because they were unable to stand alone. Emotionally bankrupt and dependent, they lived their lives through the men they supported betraying women as a group and as individuals in the most painful of ways even as they betrayed themselves. How many strong, bright, competent, brilliant women did I know that allowed a lesser man lead them around by the nose? Too many.

 

After having been a woman’s advocate for so many years I had just come through a personal crisis thanks to the Kavanaugh travesty that forced me to take a new position towards women who betrayed themselves and other women by taking a neutral position regarding rape, or even worse supporting perpetrators directly or by making excuses for the one male who had endured abuse from an angry abused woman. Rape of any woman was a crime against all women. Rape of any woman was a crime against all humanity. I was finally able to give myself permission to separate from these female impersonators without guilt. What I was also able to do was to forgive them, knowing that but for some grace, intense personal suffering and an enormous amount of work I might still be one of them…

 

Along with the mountains of grief that I had been carrying for so long over betrayal of women by women and the rape of the earth I was also able to feel my rage, and hoped I could use this friendly red dragon wisely.

 

Rage allowed me to tap into my own power, and galvanized me to keep writing on behalf of abused women and the planet. It also helped me with crushing depression. Over the past two years I had fallen deeper and deeper under the spell of a madman and his minions who were running this country, riding the horses of unbridled power, hatred, and misogyny.

 

Thinking about woman – centered women coming into office offered me a flickering light in the growing darkness of humanity. But I also knew the chilling fact that the Senate had gained Republican seats. This suggested the obvious – that power and hatred were still “winning” in spite of the apparent successful takeover of the House. (So many seemed to be inexorably drawn to a power driven demented man that cared nothing for humanity and openly despised women and the earth).

 

As things stand now we are headed towards another holocaust.

 

I had to face it. The future still looked dark but the manifest presence of even one wing and talon of the owl now suggested to me that “the women with wings,” women centered women, might be manifesting in a concrete new way. The flickers of hope fanned more flames…

 

At the time of this writing I am choosing hope as I put my faith in owls and “the women with wings,” the women who, if they can garner more female support, can lead us out of this unholy darkness into the sweet stillness of long winter nights.

 

It is with deep humility that I throw myself on the mercy of Nature asking for her support. I need to hold onto this awareness to keep on advocating for women, for animals, for trees, for the Earth, not with guns, not by murdering innocent people, not by building more walls, not through war but through interconnectedness – and by remembering who I am – a woman who loves women – a woman with wings of her own – a woman who deeply respects the woman she has become. Compassion, forgiveness, and ruthless honesty are the weapons I wield; these are the bones of my authentic woman – power.

 

I make this commitment on one of the two holidays we celebrate for the “heroes of war,” Veteran’s day… one of only two days a year American’s celebrate their dead… Let’s remember that as we celebrate this day we also tacitly support the normality of rape in war.

 

The irony does not escape me.

Women with Wings

 

 

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(magpie visiting at dawn)

 

What does it mean when the Black Birds Come?

 

First it was the magpie

Black and White

shivering iridescent

feathers flashing

in every conceivable hue –

warning about extremes.

 

Next the raven took up

residence in in the upper crown

of the Russian Olive

outside my window

quorking his threat

hoarsely at dawn.

 

But when the red – wings arrived

in outrageous numbers

flocking to the ground

a hundred or so at a time

I imagined I heard a Red Bird’s song

rising from the sea…

 

A river of birds around

and over my head cry out

that Nature is always listening

appearing in times of calamitous need

supporting by Presence

a tangible truth

in the midst of

alcoholic delusion.

 

The Great Goddess

comes to life through

trees and birds –

thriving on the edges

of disaster –

offering Comfort

when there is none.

 

Women with Wings

are ancient female spirits

appearing in the guise

of birds whose Love

intervenes

when Fire threatens

to annihilate

just as Gimbutas intuitively

understood.

 

 

 

Working notes:

 

This morning I read Carol Christ’s most recent article on scholar and archeologist Marija Gimbutas whose work has informed my writing for the last thirty years ( Carol P. Christ feminismandreligion.com).

 

Understanding intuitively that Marija spoke truths no one else had dared to utter, I read, wrote, sculpted and listened to Nature with secret relief having finally found a context in which I could find comfort and a reason to go on…

 

Instead of paraphrasing I will quote Christ’s words directly because this woman is a scholar perhaps equal only to Gimbutas herself.

Responding to the backlash against her theories, Gimbutas is said to have told a female colleague that it might take decades, but eventually the value of her work would be recognized. It is now more than twenty years since Marija Gimbutas died in 1994, and the value of her work is beginning to be recognized by (at least some of) her colleagues—including one of her harshest critics. In a lecture titled “Marija Rediviva: DNA and Indo-European Origins,” renowned archaeologist Lord Colin Renfrew (allied with the British Conservative Party**), who had been one of Gimbutas’s most vociferous antagonists and a powerful gate-keeper, concluded the inaugural Marija Gimbutas Lecture at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago with these words: “Marija [Gimbutas]’s Kurgan hypothesis has been magnificently vindicated.”

In the lecture, Colin* explains Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis about the spread of Indo-European languages from the steppes north of the Black Sea by invaders she called “Kurgans,” from a word of Slavic origin which refers to their characteristic burial mounds. Gimbutas spoke of these as “big man” graves, arguing that they marked the appearance of a new cultural group into Europe—one that was patriarchal, patrilineal, and warlike. Before their arrival, the people Gimbutas called “Old Europeans” buried their dead in communal graves, with grave offerings indicating no great difference in wealth or status and no domination of one sex over the other. Gimbutas argued that the “Kurgan” people introduced Indo-European languages into the lands they conquered, as well as new cultural systems based on domination of warriors and kings over the general populace and the domination of men over women. She stated that the Kurgan invasions of Europe began about 4400 BCE and lasted for several millennia.

Colin* dismissed the Kurgan theory, advancing his alternative hypothesis that Indo-European languages were introduced into Europe through the spread of agriculture from the Middle East after 7000 BCE. While Gimbutas spoke of a “clash of cultures” between the peaceful, sedentary, matrifocal cultures of Old Europe and the new culture of the Kurgan warriors, Colin* preferred the theory that cultures change through processes of internal evolution, rather than by violent overthrow.

In his lecture, Colin* discussed the different theories about the diffusion of the Indo-European languages across most of Europe and large parts of the Middle East and South Asia. He cited new evidence based on analysis of DNA in ancient bones that has been published in the last several years, acknowledging that this evidence definitively proves that a group called the “Yamnaya” people entered Europe in large numbers from their homeland north of the Black Sea. Colin* stated that he believed this evidence to be scientifically valid and thus to have proved Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis. Stating that little work had been done on DNA of ancient bones from the area of modern Turkey he postulated as the Indo-Eurpoean homeland, he said that his hypothesis had not been disproved and held out the hope that it too might be proved to be correct. (Most scholars consider this unlikely.)

It is important to note that when Colin* said that Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis has been proved, he was saying only that there is now convincing DNA evidence to uphold her idea that a new population element most likely speaking an Indo-European language entered into Europe at the times she postulated. He did not evaluate or endorse Gimbutas’s theory of a “clash of cultures” between peaceful, sedentary, matrifocal cultures of Old Europe and invading nomadic, warlike, patriarchal cultures of the Indo-Europeans. Nonetheless, in declaring Marija Gimbutas’s Kurgan hypothesis “magnificently vindicated,” Lord Colin Renfrew, considered by many to be “the grand old man” of his field, opened the floodgates. He implicitly gave permission to other scholars to reconsider all of Gimbutas’s theories and perhaps eventually to restore her to her rightful place as one of the most–if not the most–creative, scientific, ground-breaking archaeologists of the twentieth century, “the grand old lady” of her field.”

 The Women with Wings are hidden

among the boughs of the trees that love them,

biding their time until Her Collective Voice rises out of the ashes of a civilization crumbling in collapse.

The Owl Place

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It was a beautiful black night peppered by only the brightest stars when I went outdoors to take a picture of the mysterious pearl white orb whose mystery still binds me to her and all women with wings – those women I love, the mother I lost, and of course, all birds.

The deep ‘whooing’ of the Great Horned owls began shortly afterwards just as I got into bed and continued for about fifteen minutes while I reflected upon the remarkable day…

“Who whooo who who,” the harmonious conversation between the two owls filled my heart to overflowing.

Nature was offering me yet another gift on this night of December’s cold, frost, snow, or winter full moon according to various Indigenous traditions.

The day before, my kindred spirit, (Iren’s words) had suggested this canyon as a safe place to walk my two little dogs. My trust in this woman runs deep and so we set out yesterday on a mild December afternoon following a sandy arroyo back into the hills. The serpentine rock strewn path eventually led to a roughly textured column of immense curtained sandstone structures, a couple with deep hollows carved and sculptured by the wind.

Climbing inside the one I could reach to investigate, I immediately noticed a couple of crumbling owl pellets realizing that I must have accidentally stumbled on an owl’s roost, and probable nesting place although it was impossible to see where the structure might be located behind the undulating sandstone curtains.

Excitedly I began to examine the pellets. By the size of the skulls, jaw bone, leg bones and other fragments I reached the conclusion that this must be a Great Horned Owl’s place of residence. Delighted by the find, it was a moment before I saw the distinctive horizontal barred feather resting in the rubble.

I was overcome by joy. Discovery is a magical process and this experience occurring on the afternoon of the eve of the Full Moon felt like a precious gift. I carefully picked up the feather, and a few bone fragments to bring home with me giving the place two names “Owl Canyon” and the “Owl’s Place” feeling ever so grateful that I could visit here again and again, should I chose.

As often is the case here in Abiquiu, I felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. Some of this sensing/feeling comes from being able to disappear into wilderness in minutes with deep silence, the footprints of wild cats, coyotes, and the occasional soaring raven my only companions.

Except for the owls who are hidden from sight…Owls who understand that Silence is a Gift.

I am truly only at peace in the wild.

Last night I fell asleep thinking about owls, how some had moved into my woods in Maine just this fall and how it seemed to me that they had followed me here to the high desert…

Just before dawn this morning when I walked my dogs I was startled to hear an ongoing call made by a solitary Great Horned owl, surely the most ancient image (and almost always maligned) of a “woman with wings.” I looked over the stark ridges of the reptilian mountains to the Owl’s Place and silently wished the owl good morning as my body was flooded by the comfort that only deep communion can bring.

Because we are all interconnected I am positive that an ancient multitude of women with wings from every continent keeps watch over us all.

River Muses

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As the river rises with spring melt from the mountains, Abiquiu dam opens flooding the river to overflowing. The men come to clean the acequias or ditches that will bring life bringing water into the fields to irrigate the crops. All the farmers share this precious water, and having “water rights” determines whether crops will thrive or perish…

Every morning a shimmering golden orb mirrors the river whose serpentine shape and echoing voice welcomes me as I walk out to feed the birds and walk my dogs. I respond to her rumbling roar of water on stone with a prayer of thanksgiving for the gift of water, the rising sun, and a new day spent in this place of unimaginable beauty.

I have fallen in love with a river.

What Spirits decreed that I might live here for a time?

For months I climbed to the ruin of Poshuouinge to glimpse the serpentine path of water meandering below wondering what stories the river held close to her heart. Generations of Tewa speaking Pueblo peoples lived here along the river’s banks, women digging mud, shaping pots out of wet clay, creating art with agave brushes, men carving swiftly flying arrows, clearing the acequias, planting, harvesting, hunting giving thanks for the river’s generosity…people struggling to live in harmony with the land they called “Mother.”

Yet there was much suffering too. Too much blood was shed. Children and women were stolen by those who believed they had more “rights” than others, people who used other people and earthscapes for personal gain. Yet the People endured and some live on today in Pueblos scattered along the river.

Is this why the river tells me that I too must be steadfast, make peace with a troubled past, leave land that I love deeply, come to live here as a child would, trusting the river’s ebb and flow?

Is this why I have met such generous hearted people, people I could come to love?

Did the river draw them to her just as she calls to me now?

These questions haunt me because Place has a kind of Power that works invisibly through Fate and body/mind pulling a person into relationship with a particular element – like the water of this river – but this power never uses words to communicate. Instead, Nature calls her red winged blackbirds to sing their hearts out as I listen fervently for confirmation.

These black robed muses are answering my call.

It is up to me to make the choice to believe these birds whose Presence I see and hear, but whose message I cannot as yet feel.