Thursday, February 2, 2017

Thousand year forest

In the thousand year forest, Brigid's serpent ripples forth from earth's womb, and tastes the wild air with her tongue.

This wind, it tastes of mid-winter: the matings of eagles and owls, frost flowers blossoming over iced river edges.

Goddess of Fire and Creation, let me say that somewhere not here, yet living deep inside me, is a sacred grove; a wild and holy presence.

Somewhere inside that grove lives a wild woman, in wordless conversation with the eternal forest.

Her mystery is mine, have I forgotten?

The forest is inside always; its ways strange, though we think we know them. We think we know ourselves also, and that is the quickest way to lose the deepest mystery of our beings, which is unknowable.


Are we not, somewhere, carrying inside still the mystery of the humans we once were—the mystery shared by every wild creature, embodied fully through fur, scales, feathers and skin?

Wordless; but speaking through the magic of grace, power, movement and gesture.

Eternal; yet beautiful in our earthiness and mortality.

Nationless; belonging only to the earth.

Entranced by and afraid of the flame.

Called by dreams, moved by unfathomable intuitions.

Conversing with creation through hand, eye, nose, ear and feet that caress the ground as we dance.

Sea changing, blood coursing to tides of joy, sadness and desire, and to the moon in the wide sky.


At times when I must hold in my thoughts, my objections, my anger, my grief and even my truth, even then I am still a wild dancer through this life.


How this dance embodies that eternal mystery...which is what art is for.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Letter from America

One of the places I've been finding hope for humanity is in women. Most of all in the Women's Marches on Washington around the globe that took place yesterday.

As a solitary person, with few family ties—one who usually avoids groups altogether—feeling a sense of community is not built in to my life.

I usually feel on the edges, looking in (or looking somewhere else altogether).

In spite of my skittishness around groups, I showed up to march with 100,000 women and allies yesterday. ("So bad, even introverts are here" read one rally sign, which captures my views exactly.)

Many women I know were there, among tens of thousands I did not know, with their signs, their pink hats, their energy and their voices.

Today, I feel heartened about humanity as a whole. That so many of us hold the vision of a kinder, more just world for all, and are committed to take action for change.

As I scroll through photo after photo of diverse, brave, creative women and their allies around the world, on the march, I feel an upwelling of pride and love. I feel humbled by their generous outpouring of love and solidarity that crosses geopolitical boundaries, this vitality and positive intention released into the air, the ground, the energy field that connects us all, as a spell of great power.

Whether or not you were bodily present at the women's march, perhaps you are feeling encouraged, too.

Because we were there for ourselves; but also for you. All of us, rising up. A chorus of voices.

"As each of us falls into bed at night, exhausted and despondent because we have not yet saved the world, the sun is rising on the other side of the planet, and other people are rising to the challenge of protecting what is flourishing and just and beautiful.

"On the rotating planet, there’s a great dawn chorus of committed people, millions and millions of them, who rise from their beds or mats or blankets, rustle up coffee or atole or tea, and set off to do the good work of defending the world’s thriving. 

"We can hear the chorus if we listen — the rustle, the creak of doors tin or wood or grass, voices calling out to each other in a thousand languages, the roar of action advancing around the world, awakened like birds by the rising sun."

Excerpt from Letter to America: We Will Emerge Full-Throated from the Dark Shelter of Our Despair by Kathleen Dean Moore.

Monday, January 16, 2017

The land of the ice, snow & stars

I do not know what words to speak, even silently, on a still day like this. 

White sky, white roofs, like a held breath, a waiting, a sleeping. 

The snow is soft and silent over the earth. If only it were a healing blanket on the planet. What if, beneath it, the earth's bones, flesh and blood reknit every winter, mending what we have harmed? 

How peacefully we could then rest in winter, imagining the lands and waters being slowly restored to health. 

Until learning about global warming, I had no thought at all that the glaciers at the poles were necessary for life on earth, that they hold within the depths of their ice-blue hearts the great powers of winter to cool the temperature of our entire planet. 

We often see snow and cold as harmful, even deadly—antithetical to life. Not as a life-giving shield of protection to our planet and all living things. But now we see how lacking in understanding we have been, and that it is at least as much Protector as Destroyer.   

If only the realm of the Snow Queen could be revived in the far north and the far south once again, and the healing could begin.  

If only healing could ever happen as quickly and easily as harming. 

Once, a lovely person confided to me a one-line poem she had made: "I'm lonely for when the earth was okay." 

I am lonely for that time, too. Even while realizing that I may have never even lived in such a time. 

The stars, if my eyes could see them, might ease this loneliness, for a little while. They, thankfully, are too far away for us to have harmed, at least thus far.

The Nature 365 video journal above was filmed in far northern Minnesota by wildlife photographer and filmmaker Jim Brandenburg, and directed by Laurent Joffrion. Subscribe to view these glorious short earth films every day of 2017.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The wishes of birds

I follow the wishes of birds.

I hear them calling to me in the morning, to bring out seeds, cracked corn, suet, when the low sun spills its amber across the blue-shadowed snow.

Giving to them is a gift to me. Always, they touch my heart with their joyful presence. I watch their thrilling flights from branch to feeder. Recognize the life in them—their bright eyes, quick flutters, down fluffed against the cold, foraging to survive as does every living thing on this earth.

When you look at any being with eyes of love, you witness its divinity, its personhood.

You recognize the animating sacred spark of life you share. You feel akin. Then you want to help.

So you bring seeds.

It helps each of us to survive winter.

Before dawn, in spring, the lone voice of the cardinal singing out in darkness means everything to me.

How can this one song pierce my heart so with joy and sorrow? I lie awake and listen.

While he sings, the whole of my life feels held within that song, beginning with the most precious gift we are given: the sweetness of being, of life throbbing through us, in oneness with the cardinal and every other being. Because this loneliness, this sense of separation is an illusion, say spiritual masters, philosophers, quantum physicists.

Coming out of my dreams, wakened by by this heartbreaking beauty, every sadness floods through me, every happiness, what feels like the deepest measure of my existence as a living being in this world.

My heart then whispers its own kind of song in return, reminding me how brief is the life of a songbird and a woman, but how beauty remains despite grief and death. The feeling of the beauty and the grief together, its poignance, the sense of timelessness and eternity and oneness: I cannot put that into words at all, only tears.

Sorrow sweeps out your house so that new joy can find space to enter, said Rumi. As they beguile open our sleeping hearts and call forth joy and sorrow, singing to us of how ephemeral yet eternal life is, the birds bring us even more gifts: To weep is a gift. To love, a gift. To sorrow, a gift.

Seeds. Also a gift. But perhaps a small one, considering what wonder has been received.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The lines written inside us

No one but me by the fire,
my hands burning
red in the palms while
the night wind carries
everything away outside.

All this petty worry
while the great cloak
of the sky grows dark
and intense
round every living thing.

All this trying 
to know
who we are
and all this
wanting to know
what we must do.

What is precious
inside us does not
care to be known
by the mind
in ways that diminish
its presence.

What we strive for
in perfection
is not what turns us
into the lit angel
we desire.

What disturbs
and then nourishes
has everything
we need.

What we hate
in ourselves
is what we cannot know
in ourselves but
what is true to the pattern
does not need
to be explained.

Inside everyone
is a great shout of joy
waiting to be born.

Excerpt from The Winter of Listening from River Flow: New and Selected Poems © David Whyte

"We live in a time where each of us will be asked to reach deeper, speak more bravely, live more from the fierce perspectives of the poetic imagination; find the lines already written inside us: poetry does not take surface political sides, it is always the conversation neither side is having...."

Friday, December 30, 2016

Messengers of the moon

Tiny flecks of opalescent green glitter persisting at the edges of my writing desk, shyly twinkling at me, were the first messenger from memory.

A glow-in-the-dark star that fell from the heavens of my writing room to floor, with none to witness its imagined fiery glory, was the second messenger.

I glance at the ceiling with its slowly eroding constellations, carefully placed by me years ago (Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Scorpius, Orion, Cassiopeia), and I wonder.

Regard the star-like blue of the twinkle lights around the windows. Magical periwinkle walls that enfold me in a dreaming blue bower. Dried oak leaves everywhere. Braids of sweetgrass, images of birds, autumn forests, spirals, stars and more stars...

I remember: The great-great grandmother in the tale read long ago, when I was small.

The grandmother was an enchantress, it seemed to me; a being of great feminine power, a healing power, gentle yet terrible. She was tall, with long white hair, like moonlight. (That's how I remember her.)

I remembered most of all her magical light, like the moon. It dwelled in her tower room and shone silverbright or soft-as-snow, following upon her merest thought.

It was a companion to her, in her solitary tower, I thought. A friend.

How did the idea of that light entrance me so, that I still recall the power of that image painted in words?

That it spoke to my child's mind as powerfully and strangely as a rare dream tells me it filtered deeply into my unconscious, as a mythic symbol. The grandmother. The moon. The enchantress. The tower. The child. The night.

I have not read this story for many decades. (Far too long.)

But how all suddenly makes sense, when we recognize our path, as we trace silver threads of memory and arrive somewhere...we may discover how we treasure and hold wonder close and deep for a lifetime, even when we didn't remember that we were doing so.

How the thought, the language, the imagery, the power of this tale was one of a thousand-million powers that shaped a girl who fell in love with the moon and the stars and tales of that many years later she writes her own sorts of tales in an upstairs room cascading with echoes of stars, windows wide to the light of the moon she cannot lure inside.

The beautiful illustrations above are by Madalina Andronic, created for The Folio Society 2013 edition of The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald, a book first published in 1872.

An edition with the original pen-and-ink illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith.

A free audiobook download from LibriVox, as this book is in the public domain in the U.S. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Walking through the longest night

One of my wishes for our new home is that I will be able to see much more of the sky than just a meager patch of it through houses, tree branches and electrical lines.

I wish I could see what the moon, stars and the sun are doing, every day. How sad I feel, thinking of how many years of sunsets and moonrises have come and gone with nary a Me to admire them and praise them for their splendor.

I bought a lunar calendar for the new year. To remind me which phase happens when, to help focus my attention, I thought.

But now I recognize this is very sad; because if I could just look at the moon, like humans have looked at it for millions of years, I wouldn't need a calendar to tell me what phase it is in.

I could look up and see for myself.

Such a simple gift it seems, to be able to see the moon and stars in the sky! How could something once so ordinary have become rare and precious? It seems yet another loss in a time of losses.

If by walking the earth we can bless it with our feet, then by watching the sky we can bless it with our sustained gaze.

Is that how you watch the moon? Quietly but rapt, with eyes wide open, as if you gaze upon the beauty of your beloved?

Now I think that what I must have been seeking by purchasing that moon phase calendar was really a heart connection to the moon, a silver line of light between she and I, along which dreams and wordless mysteries would ebb and flow like tides.

What I was wanting most of all was the reassuring presence of the earth's beauty every day. I wanted the moon to be a companion to my nights, not shut away outside away from me but in my eyes and heart, like a prayer.

On this, the longest night of the year, may the moon creep into my dreams, may the low sun cast his birch-pale light over the wildwoods in my heart.

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