There is One Human Race: Only One

WE ARE CREATING WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN

Roughly forty-five years ago science confronted itself with the fact that there is one human race—not a group of separate human races. In mainstream society this conclusion seems never to have been widely known, or was simply ignored. In the last twenty years or more there has developed a haggle of confusion, as the term “race” has been used to refer to differences in ethnicity, religion, nationality, and customs, as well as mistakenly to divide humans on the basis of physical appearance. In 1972 Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin showed that the greatest genetic variations were within so-called “racial” groups, not between them. He asserted there is no genetic evidence to classify humans into “racial” categories (PBS Interview). In discussing Lewontin, Dorothy Roberts, in her book Fatal Invention, states that there is no such thing as a set of genes that “…belongs exclusively to one group and not another.” The notion of different “races” is a social construct—one that appears to have helped lead us into a societal quagmire. Alan Templeton, Ph.D. did DNA research and came up with the same conclusion. Robert W. Sussman Ph.D. Anthropology, stated that the “folk concept” of race in America “…is so strong it is difficult to make people see otherwise.” (EurekAlert: Global Source for Science News, Oct. 7, 1998.)


Back in the 1960’s when I studied anthropology, humans were classified as Mongoliod, Caucasoid, and Negroid. In more recent decades I have been amazed at the added categories of various skin tones and ethnicities—the expelling of peoples formerly under a given group (or mixed) and into groups such as Hispanic, East Indian, Semitic, Arabian. It must have been about eight years ago now that CBC Radio announced that there are no separate “races” of human beings. We all are part of one human race/species. And yet on both CBC Radio and TV ever since then, and media in general, we hear the terms “race, racism, racial.” This seems to be a social denial of genetic reality, of the fact that we all belong to one genetic family. Habit can be hard to break, but in many instances it has been broken: the planets orbit our sun, the father’s sperm determines the sex of the child, not the mother’s egg. Women are humans equal to men; and gender is flexible. It has been shown that all human females came from the same original mother, all men from the same first father. Of course most of us do not want to ignore or be disrespectful of a people’s sociocultural identity, yet we can do this without the notion of “racial” differences.

The danger of maintaining the false idea that genetically there are different groups, is of course that in some people this can lead to a basis of fear, misunderstanding and/or hatred. The idea of “the other” can have a harsh hold in some situations. If we look at resentment, fear and hatred shown by some people today in some countries, there are economic, territorial, and cultural differences that lie behind the fear and hatred. There are Earth changes underneath some of the huge migrations, as well as political strife, economic inequality, war, and rape an murder. These things have nothing to do with genetic variations among humans.

Slavery is another reality which has nothing to do with genetic variations, but with the ability of one group to exploit another group. Historically slavery came out of conquest and had nothing to do with perceived differences. It is a human “owning” another human. In the slave trade of Blacks from Africa the color of the Africans’ skin was used to propagate the myth that somehow these people were less than human, so it was all right to treat them inhumanely and to “own” them. The slave traders made a profit by labeling a group of people in a way that stuck, among some, up to this day. Many people have been killed, buildings burned, people treated like so much dirt, in the aftermath of the slave traders’ myths. Today we have human slavery, human trafficking, child slavery, child and adult sex slavery. The word “slave” comes from the Slavic tribal people captured by Germans and sold to Arabs in the Middle Ages. “Race” seems to have come into prominence with the founding of the United States of America. The privileged males of European ancestry doing this work needed to promote their value of equality, but not have it impinge on the economic system which was dependent upon slavery. To justify slavery they labeled the Black slaves as inferior; women of course were also considered inferior, yet in a different category.

Another instance of the false concept of “race” being used to harm people is that of the US government’s theft of land from indigenous populations. Also the same applies to the acquisition of Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. The idea of “race” was attached to the superiority and even responsibility for actions of the dominant group. Mexicans were classified as “white” (Caucasian?) until in 1930 lobbyists were able to have them classified separately so as to justify discrimination against them.

Our bodies are the same colors, except for the less than 1.6 percent which makes up the epidermis, where skin-color develops. When we look at discrimination, violence against a group of people, distribution of wealth and social services–if we leave the idea of separate “races” out of the matter, society may more quickly get to the enormous challenges of creating equality. We live in societies rife with discrimination, oppression, hatred, fear, violence, and unrepentant wrongdoing. All people in a democracy must have equal opportunity—for education, housing, healthcare, a safe home in which to grow up, clean water, safety, and the right to justice, and to protest unjust actions against them. So long as ideas of inherent differences among groups persist it will be very hard to attain such equality.

What would be a viable pathway to making constructive change here? It would seem that before society tackles the injustices, inequality, the fear and hatred, it could try eliminating the words denoting different “races.” This might over time change consciousness around this misconception. Some years ago I eliminated the “race” words from my vocabulary except when talking about the use of such words. I instead use terms such as “xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, intolerance,” or “hatred.” If the proper terminology were to be emphasized, e.g. terms of ethnicity, nationality, faith, culture, religion, etc. then these attitudes can be examined at a level conducive to more profound results. If humanity is to move toward a sense of our common human-ness, we need to stop using the “race” nomenclature. There could be a shift in the perception and understanding of those once identified as biologically different. Is that not the crux of the matter? If we view people with certain differences, or perceived differences, as the other, that can set up a possibility for envy, threat, fear, dislike, disrespect, even conflict that leads to war. We live in a time when viewing our human group as a unity–a great family that must unite to face global challenges–is of utmost importance.

If they are not directly taught, hatred and fear are indirectly taught by the behaviors of those who are role models. If we do not have hatred and fear of other people, then we tend to focus on the commonalities of us all as human, with many more things shared than not. When our hearts open to another’s reality, then what can result is compassion. Even studies of human behavior (and what does that tell us, that it needs to be proven?!) show that really what brings happiness to us humans is to give to others. We are now challenged to define, in this moment, what it is to be human; let us not ignore this great opportunity.

What is it to be human? We are one species, one family faced with the challenge and opportunity to do the best we can for the present and future of this living planet Gaia and all that makes up Her realm. It is up to us to create a living, changing consciousness of what is human-ness, and how that will set our path as a species. We can define being human as realizing the interbeing of all; in this we cherish and marvel at ALL and keep our hearts in line with what it means to be part of such a miracle, for the brief moment that we share here, interwoven.

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Hymns to the Earth Spirits

I sing to you bubbling eternal sweet ones

Who never abandon this human heart

Who ask nothing yet give the glue of Life itself

Who dance in the wind, bounce from the soil,

Sing in the rivers and give comfort of fire

May my life be worthy of your guidance.

Earth Spirits are not necessarily limited to the literal Earth; they can be of the atmosphere, solar system, universe, or ethereal realms. They can be our ancestors, or ancestors of others. The spirits are accessible to beings on this planet. The communication can flow both ways, as can the influences. They are the source of the music which the musician-messenger brings into the world, the source of the great poem, and part of the great spiritual teachings. They can inform our dreams as we sleep, and bring us sudden insight. We can ignore them or allow our lives to be greatly beautified and enriched by them. Wherever there is connection they are there. If Gaia Herself were not a living being, there would be no life here. Because She lives, it is within Her power to impart wisdom, inspiration communion, and creative energies.

In Mexican and Guatemalan traditions some of these spirits were seen as tiny little people. The Aztecs called them Tlaloques, and those in the woods were called Pockwatchies. In Buddhism there is a similar tradition of Dralas, the spirits in everything. The Europeans know elves and fairies and other beings who protected the forests and animals, even take care of wounded animals. The Maori of New Zealand call fairies Patupaiarehe.

Where human activity has destroyed habitat, marred the air, the earth, the waters, where then do Earth Spirits go? What happens to life forms when we lose the spirits from our places? We have been finding the disturbing answers to these questions in recent times. Now we face the challenges thrown up at us as a result.

In The Mysticism of Sound and Music Hazrat Inayat Khan wrote of the knowledge of the visible and invisible:

“The material sound of instruments, or of the voice produced by the human organs of sound, is really the outcome of the universal sound of the spheres which can only be heard by those in tune with it. This state is called anahad nada by Yogis, and sawt-e-sarmad by Sufis.

The musician and the music lover become refined and are led on to the higher world of sound. Sufis lose themselves in sound and call it ecstasy, or masti. Psychic and occult powers come after experiencing this condition of ecstasy, and knowledge of the visible and invisible existence is disclosed.”

He says this brings a bliss of happiness and peace.

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I am four years old in the wide desert valley irrigated from the river. With bare feet somehow I enjoy walking on the scorched summer dust. In the hot air I feel at home—Earth, sky, sun, bare hills with their shadows, wispy clouds, hold me in their soothing hands. I am alive.

My family and some relatives are at the ocean. I like to walk barefoot in the squishy sand; my feet leave an impression on the wet beach. I walk out into the water and watch the foam make moving designs in the tide, feeling the push and pull on my ankles. My hair is matted by the salt wind. I smell the salt and kelp, and notice all the little holes above the buried clams. I am tuned by the rhythmic beating of the surf. I lie on the beach and the sand is sculpted by my small body. The sea makes a constant roar which puts us to sleep at night. I listen to the sound of the sea and it tells me things of greatness, of power, of long distances.

At six we move to a new house with a big yard and shade trees. No one knows yet how near-sighted I am and that my world always looks like a Renoir painting. I am sitting on the ground and get my face right down so I can see the many black ants all crawling in one main direction and many of them are carrying larvae on their backs. The larvae look so big I am in wonder that they can carry them. They look like eggs but I do not know what they are. I am fascinated that these tiny creatures can work so diligently and with such motivation and all working together.

Sometimes at night Dad takes me and my younger sister out to get night crawlers for his fishing outings. Now he and I go up the Naches and we get crayfish for bait. To me they seem huge; I intently gaze at their arms and pincers and dark hard exoskeletons. I watch them move about slowly in a jar of water.

(I remember the basalt cliffs by the river and there are pictographs on the cliffs at Naches Gap. Maybe Dad said something about them, or we even saw them…. The Native tradition is that the pictures were painted after the great flood, by very small people called Wahteetas. It is told that in the old times at night people would sometimes send their children out to the cliffs where the paintings were, to attract the Wahteeta spirits to them. It was considered very auspicious for a child to acquire such a guardian spirit.)

It is winter and dark when my sister and I go upstairs to bed. We ask Mom to play a special song on the piano when we are falling asleep. The song speaks to me of some deep realm that fills my heart with something big and magical…night after night.

It is evening; I am seven, standing on the cherry stump at the back of the yard. A soft spring breeze brings me the scent of the willow, the apple blossoms, grass. The hills surrounding the valley are in purple shadows. I hear the Earth Spirits singing, and imagine them in the clouds. Their song has no words—it is a chorus in harmonies of vowel sounds. The music penetrates my being, I feel it as part of me. It does not occur to me to mention this to anyone; it is just how it is. (I do not know that later I shall call this “Earth Spirits,” as I do not need to name this aspect of what I am.)

We go to an island and camp in the forest by a lake. I am eight. The water is green, and minnows swim around our legs. We search out beaches at the salt water and see killer whales swimming. There are no other people around. I feel something special when I walk around back at camp in the early morning and smell the food cooking. It feels like home. The tall trees bring a sense of protection, of communion in a circle with the people; the smell of the woods sinks deep into my being. I climb up the fat limb of a huge tree and the view is larger, the tree holding me.

We drive to the lower valley where the Native Tribe lives. The tipis are white against the earth. I imagine what it must be like to be with the people, and I sense they are touching the Earth Spirits and that is what makes me long to live as they live.

We are at the evening church program for Christmas. The lighting is low and our  family is up in the choir loft. Below me Gary Puckett (later of Union Gap fame, and whose brother is my age) plays a clarinet solo of “Star of the East.” The sound and the song take me somewhere faraway and mystical. I always remember this scene and how the song sounded and how I felt. I play the song around the winter solstice every year while I have my french horn.

I am nine and a half; we have to move from this valley. I am very sad to leave my friends, our house, the desert hills, the hot summers, the blue blue skies, the snow in winter. This place is all I know; I am comfortable here with these smells, colors, the cottonwood trees, the river, the big shade trees in people’s yards. My father cries, and this is something new—he grew up here. It changes something in me to know his sadness. “The hills of home,” he says. We are leaving the Spirits which have been close to us here, and that is very hard.

At ten I am at a camp on Orcas. We spend a night outside sleeping on the beach. I get up in the morning and breathe in the salt air, and scents of living things, gaze at the silver clouds, notice the smoothness of rocks on the beach. I am alive and aware of myself being so and everything else is alive. The spirits of the water, the rocks, the gulls, the sky fill me and it is so natural to be in that moment, breathing, being.

I am thirteen and my mother takes me into town to hear the great Marian Anderson give a concert. Her powerful contralto voice and the heart she puts into the songs impart to me a deep experience of the music. But more than that she is the most dignified person in whose presence I have ever been. That dignity pierces me and I understand something new about being human and something to which to aspire.

In the summer Dad and I go camping near Vantage before the dam to the south is put in. We stay by the Columbia River in a gorge cut through big basalt cliffs. It is hot, and the land is barren except for sage and sparse juniper. We go digging for arrowheads and find a few broken ones and some small beads. We hike on the other side along the top of the cliff and down to see rock pictographs made by the ancient ones. The spirits of the ancestors are here, speaking to us in the pictures. In the morning the cliff across the river is struck by the desert sun as it replaces the shadow on the rust-colored rock. At sunset the shadow slowly creeps up the cliff on our side. (Some of the pictographs were brought up from the canyon before the dam was built. Some stayed and were flooded over. Now no one can walk to where we walked on that cliff.)

vantage-petroglyph

I am studying, sitting beside the radio. I listen to a movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony which overwhelms me and takes me to places of vastness and unimagined beauty—as if the answer to some deep longing. I know from this that Beethoven lived as I live, in his heart, as all humans live; that he gave this sacred beauty to us all makes me very grateful.

I have just turned 15, and we travel to my relatives because my favorite uncle (my aunt;s husband) is dying. I saw him four years ago when the Hodgkin’s was beginning, then again two years ago. He is bed-ridden and we are taking two of his sons with us up north. Each of us gets a chance to be alone with him to say “goodbye.” This is my first real experience of the death of someone I love. I look at his gaunt face, his skeletal neck, shoulders and upper arms. I cry inside and look into his deep dark eyes—he takes my hand. I can hardly believe this is the last time I am seeing him. On our journey back we learn of his dying…I hold my cousin who is eleven, for hours. We stay one night at a motel and what strikes me are the stately pine trees outside against the dark blue sky. I gaze at them as I try to grapple with the terrible loss I feel and deep empathy for my aunt and cousins. I gain a bit of solace from those pines. Actually the scent glands of the pines emit a medicinal odor of esters of pinosylvin. The pinosylvin is a natural antibiotic and when emitted as an ester it produces a stimulating effect on breathing, and functions as a mild narcotic, bringing on relaxation (from The Global Forest, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger).

I am eighteen and have just started college in Portland. On a part of the lawn our brainy team has just won a football game over a Bible college—a very unusual thing. The wind rushes up, leaves fly everywhere (is this god’s revenge that we won?) and this begins the Columbus Day Storm of October 12, 1962. After eating in the cafeteria I try to walk to my dorm and have the fight to keep my feet on the ground and be upright. A bit later our dorm is evacuated because of the big trees near it. I stay with a couple friends in another dorm. We hear the wind all night and the crashes of trees. In the morning we look out to see huge fallen trees and debris. Part of the classroom building roof was damaged. It takes a lot of cleaning up.

(This storm was classified as an “extra tropical cyclone” and spread damage from northern California up through Oregon, Washington and British Columbia. On that morning barometers began to show sudden variations. Turkey farmers noticed their flocks were huddling together in an unusual way. By 11:00am winds of 63 to 83mph were reported off Oregon; later that rose to 145mph. The winds increased as the storm pushed up western Oregon. Cattle were killed by falling hay bales. At one farm 5000 chickens were blown through the air when a poultry house overturned. Just before the storm hit Portland there was an eerie glow in the eastern sky. I did not see this as we were on the western lower slope of a hill. Huge trees fell everywhere, smashing cars, felling power poles. Ships broke mooring, a gas station blew away, church steeples toppled, people were killed and injured. Houses and other buildings ripped apart. Many farms lost most buildings, and many animals and fruit and nut trees. Winds in Portland were recorded at 116mph. There were 145 people killed and 317 injured. There were over 11 billion board feet of lumber lost in the forests, and tremendous efforts had to be made to clear out fallen trees to mitigate bark beetle infestation and the fire hazard. We were lucky at the college, as the damage was relatively minor. What happened for us was a realization of the enormity of the powers of Nature and how suddenly and unexpectedly they can unleash themselves. Information is from The Big Blow: The Story of the Pacific Northwest’s Columbus Day Storm. Ellis Lucia. 1963.)

At nineteen I am with my first great love, in college. We sit in early evening on a bank above the wild ocean below. The hills behind us are tan and fairly bare and the beach runs to the north and south. A wind brings the ocean mist to us as we look out on the vastness of the sea. We listen to the pounding of the waves against the shore, the rock formations. We share our first kiss. Gaia, is part of this kiss, this sharing, this heart opening. Swirls of cloud and mist, calls of gull, the wetness on our hair and faces, the slightly darkening sky, the pounding of the surf are throbbing through us in these moments.

Ravi Shankar and two accompanying musicians play at the college. The room is not too large and we are in dim lighting. The musicians sit on carpets on a raised area. I have heard Shankar’s music but only recorded. The tablas, the sitar, the music take the listener gently where she has to go—this is a splendid journey, a soul journey, a blessing of an evening.

That same college boyfriend has a brother and sister-in-law who co-founded the Seattle Folklore Society. They are in an old timey band and play at the college. These old tunes dig deeply into my heart; they rhyme for me with reality. The brother plays mandolin and looks as contented as an angel when he plays. This is one reason I take up mandolin later and love playing it. The old timey music brings me home. I play it in bands for years.

There are many trees on the campus. When things are hard I intuitively go to a willow tree and hug her, feeling the great comfort she imparts. It is nice to be able to have my arms part way around a solid, sturdy living tree. Later do I learn of the significance of the willow in pagan/wise woman moon traditions, and others. In ancient Greece willow was sacred to the death aspects of the Triple-Moon goddess. Helice in greek and Latin, the willow gave its name to Helicon, the abode of the Nine Muses, orgiastic priestesses of the Moon-goddess. The willow was sacred to poets and was the tree of enchantment. There is a tradition that Orpheus received the gift of mystic eloquence through touching the willow in a grove of Persephone (Robert Graves, The White Goddess).

It is sophomore year before (US) Thanksgiving; I head from the library over the campus to get lunch at the cafeteria. I pass by that same willow tree. Then suddenly I hear a young man shouting that John F. Kennedy was shot just awhile ago…not only shot, but killed, assassinated. I am stunned. I continue on to get lunch where many others are congregating, also in shock. I take my tray of food to a table with some room. James Dickey is at that table and is my poetry teacher. He makes a comment about ignorant southern something-or-other. In this hour, this day, millions of people in this nation are crying to the spirits of this land, are asking how things came to this. There is a huge cloud of mourning over everything. Images that will stay with us forever come on TV during the holiday—the casket being taken down the wide avenue, Jackie with children John Jr. and Carolyn. A nation’s identity is suddenly changed; a nation’s sense of innocence broken apart.

At 22, I hitchhike with a friend in Andalusia in the spring. East of Seville we wait for a ride in the countryside. The orange blossoms are out and their scent pervades everywhere. There are orchards of olive trees. Only the bells of goats nearby break the silence. The warm sun shines on all this, with greening fields spreading out in this spacious paradise.

Back in Paris, where I am living, I am friends with three men from the Congo, all students. They were introduced to me by an African American woman, also a student, whom I met on the plane to Europe. She and I often get together with the Africans. We get invited to go to the yearly Pan African Ball in Paris with them. There must be over 150 Africans, and I am the only non-black person at this dance with live African music. The women all dress in traditional dress and headscarves, the men in European dress. To be here vibrating with their music, dancing their dances, seeing their dignity and beauty, I feel very privileged. The Congolese are special friends of mine, and they add to the spirit of Paris, for me. They cook African dishes and have us over, play African music, and sometimes we dance. My heart goes out to them, as they left the Congo partly because of the US-backed murder of Patrice Lumumba. This is very sad for me, and I know they might not ever go back to their country. (I write a song some years later for one of them, and sing it often.)

I’m turning 23, and working at an International Voluntary Service Camp in the Bernese Alps; I am the only one from the Western Hemisphere in our group which includes young people from Switzerland, Italy, Wales, England, Sweden, Pakistan, India. We eat together and before each meal we sing a song from different cultures around the world. One evening we hike up higher from our chalets and it gets dark. A couple local people help us and we build a fire and cut pieces of dark Swiss rye bread and hold part of a round of cheese over the fire and let it melt onto the bread. This is called Raclette (the cheese). The stars come out over the mountains all around us. To me the mountain Spirits are always very strong, and the spirits of my friends from the camp and everyone there seem to be dancing together beneath the stars. I am living, laughing and breathing this.

My husband Fred, and I are way up in the interior of BC with our old Chevy pick-up as our camper. I am 26. We drive on an old logging road and have some engine trouble so decide to spend the night. We build a little shelter out of downed tree limbs, as it looks like rain. We start to take a walk to see if there is a creek nearby, and out of the bush comes a growl; we do not see the animal and suppose it is a cougar. So we turn around and go back. Later we start a fire to keep bears away. Out there in the middle of the forests and hills, with the animals, the clouds, the smells of trees, smoke, earth…such peace, such sustenance. And I began to receive the messages, the communion of the Spirits, so close, so close. I am held sweetly in that embrace.

We stay in the truck one night in a narrow river valley with farms. In the morning we go out to be greeted with the sight and sounds of probably more than a thousand Canada geese, all honking, moving, and then taking to the air. It is breath-taking. The valley is throbbing with the presence and sounds of the geese.

Near a small town at night we decide to camp in the fairgrounds. But the truck becomes stuck in mud. It is dark and we walk up the road; I am gazing at the stars and mesmerized by them. I focus on Corona Borealis, seeing it as the castle of Arianrhod (silver Wheel), an aspect of Caridwen (Cerridwen). To be in the castle is to be in a “royal purgatory awaiting ressurection” according to Robert Graves. Corona Borealis was called the Crown of the North Wind. The brightest star of the corona is Alpheta, which is the same as the Greek goddess Ariadne—most holy. Arianrhod was the great matriarchal Triple Goddess. And so with my thoughts in the ancient times I stare up while walking, so my neck gets sore, reading the stories of the stars. I marvel at how the stars spoke so powerfully to our ancestors and feel close to those ancient ones.

At twenty-four an acquaintance suggests I might be interested in the work of Immanuel Velikovsky. I read through Worlds in Collision and suddenly everything about the world, about Nature, the solar system, our history, war and violence, our brains, is turned topsy-turvy for me. For the rest of my life this stays and it is a bit hard, as some of the ways I see and interpret things are quite different from those of most people in “developed” societies.

I am in my late 20’s and a neighbor introduces me to morel picking. I venture out often picking these mushrooms and bring back many, to eat and to dry. There is a communication between me and the spirits of the morels; they often guide me to them. The trillium are out when the morels are there, and the wild strawberries are blooming. All the scents of the forest together meld into one unique blend in this late spring; it is my mushroom time and very sacred. Bears are out foraging, but do not bother me. I have a dream about a huge giant morel, over three feet in diameter. I am thankful to the spirits for this dream from them. I think it ironic that in high school my close friends called me “Fungi,” as I’d done a science report on mushrooms.

Fred and I sleep outside sometimes in summer, on our farm. When the Northern Lights are out, they are slowly dancing greenish-yellow phantoms. It is almost as if we can hear them singing, and it really seems as if they are so close we could reach up and touch them. They bless our being, our place.

Now I live at another place in the hills of NE Washington. Today I feel sad and needing solace. Again I go to a tree, this time a fir. She holds me in her silent majesty and communicates to my soul. The (silver) fir was sacred to Artemis, the moon goddess who presided over childbirth. The word ailm (fir tree) in Old Irish also meant palm tree, which was the tree of birth in Egypt, Babylonia, Arabia, and Phoenicia. The palm is the tree of life in the Babylonian Garden of Eden story. The palm also gave its name to the Phoenix (Robert Graves, The White Goddess).

It is summer solstice on the communal land where I live; I’m single, in my early 30’s and evening is coming on. I am in the big garden and gazing at a cabbage. In the solstice light the cabbage appears translucent, with its very alive colors and shapes nearly mesmerizing me. I feel the spirits of the cabbage and of the solstice and the surrounding plants and air, the nighthawks, the insects. I feel the power of Gaia: everything is bursting, vibrating with a perceptible energy. I breathe it in and feel renewed.

At night we often hear coyotes howling, and in the spring the pups too. This is very special. Also in spring we go to sleep with the sound of frogs in the pond, reverberating through the small valley. I feel the joyous energetic spirits of the frogs. Sometimes I go up on the hill and chant and hear two echoes coming back. Once in awhile I go up there and play Cajun songs on my accordion. Of course Coyote was a most important figure in Native tradition in this area. He sculpted mountains and rocks, changing the courses of rivers, helping the two-leggeds in many ways.

In early summer our little valley breathes the aroma of new wild strawberries and at the same time the pungent one of yarrow. In this place are many deer and raven, and there are poorwills, great horned owls, ground squirrels, mountain bluebirds, porcupines, grasshoppers, woodpeckers, chickadees and many more who contribute to our sense of home. There are many tamarack trees along with the fir and pines. Having lived other places I learn that ravens have their own language in different areas. Here they often do that popping sound which humans do flicking their finger out from inside the cheek, a very playful sound.

I seek comfort and walk to a huge rock on the land, with a tiny pool of water on top. I climb up and lie on the warm stone surface and give my sorrow and confusion to the rock spirit. She is unswerving in her attention to me, supporting me with her solidity and giving me the sense that so long as I can be with Earth I shall never be let down. The trees girding the rock add to this comfort. Being alone this way I learn I am never alone.

I am at a folk music festival for the second time in two years. At the last one a featured musician was the well-known Cajun fiddler from Louisiana, Dewey Balfa, and he is here again this year. Sadly, in the intervening time two of his brothers, who were in his band, died in a car crash. Tonight we will have a traditional Cajun dinner, complete with chasing the dinner chicken around until it’s caught. It is late afternoon, in a field which is empty except for Dewey on one side and me on the other. He walks toward me and we embrace; I feel his grief. I am honored to give and receive a hug from this man who makes music that feeds my soul. I hope this gives him a bit of comfort.

With some help I am raising bees. The bears have broken into the hives a few times so now we have an electric fence plus the garden fence beyond that. I love the bees and am happy when I look into the hives and see them all moving, working together, bringing in nectar and pollen. The scent of beeswax is heavenly to me. I love the smell of the honey, and the clear golden color when it comes out of the hand-cranked  extractor. I am building a few hives and frames to go inside and this brings me closer to the bees–who bring us the possibility of much of the food we eat. There is nothing like eating honey that is produced from the flowers from our own neighborhood. The taste is not strong, just very pleasing and suggestive of the varied flora.

I read a book about the effects of nuclear radiation, about nuclear power, and I become obsessed about the dangers of the nuclear industry and the irrationality of manufacturing nuclear weapons. I do some writing, I write a plutonium song, I join marches. I wonder about the chances of life on Earth for the future. I lose some of my faith in my own species. My world takes on a different color. Do Gaia and her Spirits have a chance?

I dream of Kali and roam into her vast expanse of space, of thousands of stars. She expands and holds All within her realm. The stars are brilliant against a deep dark blue of vibrating creative potential. This is Kali, revealed to me. I write a song of this dream.

I am 35, and a group of us are up in Kettle Falls and decide on this spring night to sleep outside by the Columbia River instead of going all the way home. It is early morning and in my sleeping bag I come half-awake hearing some geese honking, and then again. Later I learn that another one of our group heard more—the echo of Mt. St. Helens erupting. This was the big explosion of the mountain. Now follows the volcanic ash in the air, which coats everything with dust. We wear masks outdoors, and wonder what the ash will do to our cars and gardens. All of Eastern Washington has been covered with such ash many times. When I was at college in Portland Mt. St. Helens was such a regal mountain with its white-topped cone rising into the blue. And Spirit Lake was a peaceful dark blue body of water in the forest below the mountain. Suddenly it all changes, just as in the many Native stories about the volcanoes of the Cascades have told for centuries.

In a theater listening to an orchestra I began to experience the music as messages I can understand with my mind, as if in words. My soul receives the music at its level and at the same time my mind is getting a message it can decipher. The music is speaking to me on two levels at once. I feel this as an opening.

The first time I read Tolstoy’s War and Peace I identify so strongly with Pierre, that I dream about him.

I move to the city to attend graduate school, after over thirteen years living rurally in forested mountains. A couple students say they can tell I’ve been living in Nature. The Gaia Spirits inhabit us, go with us. This is a comforting thought.

Sometime in my mid-forties: I am the only one sleeping by the Wenatchee River at an ancient sacred place called Medicine Waters. I am out under the stars with the rushing river very close by. Lying on the ground under big trees I dream of a gopher coming to me, and seeming a threat somehow. When I awaken I realize the gopher was not the threat, but was trying to warn me about the outcomes of a direction I might take in my life. The gopher spirit has brought me a gift; it is my place to decide what to do with it. Some dream blessings are disturbing.

I am up in the Alberta Rockies within a circle of towering mountains. I sit and gaze around and the spirits are very strong. The mountain circle vibrates through the rock, the air, and through me. The spirits envelope me and show me what is this miracle of existence, of power, of something so supreme it fills my soul and shows to me the spirit I am. It is as if the spirits are shouting a symphony which rocks my being.

On a another hike we go up to a ridge and there right above us are four mountain sheep. They do not leave as we get up where they are. We survey the valley and mountains absorbed in the mystery of this stunning place and blessed by the presence of these four big animals who are like our brothers in the high country.

My mother’s mother dies at 96. I am overcome with grief. I make up a tune on the piano and play it and cry everyday for two weeks. She was a very strong woman, a great inspiration to me. She sang and played piano and was very political. She and my grandfather raised six children through the the depression, feeding the family only because they raised their own food. Her name was Olive, and she comes many times in my dreams.

Sometimes I experience myself as a dolphin: my body streamlined, feeling water all around, feeling happy, free, lithe, sensuous, playful, at home in the water, jumping, diving.

I am 54, and backpacking with three good friends on my favorite mountain hike in the Rockies, under the peak traditionally called Yuh-hai-has-kun. We meet up with a family from the Ukraine which has moved to Canada because after the Chernobyl disaster the 10 year-old son became ill. By a rushing river, surrounded by breath-taking majestic mountains we sit with them in the evening. At dusk the woman, Olga, sings a beautiful song in Russian, out to the sky, the mountains. The sorrow inside her of having to leave her home touches us all. The night vibrates with her song which rings like a jewel out into this stunning night. Again, all these spirits bring me home, holding me in this unspeakable beauty. The wide river sounds through the valley; we breathe the alpine air and faintly see snow on the mountain tops.

In winter my father dies; I am 55. His spirit was so beloved (his name was David: beloved) that I know it still exists. I walk out in the cold night missing him with all my heart and gaze at the mantle of stars imagining him there, seeking him with a real urgency. This is a response many others in our world have to death of a loved one.

My partner and I take my canoe up to a lake in the mountains and camp. The water is very inviting. At night sitting by the fire and looking out over the water, and up at the stars we can hear wolves howling from the other shore. This is a lovely gift as I let it sink into my body; the Spirits completely surround and hold me—those of the mountains, forest, the lake, stars, rocks, fish, animals, the wolves.

I am in a group doing shamanic dance and journeying and drumming. In the dance we become animals, birds. I can feel myself moving as a cougar, a bear, an eagle. When we journey I dance with a bear cub, I sit atop an eagle as he flies far in the mountains, a frog leads me through a pond. The birds and animal spirits bring messages to me; they are guides I trust. Drumming, breathing show how important rhythm is in learning to live.

I am 59, dancing in the big tent and the words to our song are from Rumi. We are over 100 people, singing, moving together, with live music on this summer night. This is heaven, this is where I belong, in this circle, in this song, making these sacred vibrations.

For nineteen years most summers I have gone to what has become my very special place, in the mountains here on a sandy beach on a lake, by a stream. I walk to this place, or get to it by canoe or kayak. I bathe here, swim with the minnows, lie reading on the beach, listen to the thundering creek, the ravens, see the osprey, watch the sun through the thick mossy trees and follow the shadows of their branches in the sand. I smell the water, the trees, the rocks. Here I practice dances I might lead at our local dance camp—my bare feet doing the steps in the warm sand. No one else is around unless maybe out in a boat. Here the great spirit sinks into my deepest heart as I allow myself to be filled, renewed, with this miraculous beauty, this clean air and water, this atmosphere which resounds with all the Earth Spirits here, as a symphony, a perfect creation.

sum 14DSCF0771

I am 65, at Machu Picchu in the Andes. For two days I have wandered around this magical space and I settle down against a large stone at my favorite spot here to rest. I close my eyes and breathe in and invite all my ancestors to be with me. Beginning with my parent’s generation, then my grandparents’ and great grandparents’ I see each one, or imagine them, and acknowledge all they have given to me. I feel great affinity for them and great love and gratitude; I appreciate the hardships and strife and all the love in their lives. I keep on doing this until it has brought in about 1,100 of my ancestors. I see the umbilical cords connecting all these generations of women, daughter to mother. I am in awe and feel such connection; something has been added to me that is quite overwhelming.

I am cross-country skiing in the mountains here with my friends. We do this often. Winter is a different world here in the forest buried deep in snow. The snow quiets the land; on its surface rhinestones gleam in the sun. My legs and feet feel just as at home on skis as they do walking. It is so exhilarating—the crisp air, the movement of my body, seeing the tall trees dressed in white, looking out across the mountains. I feel the tree spirits all around me, silent, strong, protective.

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For years I have dreams of beautiful mountains off in the distance and usually I am trying to get to them. I start out the same way I did in the first dream, and always something changes and I never get there. When I see them from afar they call me with a very strong calling, as if I cannot live my life without getting to them. Then there are dreams of getting back to the communal land where I once lived—it is at the top of a narrow hill, and I get there, and am in a building and with people. Once I dream I am skiing in some splendidly beautiful mountains; another time I am climbing almost to the top of a snowy peak. The Dream Spirits have their ways of keeping me on the path; they know I love to be high up in the mountains and they take me there.

It is morning and I look out to see a regal big buck elk. He is old and slowly circles around the house. His antlers are huge. I just watch, amazed.

I am 68 and my beloved mother is dying far from me. I long to be with her in these hours and my body is wracked by sobs from deep in my gut. Standing, I play a song on my bouzouki which is for the soul’s journey—wishing it to reach her with all my gratitude and love and caring for this beautiful person who has given me so much…who has been my great support, my best friend, the person who laughs the same laugh with me. I spend hours grieving and being with her in spirit because I cannot not do this.

It is of great importance that we make the space and time to enter our deepest Self when a death occurs, as well as when a birth happens. At birth and death that we are faced with the Powers of the hidden realms behind All, the Mystery, the Reality beyond the material world. When the baby comes forth and takes its first breath we are in the midst of the greatest miracle and can be aware of our own limited place and understanding in this vast universe. When a being takes its last breath and dies we can sink into the wholeness of Spirit which breathes out this material world and gathers life back into itself, into the One. Our bodies go through processes of breath, of contraction and expansion, of releasing into Spirit at these times when the unseen grabs us with the most intensity. It is in times such as this that our hearts align perfectly with the One, the center of all, which is everywhere, and we are truly home. We then experience such a great gift of Unity, of connectedness.

At 71 behind my stack of firewood I find a couple huge prince mushrooms—the biggest I have ever seen. Perhaps they grew from spores on the wood from last year. I find this quite amazing, as I am such a mushroom nut; I cut the mushrooms up and eat some and dry the rest. The prince has a strong aroma and a tangy woodsy taste—a nice texture. I think about the mycelia-like neural networks in our brains and how we are similar to fungi, in some sense. The mycologist Paul Stamets believes that “mycelium is the neurological network of nature. Interlacing mosaics of mycelium infuse habitats with information—sharing membranes. These membranes are aware, react to change, and collectively have the long-term health of the host environment in mind.” Stamets proposes that fungi have the potential not only to cure diseases but to filter bacteria and viruses and chemical toxins, as well as to degrade heavy metals, chlorine, dioxin, PCBs and organophosphates. In The Sacred Mushroom Andrija Puharich describes experiments of long-distaance telepathy between humans and Amanita muscaria mushroom.

big prince, 2015

                                        //////////////////////////////////////////////////

Sometimes in spring in the early morning before I get up I hear the loon calling from down in the river. This past summer I was kayaking near a loon out there. Then later it was in the water down in front of my place. They do not stay here long, but I love to hear them; they impart the spirit of the wild north, of the great stretches of wilderness, of this vast country.

A couple months ago I sat with my guitar and a tune for a zikr was coming; at the same time right above my place a huge thunderstorm was starting. As I progressed with the tune I realized what Gaia was ushering in outside. The music began to build along with the rhythm and melody of the song and I realized the storm was part of the creation…dancing in concert with me. I call it Thunder Zikr.

Two quotes from Eckhart Tolle, in Stillness Speaks:

“A great silent space holds all of nature in its embrace. It also holds you.

“When you look at a tree and perceive its stillness, you become still yourself.

You connect with it at a very deep level. You feel a oneness with whatever

you perceive in and through stillness. Feeling the the oneness of yourself

with all things is true love.”

On Kadavu Island in Fiji the women of one village gathered every so often on a cliff above the sea and sang a chant. Soon large turtles would rise to the water’s surface and float there for the duration of the song—a sacred interbeing  exchange.

For over 33 years I have lived in bear territory; they come in my yard, dig in the compost. Besides destroying beehives they’ve picked about one fourth of the plums and eaten a great many apples. They sometimes startle me in the yard; I often see them from the window. I have never been threatened by a bear except once driving home in my car; a mamma bear and two cubs were in front of the carport, so she raised up on her hind legs. Mostly I am just in awe of their being, their claim to their territory, their strength, their nonchalant manner with us two-leggeds.

BEAR

At our camp here we dance in the forest by the lake in a lantern-lit log lodge. We have a divine feminine night and many men are in skirts. Our spirits brighten the space, our hearts expand and expand, and our singing reaches far beyond. The next night we do zikr which is unspeakably sweet, and which softens our hearts into the ONE. The next night we get wild and crazy dancing in celebration and laughter and love for one another and all creation. Because of our spirits uniting with the spirits of this place, this experience is unique, building on itself year after year.

Below is an old traditional tale from the North American peoples. In it, Tsee-o-hil is the first man (in one world age), and K’HHalls is the sun deity and creator.

TSEE-O-HIL, MANKIND

Tsee-o-hil walked in Schwail, the earth.

He said: “it is mine,

All this land and water.

May-mukh, the bird,

S-mee-yeckh, the beast,

Tsah-kwee, the great salmon…

They are mine for my hunger.

What then is K’HHalls?

I am greater than he.

I have Schwail, the earth,

And a woman to help me!”

A roll of thunder ran along the sky.

Far away in the sun,

Tsuh-Way-his, the Bird of heaven,

Opened his eyes,

And Tsah-luh-kut, the lightning,

Forked out above the earth.

Tsee-o-hil watched, unafraid.

Who is this K’HHalls?”

He shouted at the thunder.

Let him come and fight me

For this woman,

and Schwail, the earth!”

But S-pah-halls, the wind,

Sang a small, mocking song at his shoulder

And K’HHalls said:

Let him have the earth for a while.

Let him see what he can do.

Let him build a great people on the earth.

I will come back.”

And K’HHalls slept.

(from Sepass Tales: Songs of Y-Ail-Mihth, told by Chief K’hhalserten Sepass, and recorded by Eloise Street. Sepass Trust, Chilliwack, BC, Canada, Second Edition, 1974)

This summer I was on the west shore of Kootenay lake gazing at the mountains on the east side sloping down to the lake—at how the colors reflect the season, the lack of snow on the tops speaks of devastating earth changes. I see the shadows from small clouds above. The power of the mountains grabs my insides and moves them with a great message. The communication from them is so strong; they reveal themselves as witnesses, as participants in all that is. They speak to me telling all I need to do is look at them and see them and they will enhance my being. Then I remember the hills and their shadows—of my childhood—and how they communicated to me. And often there are no words to speak their messages; that is a special thing.

Here are some words from Vera Corda in her essay “Spiritual Ecology.”

Reason calls humanity at this last minute to restore the environmental balance to planet Earth; deeper than that, the awakened inner realization is that as we tune out responsibility for earth caretaking, we limit our power to expand our consciousness while we are yet on this plane….

It is not for lack of media coverage of what our high-tech lifestyles are doing to the forests, the air, the all-pervading life of this planet and its species, but rather the thoughtless habits of civilized man to waste, ignore and destroy that which he does not relate to consciously.”

All of Gaia can be experienced as sacred space; it does not take generations of indigenous recognition of sacredness to establish anywhere on this holy planet as sacred. It is our openness to connection with, and learning from a place which makes it sacred. This is a part of our being human. And as our awareness opens we constantly share in the mystery of this sacredness everywhere, every moment. Every moment we are part of a great cosmic miracle which includes the vastness of space and everything in it down to the smallest particles. And everything, though comprised mostly of space, is endowed miraculously with energies which constantly change everything and pervade everywhere. Governments, corporations can try to trick humanity into denying this miracle, this sacredness, and allow desecration of Gaia, of rivers, lakes, oceans, and extinctions of thousands of species. If we are to help preserve life here it is necessary to honor our sacred connection with the Spirits, the cosmos, with Life/Death, and to humble ourselves before them and shout out our amazement at all this Mystery of Wonder!

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Photo of petroglyphs from Wild Horses Monument & Gingko Petrified Forest; Drfumblefinger. All other photos by the author.

 

After Orlando: Murder, Mental Health, Gun Laws

On June 12th, 2016, in Orlando Florida, 49 people were murdered at a gay nightclub/center—mostly young, mostly gay, many Puerto Rican. Fifty-three people were injured, six of them critically. The man who killed them, 29 year old Omar Mateen, somehow got into the nightclub with an AR-15 assault rifle and assault pistol. The carnage and horror were extreme. People witnessed others dying right next to them; their trauma will be felt for years. The families of the dead and the injured were also of course traumatized, as were GLBT people everywhere in the world, and most everyone else.

Mateen, who had apparently been planning this atrocity for some time, was certainly mentally deranged. And his former wife alleged he was mentally ill and had been mentally and physically abusive to her. His wife at the time of the massacre had known of his plans and tried to dissuade him from them; it could be that she did not report to authorities because of fear of reprisal from Mateen. At this time we do not know this. Whether Mateen was harboring secret bi-sexual tendencies we do not know. He had visited the Pulse on occasion. Was this to gain a clearer picture of what it might be like to act on his (supposed) fantasies, or was it to search out the security situation at the club and become a familiar face to people there? The answers do not really impinge on the suffering of those left behind.

If he was not interested in being with men in a sexual way, then it would seem he put a lot of effort in learning about the place of the killings. Some of the most dedicated homophobes have been people struggling with their own gay desires; his father said Mateen had been very angry, disturbed, at seeing two men kissing. This kind of response can come because of learned disgust, hatred; it can also happen when we see our secret desires acted out by others. And if Mateen was identifying with very conservative Muslim ideas, he most likely had a deep inner conflict going on. His father stated, after the killings, that it had been wrong for Omar to do what he did, as it is for “God” to “punish.” From this statement it seems Omar may have been raised with the idea it was not OK to be gay. Another fact is that just days before, he had tried to contact the owner of another gay night spot in Orlando…was he having doubts about the location of the mayhem?

Mass murder/suicide (by one’s own means or by Police and security personnel) seems to be a feature of these times, sadly. Suicidal thoughts certainly can alternate or accompany homicidal ones. As we know, some killers seek fame, albeit postmortem fame. This certainly can explain Omar’s references to ISIL (he used “ISIS”), expecting perhaps they would ally with his act, or even just that the media would connect the two, giving a measure of glory. There has been a lot of mention in the media about young men, some women, especially, in North America and Europe, some in rather fundamentalist groups (or identifying with these) who are lost souls, without community support, who identify with ideas on the internet…ideas which seem to lift them up to some great sense of self, as well as to a sense of belonging. Mateen may not have belonged anywhere, but he perhaps had fantasies of been accepted by ISIL.

Forty-seven years ago on my 25th birthday the Stonewall uprising took place in New York City. The gay men and transgendered folks there had been behind the gay curtain for too long and rose up for freedom. This gave heart and courage to the greater LGBT community. It gave rise to Gay Pride. In the 1980’s and for years after these communities and their friends and supporters somehow got through the devastation of AIDS. Gays were accused of causing the wrath of “god” and bringing this (punishment again) upon themselves. They were shunned by many. And they and their friends and families suffered years of heartbreak and grieving for those who died. The medical system took its time to deal with this health crisis, adding to the sense of betrayal. In 1969 here in Canada Pierre Trudeau introduced legislation which passed, ridding the law making homosexuality illegal. Ontario in 1977 was the first province to include gays and Lesbians in the Human rights Code, giving them protection from discrimination in housing, public accommodation, and employment. In 1999 gay couples in Canada gained the same legal standing as those in common law marriages. Finally in 2005 Canada made gay marriage legal. And in the US gay marriage was legalized in 2015.

Who makes a record of the measure such trauma as the Orlando event leaves upon us, our communities, our nations, and our world? We have thousands of years of history in which accumulated trauma has passed to us from generations of our ancestors. And in recent times, from civil wars to international wars, the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Nazi concentration camps and atrocities, have added much weight onto the mound we already bear. There are places in our world in which we have witnessed genocide, use of chemical weapons, drone killings, child soldiers, mass rape of women and children, enslavement of same.

We all live, also, with the certain knowledge that at any moment a nuclear mistake, or war, or insane person could trigger the end of our world in probably less than an hour. How’s that for trauma? We all experience the extinction of species, of ecosystems, of traditional ways of life, and the lessening availability of wholesome food. There is also the possibility of nuclear power plant disasters at any time. There are disastrous floods, droughts, hurricanes, snow storm. Inside us, whether consciously or not, we all carry these horrendous realities with us, daily. They beat in our heartbeats, change our nervous systems. They creep into our nights, in sleeplessness and in dreams. They are at the bottom of our individual, community, and national and international decisions.

The great psychiatrist R.D. Laing viewed mental illness, including schizophrenia, as a natural part of the social matrix; society creates its own responses to itself, and these invariably show up in some of its members. In North American society today we have poverty, homelessness, isolation, suicide including suicide of children. We have materialism, the knowledge there will be no future, or a future very different from what we may have expected or hoped. We have drug and alcohol addiction, depression, murders, mass murders, more and more people with PTSD. PTSD itself is part of that reflection of society, as it is not an abnormal, but a normal human response to trauma. So mental health issues, and suicide, violence, are warning signs about the health of society. How we respond to these warning signs is of crucial importance.

Despite years of public demands, the US Congress has refused to put more restrictive gun controls in place. This may change a bit now after what happened in Orlando, with some Republicans recognizing the need for changes. The National Rifle Association has appeared to hold sway in the past, and one of their strategies has been the cry of the “Second Amendment” defending the right of individuals to bear arms. The background of the US second Amendment to the Constitution reaches back hundreds of years in English precedents relating to the powers of the King/Queen and royal army versus the militia of those who may need forcefully to oppose the royals. The main concern of the founders of the Second Amendment was that the people, or the states would have no way to defend themselves from a tyrannical government—unless they were able to form a militia. In those times it was understood that a community could not form a militia unless individual members of the community were able to bear arms (I guess they were not thinking of storing the arms in one place). Of course now the US has a military force that no city or state or group of states could adequately fight, so the whole point of the Second Amendment could now be said to be moot.

According to the Small Arms Survey, figures for 2007 and 2011 are given below for number of guns owned per 100 residents.

For 2007:

US                          rank #1                       112.6 guns

Canada                 rank #12                      30.8

UK                         rank #82                        6.6

For 2011:

US                          rank #1                         88.8 guns

Canada                          #9                          31

UK                                #88                            6

I do not know what would explain the discrepancy in the number of guns in the US between the two years shown. Ironically I write this on a day that a female member of Parliament in the UK, Jo Cox, was murdered. It is thought this resulted from the killer disagreeing with her political ideas. In Canada guns which are prohibited are assault weapons and sawed-off rifles and shotguns. Handguns are usually classified as restricted, and rifles and shotguns are usually non-restricted. In order to purchase a gun one must have a license and go through a screening process. The person must take a safety course and have a criminal record check done; then there is a waiting period. To purchase a gun in a store in the US a check is done and the purchase can be made within minutes. To circumvent the check, one can buy a gun at a gun show or buy from a friend.

Intentional homicides by country, per 100,000 population.

                   2011                    2012                   2013

US                  5                           5                          4

Canada          2                          2                          1

UK                   1                           1                          1

Some years ago CBC reported on a study which showed that in the US over the time of growing up, children witnessed an average of 18,000 murders on TV or in movies. There is a media culture message that murder is a regular way of dealing with things or persons who get in our way. What kind of social norm is this?! As Marian Anderson so beautifully sang in the song from South Pacific, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…you’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, before you are six or seven or eight, to hate all the people your relatives hate; you’ve got to be carefully taught.”

We humans know so much and care about so much. Our ships have sailed not only around the world but to the Moon and out to other planets. We have invented the bomb that can put an end the world as we have known it, built the electric car, built robots, studied genes, and many other wondrous and scary things. We have produced great streams of spirituality, great artists—Shakespeare, Beethoven, Mozart, Georgia O’Keeffe, Joan Baez, Tracy Chapman, Gary Snyder, Miriam Makeba, and on and on. We built the Pyramids and beautiful temples, invented myriad musical instruments, wrote comedies, developed geometry and calculus, learned how to resolve conflict non-violently. Our venerated persons include Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama, Malala Yousafzai, Leymah Gbowee, Pope Francis, and many others.

Can we gain the wisdom and strength of purpose to change direction at this critical our species on this planet? Can we face these things directly–violence, violence as war, mental health problems, inequality, our destruction of the air, land, oceans, with the honesty that comes through facing the imbalances in many of our societies? Shall we read the meaning of the realities and take responsibility? Then we might come together so that all these forms of violence are discarded. What shall we create to deal with this Gordian knot of complex puzzles that make up our own current situation? This is the question. Let us share it, ingest it, digest it, dream about it, dance it, sing it, and shower each other with the light that comes.

Sources:

How American Gun Deaths Compare to Canada’s.” National Observer, Dec. 4, 2015.

Laing, R.D., The Politics of Experience. Pantheon Books, Random House, NY. 1967.

The History of the Second Amendment.” David E. Vandercoy, Valparaiso Univ.   Law Review, #28. 1007-1039 (1994).

You’ve Got to be Carefully Taught.” Rodgers and Hammerstein.

http://www.smallarmssurvey.org/research

SPEAK FOR SALMON

SPEAK FOR SALMON

POEMS BY CANDACE E. HOLT

 

Copyright by Candace E. Holt, 2015
Nelson, BC, Canada

_____________________________

INDEX

Love Has no Body                                         p. 1
I am the Question
Mother of Wave                                                  2
I Am…I Am Not
Skeletons                                                              3
Echoes                                                                   4
By Water                                                               5
Salmon Biting                                                     6
Fear
Picking Princes in September
Nimpo Lake                                                         7
Breaking Confines                                             8
Flayed
January                                                                  9
Medicine waters                                                10
Snow Fog
Nicaragua, 1985                                                  11
From Mars
To Hide Unborn                                                 12
Solstice Dervish                                                13
Everybody’s Waiting                                       14
Savour of Honey                                                15
Wa-na-chee                                                       16
Ghosts Walk In                                                  17
Her Eye                                                                 18
Sands
Latest Word
We at the Millennium                                     19
Ancient Singing                                                20
Tipi                                                                        21
Koolaree
Wind Music                                                        22
Haiku
Watery Reaches                                                23
Bear Salmon Forest Bear                               24
Aurora Borealis
Vaya, Wind Spirit, Deep in-Breath            25

She Ponders                                                       26
Revolving
Moreso Morel                                                    27
Creek Dreams                                                   28
Centers                                                               29
Mandolin
The Woods
Reunion                                                              30
Birds                                                                    31
Speak for Salmon
Omnipoesie                                                      32
Nothing Mine                                                  33
Bestow Blessings
Mandolin and Moon                                      34
This Exquisite Raga
Jacket                                                                 35
Fearless Queen
We Are all Sentenced to Life                      36
Slow Red Sun                                                   37
Problem Solving
Response-Ability                                           38
Stonewall                                                          39
Turtle Island Peoples
Jewel of the Rockies                                      40
Music and Wondering                                   41
Laughter of Beings
Like Marsyas                                                   42
One Song                                                          43
Note by author                                               44

________________________________
LOVE HAS NO BODY

I have learned that
Love has no body;
That rain is a caress;
That pebbles embrace
one another;

I have learned that
Inside pain is a pearl of wisdom
Waiting for the shell which hides it
To be opened;
That reality is not subject
to intellect,
That music is the True Language;

My heart yearns for more lessons.

I AM THE QUESTION

I am the question
I am the answer
I am the seeker
I am the sought
I am the pain
I am the solace
I am the hunger
I am the nourishment
I am the confusion
I am the certainty
I am the misguided
I am the great guide
I am the question

To which answers
Heart’s golden Truth.

-1-

_____________________________

MOTHER OF WAVE

Mother of wave
Sea of Poseidon
Oyster catcher’s catch call
–all –all –all –all –all
–all –all

Friends three please take me
On these sands, as I am
I am I am
am-i amie
amies

Rock of Posiedon I draw your marks in sand
I feel your rock-rooted back
Rise up through earth
Sturdy guard of the shore
Protecting
Claiming

We, daughters of the Mother,
Dance
beside the gulls
the eagle
cormorant

We make our fire, cook mussels with rice
Sit in our sweat lodge
Surf pound sun
Water wood
Huge land world sea
Here I am; take me
This life my offering.

I AM…I AM NOT

I am milking white moon everything
Glowing gold and green
Late afternoon motions of my hands
Milking emptying
Two goat spouts

-2-

_____________________________

Put my nose to her side
Scent her fine goat hair
Yet I am not there

I am starving
I am overfilled
Milked out
The dry udder slowly fills
My entrails, my weight have been removed
My mouth, filled with chatter
Finds no tongue to speak

I am not here
I am not milking
No green no moon
Only absorption
Inside a song I am living

I am Motion of Moon turning
Of Earth revolving splash-painting
This afternoon
I am Motion of two hands pumping
With this Song I am living.

SKELETONS

Seas filled with sunken ships
Skeletons on her bottom depths

And leaky barrels of radiation
Plastic, dark petroleum trails,
Fish and whale-killing nets

As sea life withers and dies
As the salt levels slide
As the sea levels rise
Jellyfish rule

Coral reefs disappear
In this ageless Sea Mother’s realm
Always, always our sustenance
Our beauteous inspiration

-3-

____________________________

Bride of the moon
Muse for poets, for sailors
Vast, powerful dispenser
Of life, of death

She with her blue green foam
The very signature of
Planet Gaia
Becomes the repository
Of unspeakable garbage
Swill of human folly.

ECHOES

Her voice gurgles up from the stream
She has passed through concentric circles
Varied shades of twilight
From womb’s center
Aligning all things perfectly
As from the pearl of coyote’s howl;

Struggle wrote the lines of her face
The sad stories of her songs
Unyielding rhythm of her strumming;

Her eyes are deep wondering pools,
She tears out her heart
Leaving a hole big enough for
Her chest to be a mandolin gourd
She stretches leather over her chest
And fits strings between forehead and belly,
She becomes walking music
Strumming, singing
Dancing for the moon, for children;

When she comes to understand
The liquid motion of trees
Earth’s changing hues and shifting sounds
She wanders through translucent realms
Until there is no more reason
For her music

-4-

______________________________

For it is the soft drumming of steady rain
It is the rushing creek waters
It is itself the whispering pine breeze
She melts into these things
They gently sweep away her smiling mouth,
Her knowing ancient eyes,
Leave her sounds echoing
Echoing.

BY WATER

One moment outside the flow of time
We lay by rippling clear water
Warm in August sun

My hand on my belly
Our fingers entwined
My mind says “this may never happen again”
Tugs against ticking seconds

You were in a body then
Now you are memory
Imagined in my imaginary eyes

One of those moments that stills time
Now you are…
Are not…
I see sparkles of blue light
Dancing

Now you….

-5-

____________________________

SALMON BITING

Always
Heed
The primal longing
of your heart

Allow it to be the
Ultimate guide
As it draws you, entices you —
You the fish, biting

Then gloriously reeled in…in
To Truth’s dazzling Light.

FEAR

Fear is the clutching enemy within
Who creates all outside “enemies”
She lurks underneath violence
Hatred, dominance, greed,
War, oppression, abuse;

When we push aside her many grasping
Arms and breathe right through
Her stranglehold, she transforms
Into what she truly aspires:
True Power which respects, befriends,
Loves, listens, honors, equalizes.

PICKING PRINCES IN SEPTEMBER

Dying thistles, grasses, weeds rise
To varying heights above the carpet
Summer has laid down
Colors hinting autumn yet still alive
take me into their textured mysteries

I tread softly over sacred ground
with a mushroom bag
bulging with princes and boletus

-6-

_____________________________

Songs enter me when I drift here
into the grasses—grey clouds
their colors and motions;

You return to say
“goodbye” for the hundredth time
soft rain rhythms
penetrate my recorder
Rain music echoes through the hills

I see you across the stream
listening
And sense there is something of me
you always will cherish.

NIMPO LAKE

Tall pine sentinels rise up
Glowing in twilight along the lake;
We encamp in the Chevy pick-up
Not longing for sleep,
But enraptured by the loons
Their haunting cries encircle us
As time stops inside the primal calling–
Straining to name a forgotten secret:
That language I could dedicate myself
To deciphering;

Comes morning
Across calm waters
A trumpeter swan raises its
Cloud-white bulk
In majestic flight.

-7-

____________________________

BREAKING CONFINES

The I within me
Is knocking furiously
At the iron bars
Which enclose Her

My fear is
Soon she will erupt
Out of her stifling prison
To mold me into
What inevitably I must become:
The servant of Her wisdom
Walking Her determined relentless path,
One who lives Her Life.

FLAYED

The night the executioner comes
I stand ready
His gleaming eyes, his ominous chin
Point for me to come

Moonlight glances off his knife
His laugh tempts me
Trembling toward Charon’s water
I offer my throat

He comes at me slowly
Aiming at the collar bone
Cuts clean and quickly through the skin
Slits down my front all the way
Then gently peels off
My soft warm flesh

Naked I look night in the face
With demons crouching:
Gruesome eyes witness my flaying
Then dismembering,
Soon I catch their laughter

-8-

____________________________

Each stroke of the blade shakes me
Further and further back—
Beyond flesh and muscle
Beyond even bones
To the primal substance
Untouched

I stand, an empty skeleton
On which to hang hopes–
Love, dreams, colors, music
Teeming warm lifeblood

Free to become
And so I sing, I dream;
The executioner has done well
I am newborn in this death/life.

JANUARY

In between sun and Earth—Kouhoutek,
Bright Star some say is the messiah;
Chinook comes and turns snow to flood,
Steals winter away
Sliver of waning moon brings dawn

All night a rushing new stream
Sounds outside
We are between two washed-out roads
There is only the back way to town

A stubble of green barley pops out
In the field–strange sight in January;
Deer come by at evening

The two-room school closes
Folks walk in shirt sleeves
To view the wash-out, a chasm,
This road-breaker
Where the way suddenly stops.

-9-

___________________________

MEDICINE WATERS

Now I have laid bare,
Taken your medicine
In the white foam
Of your thundering river
Now I have become You
Now I have been blessed
Now replenished I go

Into the unknown
On my way home
On my way home.

SNOW FOG

We are always travelling through fog
On the brink of another unknown realm
Like Buddhist monks on high trails
Made immortal by the skilled Hiroshige

Only the initiated can hear
The voices of silence

Now winter holds the brink
Freezing the stream
In quiet stillness
Sleeping through ’til spring’s arrival

I stand cold spellbound in winter fog
Filled by
Silent semblance of a woodcut in twilight snow
Framed by square barn doorway
The dog and the bundled-up woman
Chase one last sheep inside
Ready for icy night
In a barn with soft hay

A finely tuned ear can hear
The music of snow fog.

-10-

____________________________

NICARAGUA, 1985

You return and lay the Truth
Out to me
As I knew you would
I knew you would

You shall return if we spill more blood
You will stay—even to death
Until our fathers, mothers,
Sisters and brothers see it is
Ourselves we murder
There are no foreigners,

You will stay, as you must
While my tears keep you
Wrapped in my heart
Tears of joy, of celebration, of life.

FROM MARS

Always I wanted to journey in space
To look at Earth from out there,
See the moon, the half-earth,
Quarter earth and full earth
Resplendent in blues

Four Mars-years now I am here
On this red planet
Never to go back
I volunteered for this
Experiment in the unknown

And now no trees, no rich
Earth smells, no roaring ocean
My biorhythms are all off
No streams no grasses
No chirpy bird songs
No hand to hold in mine

O, to taste a ripe tomato
Bite into crisp cucumber
Savour a fresh raspberry!

-11-

___________________________

It is like this to the end
No laughter with old friends
No holding my grandchildren
With such delight in my heart

Just revolving with this
Sphere of rock and dust
While this longing
Consumes me, dooms me.

TO HIDE UNBORN

This moon dreamed in me
Not just any moon
But this one wrapped in spirit
Of lofty cedars, salmon fishers,
And Totem-Spirits, Bear
Eagle, Raven, Killer Whale

This moon wants to jump out of me
Onto the waiting water color pad
Only my cowardice holds it trapped inside
Where it is safe
Not in danger of losing its essence

Dare I let it into these doubting
Hands while now I am sure
Of its vitality, its poignancy?
Must there be such risk in art
That the painter be paralysed
And the world wait forever for creation?

I set out the water, brushes, paint
In readiness for the birthing,
To allow others’ eyes to know this moonbeing
Swallowed inside me which grows
Too sharp-horned, too bright and full
To hide unborn.

-12-

____________________________

SOLSTICE DERVISH

December full moon bids me numb-struck
From the sleeping room
To yowl with a half-coyote dog nearly smothering me
We dance a swoon-song of moon-glow
Powerful phantoms call our wild steps
Over the snow field
Sacred harvest field of summer
That stretches forever into reaches of fog fingers
Hugely grasping with hidden strength—
One must be drunk to catch it!
The unsung song forces itself up
Through my bulging lungs
Pure and out through infinite night

Notes sustained,
My arms praise smiling Rhea
With swirling steps swiftly backward finding
Footprints I do not know I’d made
In obedience to the cosmic dancer,
My swaying limbs learn new motion
As the universe sings with my cry
Throbbing into my spellbound dance

Earth-spanning fog chorus answers
With long exalted notes
Surpassing those they echo

Sustained
Is my power
The music, the movement
I sing ecstasy—shrill secrets to deserving ears
Of deer
Coyote
Raven
Squirrel

-13-

_______________________________

No humans in range to hear
My voice spins all Earth as I too
Begin revolving, unthinking dervish
Coyotes join in, the coyote dog
Running to me in recognition

Such power moves in the night
As winter steals me into the Mystery.

EVERYBODY’S WAITING
(For Kathleen)

Everybody’s waiting in faded guerrilla denims
Incense-scented candle-lit apartments
For the Revolution
Because
We are too cowardly
To make it happen
Have not studied enough to know
It’s made without bayonets, secret hide-outs
Glory or high reward

Nor how it gnaws at our better parts
Demands our loves, our homes, our sweat,
The dreams to which we cling;

Revolution is mundane—forces sacrifice—
Is humble enough to talk with wielders of power
Silent enough to listen
She humiliates without mercy,
She is hunger
She is pathos
Irony
She is the blood, the bones, the marrow
She makes mush of the weak
While she hones the strong.

-14-

____________________________

SAVOUR OF HONEY

The old familiar flavour melts on my tongue
I scrape the insides of the metal extractor
After removing the wax cappings and turning
The honey-filled frames ‘round and ‘round

Fresh honey runs a deep dark gold
Thick and out from the spout
I don’t bother to strain it
Leaving bits of wax, pollen, maybe
Royal jelly, propolis

Umm, umm
And buzz the bees humm, humm

Bees are dying
Leaving crops unpollinated
Is it cell phone towers?
We do know it is big agriculture
Fields of pesticides, greenhouses
Neoxins

Shall we not then eat?
Will the savouring of honey disappear?
Is our human population
Selecting our demise by exterminating
Our great winged friend?

I lick my sticky fingers
Sticky with the sacred food
Food of the gods
Gods of Paradise:
Our long-loved home.

-15-

____________________________

WA-NA-CHEE

A Princess, daughter of the Moon, was wooed by the old Sun. Not wishing her beautiful daughter to take up with such an old man, the Moon disappeared to lay plans against them. Sun wove a magnificent rainbow robe for the Princess, who one day came down to the sea to meet him. As he took her away to his home in the sky Moon reappeared. When the Sun saw her he hurled a flash of lightning down to Earth: the Princess. There the cast-out maiden dwells in the cliffs and hangs her rainbow out over the mountains. Sometimes she (the Wenatchee River) can be heard singing.

Folded buckskin hills under soft grey clouds
Rise suddenly above wet orchard grass;
Scent of cider rises from rotting summer apples,

Follow the rugged hills west to clouds gathering where
Your Moon-Daughter Princess
Throws her rainbow robe over the roaring river
WA-NA-CHEE
Singing rarely now
But for a few Old Ones
WA-NA-CHEE
Robe of many hues

Sweaty plaid flannel, grizzled hair
Tired bright eyes stare
From spray-dusted Gringo and Chicano faces
Pickers of the snipped-off rainbow:
Golden to red “delicious”
AP-PLE CAPI-TAL
of the WORLD

Wait! Until Chavez comes North Wait
Wait! Until your orchards wilt under
death-dealing draught

“Irrigation” a word on farmers’ tongues
Apple a Columbia River dream come true
Praised be Grand Coulee!
Glory to DDT!
WA-NA-CHEE
many-hued robe
River ripples below
A singing lovelorn Princess keeps to her cliffs

-16-

___________________________

Migrants leave your streets, follow the Columbia
North to Okanagan then South again
Gringo and Chicano, no property taxes
just a body token to life
Ride, ride, by the train industry’s madness railed
to haul the harvest
to haul the harvest
A rain-chilled migrant ingests river shadow night
Breathing the cidery sage breeze
Half wishing the rain would leave;
A picture carves itself painfully into her heart
Of someone’s tears but she can’t make out
whose, or for what they are shed.

GHOSTS WALK IN

Ghosts walk in
The more years I gather
The more ghosts hang out
In the back room and wait
To walk in here

Faces in familiar places
Pleading, accusing,
Asking impossible questions

And so this being is not just I
But a melding of many
Each within our interconnecting circles
And all these circles within
Bigger circles

C’mon, ghosts
Let us dance under the stars
And let our laughter
Our tears, write new constellations
In the swirling dome of sky

And may those stars bejewel
The nets of our circles,
Shimmering always, always.

-17-

___________________________

HER EYE

The Divine Mother
Settles her eye
Within our hearts
For one lifetime–

Then with our last breath
Takes our hand of light
To lead us Home.

SANDS

Fragments of myself are
Forever dancing before your image:
Doing Tai Chi on the cold sand
Before the roaring ocean,

Ocean of my heart that flowed
With primal blood
Stilled in silence
Upon the flat expanse
Of shining grey beach;
Fragments of myself forever dance
Beside your tears—

The sun that never stops setting
Rests like a promise upon the sea
Like the jewel you are to me.

LATEST WORD

Scientists now tell us
We are either right after the moment
Our Fate decided our escape
From total (self) destruction,

Hallelujah!

-18-

__________________________

Or, that we are right before that moment
And shall inevitably destruct–
This being more likely the case

Erase “Hallelujah,”

Do we welcome the necessary ruin
Of ruin?

WE AT THE MILLENNIUM

              I

Man’s fall is the fall of all and it is
No joyride

Basking in October sun I soak up warm rads
In a climate formed by imbalanced design
Global Matricide
We witness otherworldly sunsets
With a metallic dusty glow

Friends eaten by cancers–
An in-law and his brother abide in
Bodies broken by bomb tests long ago

What chance for homo sapiens?
This perfect spherical jewel, heavenly home
Will spin on quite regularly without us

She may need to shed her skin
Shake off the dirt as does a dog
To rid itself of pesky fleas
Calm fire stirs inside me
Tempered passion and erotic potency
I must take stock of my contribution
To this mess and reinvent myself

Calm fire my strength and my breath
I can wend my way through tangled jungles
Survive the rains of ruin
Death is only death
My spark burns on.

-19-

___________________________

II

Shake Dance

Shaking the fleas:
Pesty life-threatening toxic waste,
Then must Gaia dancing, shaking
Herself back to life,
Shake off this arrogant species,
Root of the affliction?

Do we get thrown off this
Great and little-honoured timeless Home
With cries of anguish?

Or do we sail out into the void
Philosophically…eternally singing
Praising, loving
Throwing out glorious harmonies
To bounce forever around the universe
One lost echo
Of all these aeons here?

ANCIENT SINGING

I hear ancient singing
My heart reaches to meet it
To follow
Down to the deep
of Being
where that timeless
Voice calls us home,
In the midst of whatever holds us–

Home inside the kernel
Of knowing
The sheath of Compassion
The end of longing.

-20-

___________________________

TIPI

Under these tall poles
Sun rays break between shadows
The ball of moon sails
Over the pines and larch
Stalks of whiskery mullein
Shine straight-arrowed in dawn
My legs drip dew as I walk
To spread my pad and do
Asanas to the rising sun

A novice reaching for her Kali
Trying to focus all these things

Into the circle
The bursting pod
The rippling water.

KOOLAREE

Bronze glow of lowering sun
Heralds summer’s decline,
Hummingbirds have departed,
I carry my packs to load on the pier
And await the boat’s crossing to a place
That is in my heart

Koolaree
What a world of a word
An essence beyond description!

The swift boat jogs us over the waves
To my heart’s destination–
This well of sweetest wine

Where we dance cry laugh and sing
With our friends of the Friend
And we turn until there is no
Reality except our enchantment
Beneath these towering firs
Beside this lapping water
Under the moon, the glimmering stars
All we know is this blessing;
-21-

___________________________

Dry leaves fall dancing with the breeze,
Bears fill themselves for winter
Loons cry, night creatures scramble,
We breathe in scents of moist forest,
Water, seaweed, moss, burning wood,
This, our hearts’ home, we celebrate,
This, our caravan, supplies the food
Of our souls,

In our wonder, over and over
‘The lathing lustre’ leaves us
‘Seven times still more blessed.’

WIND MUSIC

If my being were as a tree
I should become wind music
Playing through my waiting leaves

I would be past worrying about peace
Rooted in a more firm reality

My endless habitat of sky and earth
Would feed my soul
Would fill me with green dreams
Slowly climbing, silently teaching.

HAIKU

In a hug with you:

The nicest place I have been

These many long moons.

-22-

____________________________

WATERY REACHES

Where the continent drops off fishing boats
And freighters move in their watery world
Gull cries punctuate a liquid atmosphere
The locals accept sopping wet
With the same calm as merely grey;
A pastor says there is too much time here
Folks have money for drugs and booze;

I sit in the room as deep mourning
Settles perceptibly in the air,
In predawn dark on Sunday
Two hung-over youths pulled out in a canoe
And drowned
A third hastily dove into chilled waters
Alone survived

Over and over he replays the delicate moment
Balanced between life and death
The heavy body sinking from his reach
Pulling him down
Now his world swims with monsters
Only tears, forgiveness and release
Can begin to dissipate;
I study these things
At the end of the highway
Edge of the ocean
Where drunks dance dizzily along Main Street
And eagles cry sailing from mountain heights
With eyes sharper than fish hooks,
Sure of the mark.

-23-

___________________________

BEAR SALMON FOREST BEAR

British Columbia coast rainforest–
Last inhabited pristine ecosystem
On Earth…

Towering giant trees
Green, green, rise up
From mossy wet forest floor
This living paradise the bears’ home
Bear hunts salmon, picks at the heads
Deposits remains in the woods
Salmon fertilize the trees
A singing forest grows, and grows

Rainforest breathes out oxygen
That Life may be sustained
Forest makes the bears’ home;

Water, Fire, Air, Earth, in turn
The Elements take thousands
Of years to compose the poem
That is the rainforest;

It can take just one misstep
To begin its destruction.

AURORA BOREALIS

Great Northern Light curtains
Glow a vast red and emerald
So bright the remote suspension
Seems close enough to reach up and touch;
Frozen in a split second,
A colossal roller coaster’s
Path looms across the heavens;

These mammoth curtains drape
The gods’ echo chamber:
Moving lights that glint on Earth’s silent face

-24-

____________________________

Across these rolling folds frosty-bearded heroes
Signal with huge rams’ horns
Bellowing down the lengths
Ringing around these bejewelled celestial veils,
To define this Arctic night.

VAYA, WIND SPIRIT, DEEP IN-BREATH

I am Vaya, Wind Spirit
Deep in-breath; I blow from
Smokey slave factories, through
Depleted uranium fields,
Through cities of relentless factories;
I disseminate CO2, radiation, lead, smog,
Desert sands, silicone–
A virtual churning breathy soup of destruction
Around this blue globe;

How I long to gaze again as I freely travel
Upon thriving birds, plants,
Frogs and fish…upon lost jungles
Uprooted rain forests, extinct animals,
And if you hear me howl and moan
It is my deep mourning
My unbearable grief;

And if you hear me whistling
You know I am calling out
To the impulse of LIFE,
Renewal, Healing,
Which is greater than this pitiful bent
Of decimation, this race to oblivion;

I am Vaya
I am everywhere
I see all, let me tell my story;
I shall come in your dreams–
Soft whistling out-breath.

-25-

____________________________

SHE PONDERS

Days roll out into long hours
Spent waiting
Sitting out by the cherry tree
Watching the crippled raven
Grab for a bite of lunch scraps
Yet mainly she ponders
Thinking on the hardest things
Old ghosts newly risen up;

She sits in the sun overrun,
Shaken over again by
Terrors of thirty years before
The rape, the horror
Forced at knife point
Pregnancy
Unmanageable decisions,

She stares at the hills, squints in the sun
It has been like this since
The unknown daughter sought her out
From thousands of miles away
After years added to silent years
Wondering who is her mother

She wonders who the daughter is
Whether she ought to know
Whether she can afford to care.

REVOLVING

One by one stars come
Onto night’s empty stage
Displaying their silent constancy;

Through all the wounds
The rough tumbles that bruise
They alone are my companions,
To them I repeat my battle sores
Through each struggle and
At each milestone
They have guarded over me,
Listened to my tales
-26-

____________________________

I ask them questions of ages past
They speak to me
Of lost secrets, great things,
Powerful and terrible things
So that I translate their silences
Into sagas rich with agony and triumph

They slowly circle
Saying the greatest poem I’ve ever heard
Putting me eventually to sleep
My soul at rest
Inside the palm of night,
Their revolving wheel
Names each of the deities
Ever to look down upon Earth.

MORESO MOREL

I am queen of May
Regal in my blending
I take on the exact appearance
according to the situation
Of leaf
bearded moss
fir cone
Or the end of a stick
golden larch needles

Yet ah! I am
Much more glorious
Than any of these:
Firm, rich, succulent
To the tune of many gold pieces
I am an expensive woman
Skilled in the arts
Of pleasing

-27-

____________________________

Come to me in May
If I choose you
You shall have me
You shall hear me calling
To you, and the leaf
will transform
the fir cone suddenly become
the orb of moss subtly retrace
My seductive velvet folds
Ah, l’arome!

CREEK DREAMS

Home, a feeling that wraps me ’round
Waking from dreams of Stranger Creek
–tributary of the River Subconscious–
In those elusive realms I visit
the friendly warmth of a forest lodge
or the last human habitat before
A beckoning range of luminous mountains
Where I attain irresistible heights
Or become lost searching out those peaks

This Creek wanders through a green valley
In my universe of sleep;
inviting houses ring with music,
merriment, hauntingly familiar
It skirts an orchard on the ridge;

Dancing cool shadows at sundown
hint promise of magic,
a scent of wild strawberries
and cottonwood beckons me

That subconscious stream deep beneath
Feeding springs into the Creek
Is the major vein of my reality–
becoming my conscious life
the source of blood pumping through
This heart whose dwelling is no place
but a misty network of dreams
This soul seeking Stranger Creek
Seeking Home.

-28-

____________________________

CENTERS

How many times have I held you?
Not enough
How many tears have rolled onto your cheeks
From my eyes?
Not enough
What have I given in return for your love?
Not enough

Night’s dark caress grows pale
I watch the last star fade
Yet still it is there
Like the center of your heart
Pinpointed to the centre of mine
From fifteen hundred miles
Down the Rockies.

MANDOLIN

As he plucked that sweet mandolin
His smile was that of an angel
Sending heavenly strains

As I strum this little mandolin
I smile
I am where he stood
Inside that opening to bliss.

THE WOODS

Up we ride in the truck with chainsaws
In our woollen jackets, boots,
Work gloves, snug caps

A cloudy day, no deer hunters,
We scout out the dead larch, fir,
Standing or fallen,

-29-

__________________________

We step beneath trees
On soft uneven ground
Covered with a stunning carpet
Of bright golden needles

We scent the rich earth,
Mushroom smells, pine
And fir needles, tree bark, all
Enter our lungs along with
Invigorating crisp fall air;

Then the chainsaw noise
Suddenly blurts out
I watch the trees tremble
Altogether at this vibration
Encroaching on their regal realm,

Interrupting the usual dance to their own music
Music that vibrates in all creatures and forms
We may not hear, yet can feel;

These great green spires
Keep trembling as I realize
The extent of our trespass,
In awe and humility.

REUNION

We can hear the ocean
Blow in through the leaves here
Feel it brush against
These stolid brick halls of learning
Tickling Herodotus’s beard
Making Socrates blink

It creates tremors in the
Leaves of the book of history

The expanse of this place
Which nurtured my young mind
Challenges my life to answer
Challenges my soul to rise

-30-

__________________________

We can taste the Pacific breeze
Crossing over expansive green lowlands
And see it in the rhododendrons
So lush and pregnant;

That salt breeze whips around Earth
And reaches the eager young
To tease them
Into godliness.

BIRDS

The birds don’t care
And neither do I
(I like to pretend)

If we are fools and failures
If we are weak
Or are mistaken

The birds don’t care…

Yet ah, what a far cry from birds
Are we.

SPEAK FOR SALMON

It is for us now to speak for salmon
For us to speak for whales
For old growth forests, rain forests,
Estuaries, herons, frogs,
Coral reefs, elephants, gorillas;

It is for us to speak for oceans
For rivers, lakes, streams,
For grizzlies, caribou,
Glaciers, the arctic seas,
Born and unborn children;

-31-

__________________________

It is for us to speak for salmon
To be the voice of silent ones
For even dangers that threaten
Us and them are not recognized
As the scream they are–
The scream for alarm,
For profound re-connection;

It is for us to speak for salmon
With voices numbering so many,
Thundering endlessly,
Voices reaching all ears.

OMNIPOESIE

I love the tongue of this land
That sings so well of its spirit:
Bella Coola, Klickitat
Mukilteo, Shuswap
Kamiah, Wenatchee, Kittitas Tum-Tum
Ohanapecosh, Tahola
Chinook, Wapato
Moclips, Osoyoos, Umtanum

Names that bounce right up from
Earth Herself
And leave bubbles dancing ’round my heart
Nakusp, Okanagan
Bella Bella, Dosewallips
Kitsap, Wallowa
Tatoosh, Walla Walla
Chelan, Hamma Hamma

When I die, O Spirit, let me go beyond
With such magic ringing in my being
Kleena Kleene, Kootenay
Tillamook, Skeena
Humptulips, Yakama,
Kokanee, Quallicum
My very bones must beat time
Against the rocks along rivers from which
These sounds have sprung
Again and again
And again.
-32-

___________________________

NOTHING MINE

These beautiful big visions
In my looking-forward
Seem to fall apart
Or hurt someone;
In some other world
Would it be easier?

I dreamed of you and me
In my sacred place
The sun stood still
Then you fell into the stream
Your foot caught on a rock
You screamed at a snake
As it swallowed its prey

In like manner wise old Hecate
Thinks she knows better
When she dumps my dreams
Into garbage pits
Leaving me watching
A fading paradise with
Throat-choking sobs.

BESTOW BLESSINGS

When our hearts bestow blessings
On anyone
no matter how ruthless
or contemptible their deeds

Then we know at least
How to find the Light
In which to bathe ourselves.

-33-

____________________________

MANDOLIN AND MOON

Out with mandolin
To moonlight and white gelding
Even more than the goats
He is stilled by music

My heart lets go into
The vast night’s warmth
His equine nostrils quiver
Taking it all in
His tan ears–velvet receptors–
but shadows in the night

He responds to sound as no other
My song becomes his song–
A ritual between us
marks the stillness
that is moved into place
By strings struck far among
The thousands of stars
Shimmering into their frequencies
The music, the stars harmonize with
A soft breeze singing through the grass.

THIS EXQUISITE RAGA

The Universe expands
and expands
As it creates itself
In this beginning note
Of the most glorious Alleluia
This exquisite raga

Powerful enough to
balloon galaxies
into infinity

To birth millions of stars
And set them spinning–

Such is one single breath
Of Allah.
-34-

___________________________

JACKET

I know a woman from South Africa–
Stephen Biko had been her friend
He left his jacket for her

Before they put him in prison
He said leave this country–
They were coming too close–
The jacket came with her

Once she said put it on;
There I was in Biko’s jacket
Miles away from Africa
Years away from Biko

Did it give me any of his bravery?
No, yet perhaps imparted
A nudge toward courage.

FEARLESS QUEEN

Big Cat
Slunk through silently in the night
Pressing pads into snow along the creek;
Now we notice after a couple days
Awe strikes us
Her world has touched ours unseen

Breathlessly I imagine her motions:
Lithe snow dancer
Fearless Queen of the north
Moonstruck and inspired
Noble queen commanding her ground
Even near our dwellings;

Then in the local paper:
Female cougar
Nine feet long
Shot and killed near summit…
Something sinks heavy within
As though I knew her, I cry.

-35-

____________________________

WE ARE ARE SENTENCED TO LIFE

Ghosts of your ancestors hover over miles
Of lava beds spreading their rough fingers
Along the wide river
Wolf, eagle, raven, bear roam freely here
Under mountains rising from thick foggy mists;
Oolichan, salmon, halibut hang drying, smoking
Giant wooden drums announce
The gathering time;

Gitwunsilkh: as a child
You patiently taught me to spell
Gitwunsilkh, no road to it:
Just a foot bridge then
You smiled and kidded brave in your sadness,
Missing your mother, family,
You tried to put it all together again;

Now inside, maybe you remember the breach
Or as you say, you were too drunk,
The city can eat a Northern girl
And spit her out like a thick salmon bone;
Do they let you visit your child?
Have your hopes broken in pieces?
Do you try to hang yourself?

In your dreams your ancestors bring messages,
I recall you laughing, walking in the sun,
On the wind I whisper to you:
Never lose the reverberation of that ancient drum,
Never lose the mystery of the wolf’s howl,
Look into your heart and find true freedom,
Then dwell there
Always.

-36-

____________________________

SLOW RED SUN

So expectant at seventeen we sit
On sand at the edge of the continent
As if all the unanswered challenges of a world
Are pushing at us from inland
As if the next crucial step will somehow
Set a design for our futures

We watch the slow red ball of sun drown
Into a chilly gray unending ocean

Along the shore I search for fishing ropes
And glass floats from Japan–
Some token drifted in from another shore

My findings are dark silver tongues of the sea
Lapping at twilight tinged by
The scent of driftwood smoke, taste of salt
Salt in our clothes, our hair

I hear the gulls’ taunting cries
On the edge of this vast Turtle Island
Yet my ears stay tuned to the hope
That a whisper of wind
Might reveal everything.

PROBLEM SOLVING

Yes, hello…is this the
Solar System Retail Warehouse?
Okay, good; we have a bit of a problem
Here at Orbit Earth One, Earth Two,
Earth Three and Earth Four;

Well, you see it’s been a long time,
And now we need at least one more Earth
Our resources are dwindling again
And our populations rather bursting…

Hmm,…is that how it is then?
So, you are telling me we have to wait
Five thousand Earth years just to request?
No more Earths now in the Warehouse?
-37-

___________________________

What can you advise us to do?
Wait!…Don’t quit the connection!
I am the official representative
Of Earths Incorporated!…

Hey…this is a real problem! Wait!

RESPONSE- ABILITY

Light cascades through us
Until we know not our bounds
Into us
Out from us
Into us
Out from us

Light that erases form
And creates Love
Within the use of power
Forming each breath

It is for us women
To form the peace
It is for women
To align with Earth vibrations

It is for women
To renew, to give, rebirth
To cast out grim design which
Seeks to hide the light,
The eternal re-configuring dance,
The sacred,
From life.

-38-

____________________________

STONEWALL

As Earth turned ’round
To my twenty-fifth birthday
I lay asleep over two thousand
Miles from New York City

Where my brothers rose up
To defy the police batons
To challenge hundreds of years
Of being defined as less than human
As not worthy to BE

They screamed, bellowed out
The anger, pain, humiliation
Of thousands over centuries

Now I thank them: they loosened
The hinges to this mighty door
We are breaking down.

TURTLE ISLAND PEOPLES

Year after year with tears
My spirit honours your wisdom
Your tender caring
For this Home, this Turtle Island

When I canoe on the lake
When I pick huckleberries
When I feel the drum beating
And hear the heart song
When the eagle flies overhead–
Yet there is no going back
Your ways always here to teach us
How to live on this vast island

Turtle Island waits patiently
There is no going back,
For the Way to break through,
For the sacred Mother Earth
Again to be our guidance

-39-

___________________________

I stand on your cliffs
Imagining the smoke rising
The drumming, the singing,
Scent of sweetgrass and sage,
Seeing the community of plants
Animals, water, Earth and
Two-leggeds come together
Once again in harmony;
This the only solace for my heart.

JEWEL OF THE ROCKIES

Under this vast clear sky
Hiking past the turquoise lake
We keep up the pace–sun now sets
My gear sinks heavy on my back
Each forced step brings me closer
To a spot to make camp, eat, rest

The scent of alpine spruce
Enfolds us in its heady aliveness
Sounds accompany: a creek, squirrels,
Wing-flap of birds

The mountain rises up high above
Pulling at my neck to turn,
As dusk approaches Moon
Reflects in a small diamond
From snow atop the peak

This is cloud-maker-mountain
Huge silent sentinel
Overpowering, magnificent
Crowned with such a diamond;
In this moment, just this moment
I am witness to
This jewel atop the Rockies.

-40-

__________________________

MUSIC AND WONDERING

So I acquire the Koln album
Carry it in the rain
A bit chilled, I play your music
Loving to lie back
Warm with many blankets
Thinking of the place we were
When you massaged my head;
Content to be there
Anytime;

Rain and tears: heaven’s and mine
Music and wondering
What your silences are saying;
Are we telling each other
Some things are too sad?

You asked why beautiful flowers
Make you cry;
I think I know why.

LAUGHTER OF BEINGS

Suddenly, unexpectedly comes the gift
Out the window two sibling black bear cubs
black as coal—playing, roughhousing

In their own world, their moment
I can almost hear them laughing
Wrapped around each other
In blissful wrestling abandon

I can almost hear them laughing
As bubbles of light form
To dance around my heart.

-41-

__________________________

LIKE MARSYAS

My skin untanned shall hang above the river
From a slender limb of the sacred pine
The death tree–
While the river yet sings my song

My soul untamed will secretly swim
Those river depths
Lost in obscure meanderings;
In death still feeling the muse-ik
My senses under rippling waters
Shall interpret eternity
Through the instant’s lost motion
And I shall render the mundane
Eternally sacred
For river journeyers of another age

Let them close their eyes
Hearing
Song of the unfathomed

My dead skin rattle in the wind

Leaves rustling.

-42-

___________________________

ONE SONG

I dreamed I died
And fell inside
The sound of spellbinding song
Which long ago
Issued from Earth

Inside each chord
I moved along
Speeding from this blue globe
Out from the sun
Past planets, to infinity

The song held me
Inside its mystery as if
A door opened
To all I ever sought,
To all ever invoked
In the pure desert chant
The nasal Bushman melody
Magical Indian raga
The drum song of Africa
The bold vowels haunting
North American plains

Earth song
Infinity’s song
Our song
One song.

-43-

__________________________

Note from author.

This collection of poems represents work done over a period of  over forty years, not in any particular order. Some of the poems reflect experiences of my life in NE Washington State, the mid-coast of British Columbia, and here in SW British Columbia. A few relate to my studies of natural catastrophes in ancient times, and the outfall from those, which I think is a big part of the reason we humans find ourselves at this juncture today, as we face many connected challenges for the future of life on this planet.

CH, 2015

-44-

__________________________

Ziraat: Kayak Journals

ZIRAAT: KAYAK JOURNALS

She with Her breath, Her bellowing winds

Her penetrating eye, Her thundering clouds

Mighty moving oceans

She who began this Life Miracle

Bringing forth all Gaia’s realms and wonders

And changing mysterious forces

Accomplishes all—before being

And shall long after: Bountiful Mother

Who holds all secrets, all manifestation

Pours them out from her breasts

Like the milk and honey of our desires,

Allows that we are let into this wonder.

2014: Here I have lived for over twenty years now, eighteen of them in this house above the river at Taghum, which is Chinook jargon for six, as this area begins six miles west of Nelson, BC. The Kootenay flows into the Columbia down-river from here at Castlegar, after having come down out of the Canadian Rockies, then into Montana, Idaho, and back up to BC into Kootenay Lake at Creston. Then it flows out of the West Arm of the lake at Nelson, east of here. She follows the valleys below heavily forested mountains often shrouded in fog and clouds, in winter covered in snow. In the fall these hills garb themselves in a stunning array of colours. I see the river directly below me from the house—everyday this wondrous sight. There is a dam to the west, down-river, so the water is like a lake here, covering what the indigenous peoples would have known as the river shores.

This area was the eastern part of territory inhabited by the Sinixt peoples and the western edge of that inhabited by the Ktunaxa (Kootenay). They canoed the rivers and lakes extensively, and traded with different groups. The Sinixt lived in pit houses, fished, hunted, gathered plant foods, roots and berries, and like the Ktunaxa have been in this region for at least 12,000 years.  The language of the Ktunaxa peoples may be related to more eastern groups, or it may have  affinity with the Nahuatl language of Central America. One idea is that no related language has been found. The Sinixt spoke an Interior Salish language, and were known as peaceful peoples who often settled disputes between other bands. Sadly, most of the traditional village sites of the Sinixt were flooded when the dam was put in below Arrow Lakes; and the Canadian government declared the group “extinct” even though those who live in WA State are part of the Colville Conferderated Tribes, with all the benefits that entails: Indain status, land, income and others.

Before all the Columbia and Kootenay dams one could travel by land and boat all the way from Creston to Astoria, Oregon. In the Columbia Gorge there was a stretch where one had to go by boat, and Celilo Falls was the hardest place for boats. The dams ruined vast rich farming valley and runs for thousands of salmon. At Kettle Falls WA, just past where the Kettle River flows into the Columbia, the Native peoples caught 1600 salmon a day during the runs in July. Bands came from a radius of 500 miles to camp there and the salmon were distributed. The women distributed them, as they were trusted to do it fairly. Then Coulee Dam was built and a way of life crushed. I have spent about 42 of my 70 years living in the Columbia River watershed. The Columbia Basin includes the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, and the Clark Fork, Snake, and Pend Oreille. These regions are now inhabited by about seven million people. In my early childhood we lived in Yakima WA, my Dad’s hometown. Then I lived in Portland OR, as a college student. For 20 years my home was in the area around Colville, in NE WA State, and now these twenty years here. As a girl in Yakima, when we would go to the lower valley, where the reservation was, I was very impressed with the sight of the tipis set up for a gathering. This instilled in me a longing that lasted for many decades, to have lived several hundred years ago on this Turtle Island and known the ways of the indigenous peoples.

south bank, from kayak
south bank, from kayak

In the late 1800’s mining brought people to this part of BC. Then there was logging, some farming. Immigrants included the Doukhobors, a Christian pacifist group who came in the early 1900’s to escape persecution in Russia, aided in this by some Quakers and by Leo Tolstoy. They created nearly 80 communal villages in the region. In the 1970’s the greater area here experienced and influx of young men and women coming to Canada from the US due to that country’s involvement in Viet Nam and the draft. Some of these folks, along with Canadians, were part of the back-to-the land movement, as was I south of here in Washington. In the middle of the last century a Quaker community sprang up on the east shore of Kootenay Lake. In 1963 Swami Sivananda Radha established the Yasodhara Ashram also on that  shore. The group she started there has a lineage of women leaders. The inspiring and beautiful temple there recently burned down, and I am sure they will be able to raise enough money to replace it.

Nelson grew to become a university town but in the 1980’s the slump in logging brought a slowing of the economy. People left. Then tourism, which included hiking, climbing, skiing, boating, camping, sight-seeing, came in vogue. The town emphasized its history, and heritage buildings were preserved and highlighted. The town and the area became one that attracted artists, writers, theatre people, musicians, and creative folks who began their own businesses. It is a place where quite a few social and ecological activists have been welcome. There is a vibrant cultural scene and a co-op food store which does well. We also have in the area, I would venture to guess, the most dance leaders of the Dances of Universal Peace per capita of anywhere. The area is called the West Kootenays, with the East Kootenays to the east, below the mountains that lead into the Rockies; to the west is the Boundary and Kettle river district. In the larger area there are quite a few natural hot springs, as well as great places for a great variety of outdoor activities.

little bit of willow
little bit of willow

As Nelson has been known as a place where activists and rebels thrive, it has also acquired a strong LGBTQ community. Same-gendered couples are comfortable showing affection in public. As the AIDS epidemic grew, some who had the diagnosis moved to this area to be around accepting folks. Then more recently the area has a good share of transgendered people. Many in the LGBTQ community are great contributors to the arts and to ecological and social justice causes here.

This region is within the the only inland rainforest in the world, with a rich ecology. Among those who live in my neighborhood are deer, elk, black bear, raccoon, skunk, squirrel, coyote, beaver, otter, marmot, wild turkey, grouse, pileated woodpecker, bats, stellar’s jay, flicker, bald eagle, osprey, duck, raven, Great Blue Heron, sparrow, owls, hummingbirds, many songbirds, garter snakes, salamander, turtles, snails, slugs, voles, mice and loads of insects, including crickets and ticks. Often I hear the voices of songbirds, ravens and geese, and at night I love to hear crickets and the howls of coyotes, especially the pups. Canada geese inhabit the river shores, and trumpeter swans and loons visit in spring. We have wild strawberries, saskatoon berries, thimble berries, hawthorn and elderberry bushes, chokecherry, huckleberry, Oregon grape, mullein, burdock, chicory, red clover, trillium, honeysuckle, yarrow, tiger lily, grasses, fir, pine, birch, larch, alder, cedar, and cottonwood.

There are dogwood here, and this is a protected species; its flower is the official flower of BC. One recent summer after being at the river I met a fellow sitting not far from the tracks. I greeted him and learned he had walked all the way from Nelson. As a  bow-maker, he liked to work with yew, so had taken a branch from a tree there. From ancient times in Britain bows and dagger handles were made from yew, and all over Europe the yew was known as the death tree; it was sacred to Hecate in Greece and Italy.  On my place there were three willow trees; one fell to Earth, and one is so big and so high that it is an ecosystem of its own. In ancient times the willow was sacred to the moon, to Hecate, to poets, and in wiccan traditions.

buck2-14DSCF0685
young buck napping below my house

In the area there are rainbow trout, bull trout, kokanee, walleye, sturgeon and cutthroat trout. Spring and early summer it is lush and green here. By late summer things are pretty dried out, and in the fall we get a rich palette of colours. Nelson has some of the cleanest air in the world; it is an area of thick forests, big lakes and many mountains. However, things are changing here as everywhere else; people are coming together to try to increase the declining stock of Gerard trout and Kokanee in Kootenay Lake, where people come from far and wide to fish. One problem is with the rock snot algae (yes, that’s the actual popular name, in other terms: didymosphenia geminata) which affects O2 levels in the fish habitat. This algae has proliferated due to warmer temperatures. Potentially it can grow to cover 75% of the bottom of a body of water. The white sturgeon in the area is an endangered species; this fish can grow to be six meters long and live 80 to 100 years. Bat species in BC are declining due to disease, and there are local bat counts. As bats feed on mice, there is a noticeable increase in mice populations. There are grizzly bear, but not right where I live; two former co-workers who live on the other side of the river, just outside Nelson get visited by them once in awhile. Each of them had animals killed by grizzlies, and one of them, on her bike, met a mother grizzly and cubs on the road. 

hummingbird, river background
hummingbird, river background

Some years ago the area was infested with the pine beetle and it was eerie to see patches of forest where the pines turned a deep rust colour and then fell to the ground. This was due to a succession of warmer winters, as most of the beetles would be killed off in colder weather. Eventually the beetles ate themselves out of a habitat and moved on. In the East Kootenays larger areas were affected. Now one does not see very many of the dead trees.

Another thing of note that has been at issue for many years now in the East Kootenays is that the BC Government gave permission for a business to build a ski and summer mountain resort in one of the most beautiful and pristine areas, which happens to be important grizzly habitat. This of course has been opposed by those of us whose connection with Nature and Her wonders makes it difficult for us to comprehend such intentions. The solution to this conflict is yet to come; the would-be developer is not moving fast, and the opposing parties have law-suits in the works and other ways of gathering recognition and support. What is really amazing is that the BC Govt. gave the site municipality status and it even has a mayor: no residents, and the “city” gets money annually from the govt. One of the legal cases challenges this.

I have had my kayak for six years and I keep it down by the river in a falling-down boathouse built years ago by a fellow who lived nearby. A couple neighbors and I keep several kayaks and two canoes in there. The swallows who make nests there in summer leave their droppings on the ground and the boats.  These barn swallow populations have been decreasing in BC, and right here is one of the places we are watching and trying to help them flourish. At 70 I’m not so strong as in younger days, and because the kayak is not a sea kayak, the current is too strong from the spring runoff to go out until early July. Then I go paddling whenever the weather and current look good and I have time.

river7-14DSCF0740
west, on north bank

July 10, 2014. I have kayaked daily for the last four days. Today there were shimmering sparklies on the water. I went for a dip in the water down between the two shallow islands to the east. Saw a heron and a small eagle, ducks, geese, shore birds all singing… Paradise! When the wind is against me it can be a struggle paddling, but no matter. It is as if I have to be here, with nothing but the water under me, the sky above, the water and bird sounds, warm sun on my skin. I love the sensation of moving, rocking on the buoyant water by paddle power and current or wind.

July 31. It has been really hot, and I have been in the kayak most days. Today and a couple days ago I paddled on the south side, where the rocks and trees come right up to the water and the shade is heavy. No roads, no cars, and a long stretch with no houses. The eagles nest in that area, before river farm. Today two eagles were making a lot of noise there, and I think I heard their young ones too. So great! Today when I got back near the shed the Great Blue Heron was there, and then flew on. The osprey are also around. When I walk down to the river, once I cross the railroad tracks and start going to the boat shed I pass the  dry woven branches of an old sweat lodge built there one year by a Metis woman I know. Nice to be reminded of her as I pass by it. The heat rocks are still there. The woman who built it took me years ago to a place where she learned from her grandfather to find good rocks for the steam in the lodge. I felt quite honoured to have been on that excursion. There are abundant saskatoon berries down by the boat shed so I take my fill before I go out on the water and when I return.

DSCF0485
merging with elements

Once in awhile I run into a garter snake on the way down the trail, and sometimes I’ll see a snake in the water as I put the kayak in. The first summer here I came across a black bear munching on thimbleberries as I went down the hill to swim at the river. She looked at me, and I looked at her, and then I went on. There have been years I’ve taken bear spray with me when I go on the trail. A couple of years there were mamma and cub bears hanging out by the railway. One time as I was coming back from the water a mamma and two baby cubs were one the track up ahead. I don’t think they saw me. I just hesitated and then walked on the tracks.

Aug. 5. I have really been enjoying blazing the trail down parallel to the tracks so I hardly have to walk on the track at all when going to and from the kayak shed. It has been a lot of work, and I sweated at times. Mostly it was hacking down thimble berry bushes, which get to about my height or higher. But also small trees and branches, ferns, Oregon grape, a few sticky roses. The trail down from my yard I clear out in the spring; it is very steep so I use a hiking pole to get down, and near the steep part at top there is a wire I also hang onto. I have slipped and fallen couple times, but never hurt myself. Where the new trail comes out near the tracks there are little alder trees and big rocks, and with the trail cleared it is quite pretty in the sun. My body and mind feel very good after having worked on the trail. It is surprising what a sense of accomplishment it gave me. I know it will be used a lot by the bears, but that is OK.

This afternoon was crazy kayaking—as I hiked down I first heard the fire bomber planes. I had no idea that the four of them would be coming here to pick up water for hours, right where I kayak. So I went out not knowing that the noise would be way too much. What a deal! They were taking the water to a dangerous fire at Slocan Park, not that far from here in a straight line. It was scary, as they kept coming down on the water and I would seem to be right in their path, but somehow we did not collide. The noise really scared a duck, which flew away. At one point I saw a heron which was right in the path of one of the planes, and it had to veer quickly off to be out of the way. I really could not stand the noise.

going west, south bank
going west, south bank

Aug. 10. I am still kayaking most days—just beautiful. Today was hot and I dipped in the water three times. I don’t really swim, but get all my body in the water and do a few strokes. This time of year the water is cool yet warm enough for a comfortable swim. As I returned and drew near the shore today I was thinking about people close to me who have died. I wished I could have gone to my Aunt Mae’s memorial a few years ago. She was an amazing person—my late mother’s eldest sister—mountain climber, school teacher, peace-worker, community-minded woman who raised four children on her own after her husband died. But the memorial was in southern California in the winter—too hard to get to from here. Then as I pulled in my neighbor L.  was lying on the grass in the sun. I asked her about her sister, whom I’d known in a drumming group I was in thirteen years ago. And she told me her sister had been dead ten years! I was very sad to hear that; she and I had had brief but nice contacts and I had never heard about her death. Then as I pulled on my backpack and started back home with my hiking stick it seemed as if I was walking with many precious souls with me who have gone beyond—more and more often they are with me. Always my mother and father and my mom’s mother. Tears often come to my eyes—not just for missing for them, but also for Earth, this delicate habitat I see dying to its own nature before my eyes.

Mentioning my aunt Mae brings up my love of hiking in the mountains. Mae and my mother’s elder brother Rex climbed in the Cascades in the US back in the 1930’s. Rex climbed with others who were active in the Seattle Mountaineers. My own favorite place to be, along with Slocan Lake, is up in the alpine. In the days when I could heft an overnight pack I was fortunate to visit many wonderful hikes in the Canadian Rockies, the Olympics in WA, and here our Selkirk Mountains, and also to do day hikes. There is something thrilling to me to be high up, to smell the glacial snow, hear the rushing cascades, and to hike as I breathe in the scent of alpine spruce; this is where I feel truly at home. I am sure Mae and Rex must have had similar experiences. Two of my cousins, Mae’s sons, are climbers; one lives in the Wyoming Rockies.

My uncle Rex was in one of the most devastating avalanches on Mt. Baker when  climbing there in 1939. He and his first wife were on the annual climb arranged by the college at Bellingham. It was July 22nd, and Rex had already attained the summit that day. There were 25 students and faculty on the trip. As they came down at Deming Glacier a huge avalanche rushed down on all of them. They were shouting at each other giving instructions of what to do. The forest ranger’s report written afterward mentioned survivors said they saw people under, then above the snow “as though they were pieces of driftwood being carried over rapids.” Rex and his wife were among those who were not buried. He and one other female climber made a very fast dash down the mountain for about ten miles, to inform the ranger. A search party was formed and they headed back to a cabin which fortunately had some supplies, or they would have had to take up heavier loads. They found one woman alive, who had been clinging to a ledge by her fingers. Two of the dead were found. The search went on some days even though it was quite dangerous at the location. There had been 19 survivors. I think I heard about enough avalanche deaths in my younger days to influence me to be a hiker, not really a climber.

Aug. 11. The day of birds and animals. In numerology this day has the number 9, very special to me, and also the number of the Great Mother in Celtic traditions. I set out paddling across the river and west, toward river farm. I noticed a beaver out swimming not too far from me, and watched it as it went under, and then came back up in a different place. It flapped its tail a couple times, and eventually swam to its lodge, I suppose. On that side there are two big beaver lodges, maybe one is inhabited now. Then further along I paddled right up near a heron waiting on a cliff looking for a fish to catch. I assumed it would fly away as I approached, but it could have cared less about me. So I got my camera out and got in position to take several pictures. The heron looked just like a whitened piece of wood jutting up from the ground.

heron
heron

When I was paddling back, not far past where the heron had been there was a young buck which had come down to drink in the river. Again I was surprised as he was there long enough for me to get a picture; then he bounded up the hill into the trees. It was a great sight—the buck against the green of trees, the river and rocks in the front. When I took the kayak in and was sitting drying my feet off, there was a little swallow hopping around. I thought to myself, that must be the one which L. told me the bigger swallows were kicking out of the nest. It must have learned to fly, as then it was no longer there. Another way this day was very special was that two zikr tunes came to me—one before kayaking, and one after. That is certainly a first.

looking at me
looking at me

Aug. 18th. This day I had the pleasure of paddling a sea kayak on the West Arm of Kootenay Lake. A woman in our dance circle won a day of free kayaking for two people, so we started out fairly early by the bridge in Nelson, with our water bottles, sun hats, and some food. It was sunny and a bit windy. We stopped to eat and swim and enjoy the sun at a place I didn’t know existed—a Provincial Park accessible only by boat. It was very pleasant there. The beach was sandy; no one else was around. We had great swims. It was beautiful with the big rocks, and view up the lake to the NE. On the way back we were paddling against the wind but we made it just in time to turn the boats back to the shop people.

Sept. 3. Two days ago was the last day of our local dance camp: lovely. with my tent next to Janet and Allaudin Sandy, and having Diana Mariam and Tom Halim at camp. Nice dancing to Tom’s dances, especally the Gung Holy Zikr. I led my Allah Subuhun dance. This dance has a bit to do with being in the kayak in rough weather, and also with driving in a big rain or snowstorm, or at night with rain or snow when I can barely see. At those times I chant AL-LAH….AL-LAH….AL-LAH….AL-LAH, on 3 and 1 for each Allah. Some meanings I give of Allah are “nothing and everything; the compassionate; that which is greater than infinity and which we are not able to comprehend; the Light of all; the ONE.”

Sept. 7. Sunday. On Thurs. I went to my sacred place to camp at Slocan Lake. I am so glad I did. I have been going there for seventeen years now. I used to go twice in a summer, now just once. I have missed only two years. As I’d need another person and a lot of preparation, I didn’t take the kayak. So I find at my age now it is a bit harder walking everywhere on the beach rocks. But my times at my morning beach were just perfect. There were usually no people around, so I could take a “bath” and skinny-dip. And I was able to ford the water where the creek comes out, using two poles and my beach sandals. That felt very good. There are very huge smooth rocks there around and in the creek mouth. The water in this lake is clear and clean enough to drink. At the shallow beaches one can see the shadow of ripples with sun, playing on the sand and pebbles; I find it mesmerizing.

along the lake
along the lake

During WWII when the Canadian government interned over 22,000 Japanese Canadians in camps, many were brought to communities on this lake. David Suzuki lived in one of those oppressive camps as a boy. It seems a bit ironic that those of Japanese heritage were brought then to this place which is, actually, a paradise. And Suzuki was able to appreciate that, at least. Now there is the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver, which tells the story of these people, and is a lovely peaceful place to commemorate them.

I played mandolin by my campfire one night. This is my place of pilgrimage, and I feel so blessed to be able to go to this beauteous lake in the mountains, to hear the loon, and this time there was a great horned owl—to hear the rumbling creek, smell the woods, be by the lapping water. I used to go before dance camp and at my morning beach in the sand, I’d dance the dances I’d offer at camp. This time I danced dances for our regular sessions. I dance on the warm sand, barefoot in the sun, with the slim shadows of aspen, with the sparkling on the water and stretches of blue mountains in every direction, the constant music of the creek.

morning beach
morning beach

I sometimes think of my parents and the cabin they built on Hood Canal in WA, as that place was for them the way Slocan Lake is for me. It was even about the same distance of a drive from their Seattle home. They were able to spend most of six months a year there after Dad retired. Mom died one year and four months ago, and I miss her greatly. Her favorite thing was walking on the beach at the Canal with the salt water, gulls, big cedar and fir trees, with the snow-covered Olympic mountains in view. And she loved to swim in the water there. Once a seal came up to her and she was swimming alongside it a bit. I later had a dream that a seal was holding me swimming in the water. I made a drawing from that. My parents had a crab pot and Dad would go out in his dinghy and get the crabs. They could pick up oysters right off the beach and dig clams with their hands. They made an outdoor fireplace where they cooked oysters on the half-shell. On clear nights Dad would sleep outside there, and so did I when I visited. It was lovely before dawn when I’d wake up as the stars would fade and the eastern sky would be a dark red-orange. Then the birds would start their chorus and the mountains would be shadows against the western sky. I know all these were my parents’ sacred things as are the lake and river and mountains here, for me.

One sad note about Hood Canal is that the Trident submarine base was built there, in this most beautiful and serene part of western Washington. On one of my mother’s beach walks she found a spent torpedo! The Navy actually gave her $50 for returning it. And my parents found two paddles on the beach, of a gray military colour. I later had these paddles and stripped the paint off them and then painted salmon motifs based on Native NW Coast art. They were the first paddles my former partner and I used with the cedar strip and fiberglass canoe we built. So I was happy with this, as I figured I had de-militarized the paddles.

Today as I was ready to get out of bed the ravens were on the roof again and making all kinds of noise! This time of year they do that to get a good take-off place for getting the elderberries below the house. I cannot reach the berries as they are on the steep hill. A few years back I took my backpack and kayaked across the river to a place where there are a lot of elderberry trees I can get to. I picked a couple bags of the berries, went back to the other shore and then carried the berries on my back to the house. I then made elderberry tincture with them—something I was inspired to do by my sufi guide, Noor-un-Nisa Joan Walsh. I still have quite a bit of the tincture left.

As I went down the path to kayak a big rescue helicopter came by and the noise was madness to my poor ears. The sun was out, a lovely day. And then out on the water another big noise, like back-up beep of a big truck, but it was the large yellow rescue boat coming toward me in. A fellow yelled “hello,” and told me they were searching for a missing man. He said if you see anything don’t approach, just notify the police. So I assured him I’d do that. A weird thing to happen out there in the peaceful waters. Later I heard that a man camping east of Nelson had gone missing.

Another year when I was out in the kayak I heard sirens which seemed to stop not far to the west on the highway which parallels the river. Sadly, that had been a car accident in which a young woman was killed. So I have had this strange juxtaposition of the beauty and majesty of my river time, mixed in with emergencies, death, sirens.

Sept. 15. Many of the birch trees on my place and others here have been killed off by a beetle infestation. The trees need a lot of water, and the beetles gained in numbers after a couple very hot dry summers. Eventually the tops of the birches fall off and slowly, piece by piece, the rest of the tree. When I walk on the trail I see the stark white remains, like pillars ready to fall. At the bottom of the hill there are three birch trunks standing upright, and on one there are huge shelf fungi growing. This is near a place where for years I have scented what seems to me like honey. Having raised honeybees in my younger days, I like to imagine there are hidden bees making honey at this place, yet a bear would have found that years ago. I wonder what makes that scent. This place is also where I fantasize there was a Native pit house, as there always has been a big depression in the ground right there, and it would have been up away from the river in those days. The Natives pit houses here worked very well, with natural heat and protection in winter, and cooling in summer.

The missing man they had been searching for last week was found dead near where he had camped.

Today L. and I skinny-dipped in the water by the shed. When there are not boats about, or someone right across the river, this is a very good place to skinny-dip, as it cannot be seen from neighbors’ places, nor from across the river. When I lie in the sun after getting in the water I feel just wonderful—really like I did as a girl doing this. Everything falls away, I am held by Mother Earth, solid beneath me, stroked by the sun; I hear the water lapping on the sand and rocks, and feel my skin drying. My body seems pleasantly heavy in a letting-go kind of way. Lying face-down with the sensation of sinking into Earth, I breathe out and it is as if Gaia takes in any stress or bother from my mind and body and each breath leaves me more and more relaxed and free.

Sept. 16. We are still having beautiful weather. I kayaked again. There were hundreds of little silver fish leaping to the surface of the water. I got in the water and lay in the sun amid the grass and rose thorns and knapweed, but it is wonderful. Where the boat shed is, the view out to the SW is quite lovely. This is just before the river curves a bit, and this curve one can see on a map. Just past the shed is where a rushing creek comes out. This area was where the Native people camped and set up their fish nets. Then, before the dams, the river was about a third as wide as it is now when it is low. I have been swimming and enjoying that place since I first moved to this house. It is very special to know the First Peoples enjoyed this same place. For some years now I am the only one who visits it.

Sept. 20. Today I paddled east and across the river. In this direction there are many rock formations, and in the trees a place where I often hear what sounds like frogs. On a rock that sticks up out of the water a merganser was standing and beautifully reflected in the water, sort of bobbing up and down. Too cold to swim now.

merganser
merganser

Sept. 21. Paddled today and a great heron flew in front of me.

Sept. 22. Today I paddled west and a big bald eagle was roaming on the shore at the old Native campsite. Later when I played a guitar piece of mine (with a bird theme) a small bird outside kept chirping as if in a duet with my playing. I had the feeling it would stop when the song ended, and it did.

Sept. 29. After going out paddling I was coming up the trail to the house and there was a big shiny black raven which had been injured. He was limping but could not fly. His one eye looked right at me, and I stopped walking. I just looked at him and tried to make comforting noises as he slowly went off the trail. I sent him some compassion and healing. But I wished I could have put him in a safe place and fed him with the hope he would heal. Right here where I live there have been deer killed on the highway. One time it was winter and beside the dead deer was the imprint of a raven’s wing in the snow, beneath a blue sky. Some years ago a female elk was hit by my house and she limped her way down to the river and was dying there. I called the conservation officer and he came out to kill her mercifully.

Oct. 3. Today when I started down the trail a bunch of ravens were making a whole lot of noise. I don’t know if ravens eat their own dead, and wanted them not to be devouring the one I saw. Out on the water was a very wonderful experience today. Big fish were jumping along with little ones. I saw a bald eagle. After I got home I heard a loon. It is as if in summer here is a world, and now early fall is a world, and I am largely alone and very much at peace with these worlds made by the seasons in turn. The beauty of the colours, the slight breeze over the river, the last tomatoes on the vine, some green. I love the smell of the tomato plants. I love the taste of green tomatoes and am freezing them.

9.14DSCF0802
late summer

I feel so blessed to have spent these past eighteen years living here, surrounded by Mother Nature’s astounding beauty, the healing peace. And this gratitude now exists side by side with the gnawing at my stomach, that aching so deep for the human wrecking ball chipping away at the ecosystems, the balances, the physical and biological processes humans have disturbed. ..and what that has left us and all Earth, all life, to lose. This grief became overwhelming to me, and I looked to my sufi path and guidance which supports me to exist in this present world. As a friend Kalama, in WA says, if this is the end of all we are, then let us at least live through it as “real humans.” Our species now has just two years in which to start making drastic changes which may turn around some of the destructive forces put into place. In a way, my many years of hungering to live in the distant past on this turtle Island forms a part of my vision for what can happen now: the creation of a different world. It is amazing how many young people today are putting so much effort into making the needed changes, and with eagerness. When I was growing up in the mid-1900s, much of North America was an unspoiled paradise. I cannot imagine what it would be to be  young in these times, with much of this disappearing before our eyes.

Oct. 5. This is two days before the full moon. At sunset the sky was all aglow with an unearthly golden and orange-red glow illuminating everything including the brilliant fall colours. It was truly amazing. I gazed from the house looking down on the river and the low mountains that come down to it—trees, water, and sky.

Oct. 16. I was looking out from the house on the reflection of the autumn colours in the river and thought how I am hoping for one more paddle before the cold weather. The fall has been just wonderful, but rather warmer than usual. Still no frost here, which is very unusual.

autumn
autumn

Oct. 21. Wrapping up. Finally today that chance for paddling came. Being busy with little tasks in the morning, I missed the sunny time of day. I took my mountain backpack down with me to bring things back up. The trail was slippery after rain last night. Clouds from NE Washington were pushing up and robbing us of much of the sun. The water was pretty calm when I went out, with just a bit of wind from the SW. I took my rain jacket along; I was surprised at how warm the water felt on my feet when I pushed out. I went west at first in the sun, and then in sun with a bit of misty rain starting. Then less sun. After more rain and more wind and bigger waves, I decided to put the rain jacket on over the life jacket: not an easy task—I got one arm in and then the waves would start whipping the boat toward the rocks so I’d paddle away, then try again and finally I got the jacket on. The ride was pleasant, with the calm that autumn brings, and the array of colours—a bright yellow-green, orange, yellow orange, yellow, red, orange red. All of it demanding my attention and awe. It is a strange feeling to know that in this several mile stretch of the river I am the human who has been out on the river the most this year, probably last year too. It lends a special feeling of belonging and being at one with the elements, the ancestors who lived here for thousands of years, the rocks, the mountains.

When I got back to the shed I fastened my funky cover over the cockpit and put the life jacket and beach towel in my pack. I looked out at the shimmering sheet of waves brightening the river surface. As I walked toward the railroad tracks a great many rust-orange ferns were standing as high as my shoulders, my eyes. I offered appreciation to the old dry branches of the sweat lodge. When I’d gotten part way up the hill to my place the sun came out and the golden leaves glowed.

Now again as I write this the sun is bursting out and showing off the blazing colours. One cannot begin to describe them, and I certainly shall not try.

Spiritual Ecology: Challenges of Today

ZIRAAT AND GLOBAL CHALLENGES

There are no contests in the Art of Peace. A true warrior is invincible because he or she contests with nothing. Defeat means to defeat the mind of contention that we harbor within.”

–Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido

In 1981 we learned from the Australian Elizabeth Tuchman Matthews that the world as we knew it would be totally lost by about the year 2050 if we did not immediately begin efforts to decrease drastically our output of toxins into the environment and other practices that were destroying the balanced eco-systems maintained by Nature for thousands of years. In 2013 David Suzuki stated that environmentalism had failed; I interpreted that to mean that we the people who create the institutions of the world, had failed to implement policies that would work toward the changes such as Tuchman Matthews was suggesting.

We have been called environmentalists, tree huggers, radicals, nature lovers, and probably a lot of other things. Earth muffins is one I heard recently; I like that, as it reminds me of mushrooms, which fascinate me. I find these labels positive. “Radical” means to be rooted, like a tree, incidentally. Hugging is great, Nature is worthy of our love. Even civil disobedience has somehow acquired a negative connotation, though without it we should not have gained certain rights..

It has been shown that Gaia is a living breathing entity (for those who needed to know), which exchanges oxygen and carbon dioxide, maintains climate systems, brings life into being and re-uses matter in different forms. She builds mountains, she destroys, she changes. Obviously we would not exist but for Her. In our times it has become more and more apparent that many of our systems cannot be separated out: if we are to preserve Earth for some kind of future for life as we’ve known it, we need to look at the burning of oil and gas along with war, rampant capitalism, materialism, pesticides, fertilizers, and mining and many industries—together, and look at their outcomes.

That some governments have been strung along by multi-nationals is harsh enough, but that so many are still called “democratic” is a problem. Now in 2014 we learn (from OXFAM) that the 85 wealthiest people in the world hold a monetary value equal to that held by the poorest 3.5 billion people, or one half the population of the world. At the same time, in twenty countries taxes to the rich have failed to rise. This is where rampant capitalism has taken us. Looking at this from the viewpoint of Ziraat, I think, shows extreme violation of the rights of persons, of cultures, and of all living beings and many aspects of Earth Herself.

It must be seen as one whole now: rape of the planet, terribly unequal distri-

bution of wealth, hegemony of corporations, big agriculture, nuclear power, gas fracking, disregard for rights of indigenous peoples, child soldiers, war, famine, starvation, displacement of peoples, genocide, tar sands, and more. In the US there are roughly 4000 nuclear bombs sitting, getting old, waiting to be sent off to explode, yet the biggest danger is they can be set off where they are. We still have nuclear power plants around the world, and some built on fault lines, even after the disasters of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. We seem determined to ravage the Mother Earth which has sustained us for all of our long aeons here…a kind of species induced Matricide/suicide.

A young Canadian, Rob Stewart, has produced an excellent film, Revolution, which he hopes can start changing the world. In it he points out that if current fishing and polluting practices continue, all life in the oceans will end around 2048. CO2 is killing the seas. Our human species has produced dead zones in the oceans; the BP spill a few years back has caused a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico as big as the state of Connecticut. In such actions we kill Life; we kill the sustenance of Life, and lose touch with our own be-ing and aliveness. In 1958 Charles Keeling measured the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere and it stood at 315 parts per million. In 2013 it had risen to 400 ppm. One estimate puts the current rate of species extinction at 3 per hour, or 504 per week, about 6,550 in three months. By the end of this century about one half of all species may be gone, most or all humans with them.

In his book Mankind in Amnesia, the 20th Century psychiatrist and inter-disciplinarian Immanuel Velikovsky writes of our unconscious urge to destruction as a species. He links this to deep unconscious memories of cataclysmic Earth events in the past which not only brought terror and destruction through celestial battles, fire, flood, plagues and starvation, but more than once the near decimation of human and other life. Velikovsky shows how we keep re-creating versions of these traumatic events, and how in order to change these patterns we must realize these causes of our fears and begin to act with conscious purpose. Otherwise, he thought, we are doomed to destroy ourselves.

Ziraat can have relation to all aspects of life and to all our activity in the world, whether it be recycling, fish farming, gas and oil extraction, politics, peace-building, poverty, science, the hiding of truth. It relates to equality, Wall Street—all of all. One can use the term “Eco Feminism,” though to me “Feminism” implies the “eco-.” To me Feminism means in part, the honoring of our belonging to Nature, and the sacred duty to Life, which includes the rights of all peoples, and also all life on our planet. Here I shall use the term Ziraat instead, and if Ziraat be in part a bridge, it can be the bridge between us and the Nature out of which we came, and to whom we owe our lives to preserve.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”–Arundhati Roy

Most all of our ancestors had, as their birthright, enough oxygen, the had pure water, clean air, workable soil without poisonous additives. They did not grapple with overpopulation. The food they ate was without added chemicals: it was all organic. Why do we not have these things as our birthright? Simply because industry, huge corporations, multi-nationals have usurped these rights. This is true not only in capitalist economies. Vandana Shiva, in India is one great champion of our right to free, clean water, to land, and to grow plants from our own seeds—not GMO or corporate-produced seed. Not bottled or costly or contaminated water. There are many organizations working to end the terrible tyranny of corporate powers which have a hold on food production, oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, and many others. Boycotting these giants in some cases can be problematic, especially by people who do not have financial resources to buy elsewhere.

Vandana Shiva points out that the profit-motive of industrial approaches to agriculture is actually contributing to malnutrition, the depletion of viable soil, to increases in disease, lack of access to nutrition, and to the lack of work affecting millions of women and peasants around the world. She shows that agriculture traditionally has been mostly in the hands of women (who of course had their own seeds) who over the centuries have become expert farmers and have not depleted the soil—producing higher yields and more nutritious food than Big Agriculture is able to do. And she shows how small farming is able to feed all people, not just those with money. Food, nutritious organic food, is a natural right.

In much of our industrialized world in the last eighty years or so the medical establishment has also usurped what traditionally had been a huge territory of the work of women. It has always been women’s practice to learn healing techniques, to learn about herbs and remedies, and to keep supplied with the tools of the trade to use with their families, friends, and neighbors. Now much of the medical community takes a superior attitude to practices shown through the centuries to have great benefit. And in many countries where “healthcare” is provided, it does not cover most traditional methods, even though this would be less costly.

In the US 46.5 million people are living in poverty. The 400 wealthiest people in the US have more money than the combined wealth of the 150 million poorest. The top 100 CEO’s of 2013 made between $18,755,923 and $96,160,695. In 2010 the US spent $682 billion on the military and arms; this is more than that spent by all other countries combined. This is where capitalism and the idea of military “security” and military economics has led us. And the rift between rich and poor keeps widening. As the population bursts, it would now take four planet Earths to sustain all peoples at the level of those in Europe, Japan, North America and like societies! Helena Norberg-Hodge, the founder of the International Society for Ecology and Culture, has written on how globalization actually has fostered population growth.

There are many co-operatives and campaigns for buying locally. There are car co-ops, housing co-ops, credit unions. Some cities offer bicycles for use of residents. There are groups educating about the pollution and violations of human rights by mining companies; big banks invest in these companies. It is possible, as people become more aware, that larger boycotting efforts will be made. And an alternative would be to adopt a legal charter of rights for Gaia as well as life on this planet—then many businesses would be found in violation of basic human (plant, animal, sea, air) rights. Highly self-sustaining eco-villages can offer people healthy alternatives to the chaotic eenvironments many experience now.

In the past 238 years in the U.S. For the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence has been forgotten, it seems. On July 4th, 1776, the United States Congress adopted this Declaration, written by Thomas Jefferson. From paragraph 2:

We hold that…governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes;…But, when a long train of abuses and ursurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them [people] under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

These words can be seen to defend democracy, and although Jefferson did not forsee the hegemony of the military industrial complex, the stock market, and the alliance between corporations and elected government officials, we can see that his intent was to protect a society from such eventualities. In some nations with large populations, a great percentage of people do not bother to vote; to make the needed changes one change will probably have to be to recruit masses of voters.

It is likely that with the “free” trade agreements made by many industrialized countries, democracy really can no longer have play. For instance, certain environmental strictures put in place by a nation could find that country in a position to be sued by a trade partner, depending on the prior agreement. In a democracy we have the right to elect a socialist government over a capitalistic one, but trade agreements then would have to be torn up, no doubt with a price in the millions of dollars. In a democratic locality, province or country people would have the freedom to ban genetically modified foods—it will be interesting to see how we do that in North America.

Any practices and policies and means that contribute to lowering oxygen levels, increasing carcinogens, depleting forests, acidifying oceans and melting glaciers at an astounding rate, need to be defined as contributing to the insured loss of life on planet Earth, including the human species. As the oceans lose salt, they will be able to store less Co2. Plankton is being depleted, which also takes up CO2. Phytoplankton is the foundation of all life in the ocean. And with increasing acidification no sea life will be able to build skeletons. Shells cannot grow, as CO2 removes carbonates. Today we have 100 ppm more CO2 in the oceans than 150 years ago. Now in 2014 we learn that one hundred sixty billion tons of ice each year are melting in Antarctica: twice the amount of four years ago.

There are not so many roads to take on the path to rectify the situation we are in: one is the road of education (as done so well in the film Revolution), another is the road to end the power of corporations and governments to make decisions that continue the destruction. Another is to promote co-operatives and credit unions and the boycotting of plastics, chemical fertilizers, multinationals and their products. This can go along with creating products and jobs that involve sustainable solutions. Vandana Shiva points out that the big businesses of soy, corn and canola—and the GMO production of these and others, is destroying the biodiversity that has given this planet such productivity. And in the case of soy, this can also come with hormone imbalances to humans consuming it.

There seems to be a huge reluctance to rectifying the crisis we are currently in. Is this denial? Is it just too hard to come to a place where all the countries come together and decide this is the ultimate problem to solve? Is it that the rich and the holders of power actually hold so much control and that their most important goal is to keep raping the Earth without a care for the next seven generations and more?

Two great North American sufi teachers come to mind. Sufi Ahmed Murad Chishti, Samuel Lewis, spent a lot of energy working toward conversion of sea water into fresh water. And his friend Samcher Bryn Beorse worked on the project of gleaning solar energy from the sea. Samcher’s main concern was the preservation of human life. Many organizations are dedicated to providing alternatives to the destructive practices that have led to the current situation. Among others, Helena Norberg-Hodge in her book Ancient Futures: Lessons From Ladakh for a Globalizing World, points to the ways that well intentioned efforts can end up making conditions worse in situations where bio-diversity, and the social and ecological strengths of a society are overlooked.

There is the question of sustainability; the question of population increase; the matter of species decimation at unimaginable rates. There is the situation of alienation so intense that these issues are not faced. Deforestation has contributed to loss of oxygen as well as of productive soil, and loss of species. We can look at these and related issues as one reality facing our species. This way perhaps it can seem less daunting. Children, young people who are inheriting this destabilized world have enthusiasm and energy to tackle the challenges. We need to join them, encourage them, as Rob Stewart has in his campaign to save the sharks. Perhaps one day we actually can have the rights of bio-diversity and cultural diversity adopted by the United Nations.

If we are to create a sustainable Nature/Life exchange, then we may have to aid people in convincing themselves to reject GMO products, which means insisting that they be identified (while they exist), for we cannot reject what we cannot identify. We can reject Wall Street, we can reject banks, stop buying things wrapped in plastic, stop eating toxic foods and using products containing chemicals that are a threat to life. We can make an effort to research natural healing methods rather than going first to pharmaceuticals. Education is paramount, or we cannot bring public attention to these matters. We can demand non-gas-powered vehicles and adequate public transportation. We can insist that cities and towns foster neighborhood organic gardens. It is even possible that we can end the huge disparity between rich and poor: if someone is rich, then certainly someone is in poverty. Why do we allow this? If we make sure we have democratic societies we can change things. We can voluntarily reduce population—in theory this would be one of the easier changes to make.

In the practice of Ziraat some of us use movements and words to honor the elements when doing the elemental breaths. For Earth: hands palms down toward Earth, feeling the vibration. “O all-productive Mother Earth, I humbly offer my homage to thee.” Gaia has been poisoned, her forests stripped, her lands mined to leave deadly toxins. For Water: hands moving down with fingers moving like rippling water. “O all-purifying Water, I willingly offer my homage to thee.” Water has been contaminated, the seas are dying, much-needed water is wasted in huge industrial enterprises. For Fire: arms crossed at wrists with hands like flames. “O all-consuming Fire, I wholeheartedly offer my homage to thee.” Fire has gone out of balance to scorch Earth with the loss of ozone and the rape of forests. At the same time, more solar energy reaches Earth each day than all energy used in a day. For Air: hands, arms swaying back and forth. “O all-pervading Air, I gladly offer my homage to thee.” Air has lost vital oxygen, has been terribly polluted. For ether: turning very slowly with hands, arms barely moving. This takes us to a very slow pace—away from unthinking hustle and bustle. “O ether, essence of all, I passively offer my homage to thee.” With our consciousness, in Ziraat, of our being as part of Gaia, and our life as Her life, we can become a forefront of the creation of re-balancing, of an effort to bring Earth back to the Life-sustaining organism She has been. While we are in this Life, in our bodies, connecting with the sacred elements and sacred Life, we are conscious of the great miracle and mystery; we thus become dedicated to healing and sustaining this life force.

The fact that one does not need to be a sufi murid to be initiated in Ziraat means that like the Dances of Universal Peace it has the potential to reach far, to people who want to heal our species, our planet. Ziraat can be our inner guide in these challenging times. The Guidance is there, and it is for us to accept it. We are powerful—more powerful than huge institutions, than dictatorships, than the unhealthy plans of conniving minds. Because we can access the Power of Allah, of Quan Yin, Great Spirit, and with open hearts help other hearts to open. For in reality, what is the mess confronting us but one created by alienation from our own Nature? Those of us here now live in a time of the worst crisis our species has brought to Gaia. In India Prakriti refers to the living force which supports Life—the creative process, the feminine principle from which all life arises. With Ziraat we choose to honor Prakriti; and in these times, all must make a choice.

Khabira Candace Holt

March, 2014