Category Archives: Ecology

KAYAK JOURNALS II: Held by the River Amid a World in Crisis


kayak 5 '18

To the memory of my mother, Frankie (Frances, nee Rolle) Holt, 1920-2013. For social, environmental justice; happy wrapped in Nature, doing crafts, playing piano well, laughing.

The first “Kayak Journals” came on this blog four years ago. My home is in SE British Columbia, in the West Kootenays above the Kootenay River, 11 km west of Nelson. I keep my kayak down at the river in a falling-apart boat shed shared by a few other people. Today, June 20th, 2018, the last day of spring, I took the kayak out for the first time this year. Until now the current of the river/reservoir was too strong for me to paddle. The water is higher than I have ever experienced in nearly 22 years of living here. We had a long winter with 127% of average snow pack… pretty good for the x-country skiing…hard on the body with all the snow removal.

I boiled my water for about two months even though I have filters which should keep me safe. In late winter of the last two years I contracted parasites from our community water—the first time that had ever happened to me. I would have added the filters in 2016 had I known the problem was our own system. It was giardia I had last year, and I am just recently feeling as if the damage done by those little critters is a thing of the past.

Usually I make one or two trips down the hill to the boat shed. This way I make sure the trail isn’t blocked by too many branches, and get some of the gear to the boat ahead of time. Today I had to put everything in my pack and stumble down the steep hill not being able to see all the rocks through the thimble berry leaves and ferns. At the railroad tracks below I met my neighbor and her two dogs; the old one, a female once trained as a guard dog, used to threaten to tear me apart at every encounter, but now just barks and then is friendly. Today the younger male barked and barked and wanted to lunge at me. Lette really tried to get him to see I was a friend, but no luck. When he gets used to me he comes and loves to be petted. Two days ago I heard an animal making a gasping sound and wondered if it were a hurt bear cub, but Lette told me it had been an elk. One day I heard the dogs wildly barking and assumed it was at a bear. Usually they come around in late May or June; I saw leavings of one up the road.

The kayak had dirt all over it due to a lot of wind this spring. The water was up so high that its edge was just over two meters from the shed. I emptied my pack and got everything in the boat for a short paddle. It was warm and sunny with a little breeze, which makes the paddling easier and more interesting. The smell of the water came into me; I let the river be my realm, holding me and the boat. This was so refreshing after the long and challenging winter and all the busy-ness of this spring. A bald eagle flew out looking for a fish.

As I paddled I recalled meeting a fellow last summer. I had been on the shore when he came up on his paddle board, dressed in a sort of business jacket which was bellowing in the wind. He stopped, we introduced ourselves. Self- employed, he took his cell phone with him on the paddle board. He left paddling and talking to a client on the phone, in the sun, on the water, the coat flailing about. I liked him.

06/23. Today was cloudy so I waited for sun to kayak. Walking down to the river I enjoyed seeing the white and light-gold of the yarrow. I always pick a few of the tiny blossoms and chew on them as they soothe the throat. Then by the water I realized a few of the saskatoon berries were already ripe, so fed on them with anticipation of the coming harvest. Saw some coyote scat as I roamed in the berries. The water is still high–down just a few inches. I paddled west along the north shore and as every June marveled at the unending green all around. The hills and shore are covered with green–of pine, fir, cedar, larch, yew, spruce, and bushes. Lighter green spots show with the deciduous trees, mostly cottonwood, birch and alder. The white blossoms stand out daintily–some with huge splatter-paintings of their white: dogwood, mock orange, daisies, yarrow, the creamy-white of elderberry, and others. I read this huge seasonal painting as a forceful statement of the power of Gaia in Her regeneration. She is singing with great energy and loving it all. She sweeps her arms across the water to create a soft breeze I witness in the small waves moving toward my kayak. The shore birds make enticing noises with their whistles back and forth. A hawk flies above, and an osprey. Blue patches form among the clouds; the sun comes out and I get too warm.

When I came ashore the sun burst out so I sat in the warmth before coming back up the steep hill. Then I saw the thimble berries were starting to ripen so tasted a few. Their leaves are thick and high this summer due to all the snow and then some big rains. As I got up near the house the ravens were screaming about something: wonder what that was. Now the sun is lighting up the huge willow in the yard, as Mother Earth seems so insistent on celebrating, heralding this summer.

6/25. Yesterday we had the Dances of Peace 50th anniversary at the Hall near my place and it was a long night cleaning up and getting ready to leave. I had a guest staying here for that and got to bed late. Then about 5:00am there came a huge and long-lasting thunderstorm accompanied by a big downpour of rain. I have been too tired out to do much and am enjoying reading Ian Baker’s The Heart of the World, of his adventures and learning in most sacred and nearly impossible places to travel in the Himalayas.

6/26. This morning looking out toward the river from the house I saw two ravens perched together on the slim branch of a pine tree. With binoculars I watched one preening itself with its beak, and the other would also turn and preen that one. The sun shone brightly on their shiny black shapes–spiffing up for a day looking for food, I guess. I paddled in the late morning, as the calmer waters would come much later. Again there were thimble berries and saskatoons to nibble. Going out the wind was fairly strong, then it calmed. Small birds were singing sweetly. I sat in the sun by the water. Four crows were squawking a lot and flying around.

kayak 4 '18

In college I discovered healing energies of trees—comforted by a willow, which I later learned (via Robert Graves) was the tree of enchantment for celtic peoples, used in divination, and its month included Beltane. There were three willows here when I moved to this place. One died, falling on a small apple tree, which is still bent in an arch to the ground, still producing apples. One tall willow is above the house, and a huge willow below. In northern Europe and British Isles sacred trees were protected; one could be severely punished, even killed, for damaging or falling one of these trees. Groves of trees were their place of worship. Here the willows add their grace and dignity.

When I lived in the hills of NE WA, I became a fanatical morel picker and was impressed at how the fungi and tree roots were connected. I read in The Sacred Mushroom (Andrija Puharich) about human and fungal psychic communications over vast distances. It seemed to me sometimes that the morels were leading me to them as I trampled through the woods; I’d follow their summons and find them. One night I dreamed of a giant morel about three feet in diameter.

Recently I went to a talk by Dr. Suzanne Simard, a professor at UBC, who researches forest ecology. She shared Coast Salish word: ne’ca?mat kt, meaning “we are all one”–interconnected, interdependent. I call this interbeing, or Ziraat…a word in sufism for our place within and spiritual teachings from Nature. Fungal mycelia connect with roots of trees and there is communication back and forth between them. The trees also communicate among themselves; if some need nourishment they communicate that to others which fill that need. Simard studies mainly Douglas fir; she calls the older larger trees the “Mother” trees as they willingly sacrifice their own nutrients for younger trees if they are in need. She found that the Mother trees give some preference to the young which sprang from their own seeds, and to closely related trees. Deciduous trees keep water in the forests. Between different species of trees there is support when needed; birch and fir trees nourish each other depending upon the season. Through mycelia trees can transfer carbon.

Ancient peoples on our coasts understood these forest relationships. We are now in a crisis with salmon due to warming waters, dams, fish farms and other threats. For thousands of years the old growth rain forest ecologies worked to store carbon and breathe out oxygen for our planet. These trees could not have grown to be the giants they were without the web of life of that ecology. Important are the bear and salmon; bears catch the salmon and deposit much of the fish in the forest and the fish nourish the trees. Simard has found that about 80% of nitrogen in the trees comes from the salmon. The size of a salmon run in a particular year can actually be measured by the nitrogen amounts in tree ring samples.

Dr. Simard met a descendant Chief Seal’th and visited a longhouse on the traditional land of the Duwamish people (very near where I grew up in Seattle). Traditionally the people buried their dead in the woods, the trees feeding on their remains. So when they built their longhouses they were taking their ancestors to a sacred place for ritual and gathering. Their ancestors are right there with them in the longhouses and can be a part of what takes place there. I love this, and as I plan to have a green burial, I feel a warm sensation in my heart, to envision my body returning to this miraculous sacred Earth.

Here there are big cedars on one side of the house. This summer I shall have to have a dying pine removed. Below the house there are three very tall ponderosa pines with their tremendous grandeur.

6/27. Went paddling before lunch. Coming back I was against a wind, which felt nice. In the last while the water has gone down over 45cm (1.5 ft.). At the house the hummingbirds are slowly coming back–I don’t know why they left earlier. This evening I went under the deck and surprised a pair of robins nesting there, so they flew to the branches of the elderberry bush.

Trumpster Dumbster, mad to build a wall; the higher he gets the harder he’ll fall. Children in pain wail for their suffering fathers and mothers, and a befuddled world cries with them….Then a happy shout as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez takes the NY Primary–O where are we going—O? (In Canada a young MP, Niki Ashton, is a bright star.)

For me, next is tomorrow when I mark 74 years on this spinning blue orb. I give much gratitude to Mom and Dad for their love and all they imparted to me.

6/29. This morning again the two ravens were flying back and forth from the pine tree. I paddled early in the morning. The water felt great, with a few clouds above. At one spot a merganser was out with her seven or eight ducklings. Mama was feeding, so when she went under the water the very small ducklings had to swim. Then when mama came back up they all raced in a line and two or three couldn’t fit on her back so still had to swim. This happened over and over, and I was amazed at how small the little ones were. I was laughing as I paddled, and then tears nearly came as I thought how beautiful if most humans could live as the ducks, the trees, the beaver, and deer live—happy with the abundance of Earth…as some still do and our ancestors all did at one point, in my view.

Today the robins are in the grape vines. Three years ago today we experienced a raging thunder, lightning and wind storm and woke up the next day to a somewhat changed environment. The landmark tree across the water from here had broken in half; it had been the only evergreen tree on the beach, and swimmers often sat by it in summer. To the west along the river a couple other landmark trees had been knocked into the water. The dead remnants of one of those trees still stick above the surface. The tree on the beach this summer finally broke so now not much is left.

7/08. After going twice in the kayak during a windy time, finally yesterday I waited until early evening and went down for a lovely paddle. Mid-morning today I went out in very calm water. I passed some geese where our creek empties out. I was treated to really paradisal scenes of the rocks and trees reflected in the water. It was more amazing than ever I’d experienced, maybe as the water was higher. On my way back an osprey was flying around among the trees and over the river. Then it was perched in a tree and shrilling its call–another osprey answered it from not far away. This went on for a bit. The saskatoons and thimble berries were a real treat on my walk back. I feel so, so blessed to be in a place where I can go out and be held and rocked by the waters and see such sights as I saw today. It will be hard for me to leave here when I can no longer deal with the physical labor and house upkeep.

7/09. Woke up this morning and out the bedroom window saw a bear right below me. Then I looked from the living room and it had gone already. Again the water was calm and I paddled, took the camera, and spent about a half hour getting the kayak in place and adjusting things to get pictures. There was an eagle, a heron, and then two ducks flying together just above the water with exactly the same speed and distance apart. And shore birds. Many pictures turned out OK. This is despite the sun, the slightly moving kayak, and needing to take my hat and sunshades off to snap a picture; I cannot really tell what I’ve got in the viewfinder in bright sun. The juicy saskatoons were refreshing.

I stopped at a place where sometimes I swim, and to my amazement the old canoe that has been sitting there for years was a wood and fiberglass hand-built one. It must be really old, and I’ve never seen anyone use it. Last year I sadly said “goodbye” to the cedar and fiberglass canoe my late ex-partner and I had built thirty years before. I gave it to her daughter, who has two girls of her own. Eileen did more of the work on the canoe, as it was her inspiration and I was working full-time as a mental health crisis worker. We built it in Seattle at my parents’ garage when they were away. We cut all the cedar strips outdoors with my Dad’s very basic table saw. We soaked the ash strips for the bow and stern. The tough messy part was working with the fiberglass and doing all the sanding.







me and canoe 31 years ago

Meanwhile Trump admits he cannot reunite all the children from Central America with their parents in accordance with the order. Hmm. Brexit drama continues…and a lot of other things hard to know about. Many places on this planet—like here in BC, become hotter and hotter; my friend Quan Yin thought for sure that knowing humans cannot function at 105 degrees F would alert some in powerful positions that new decisions need to come down. So many challenges here now, having built up for years and years. Things are possible, things are possible….

“Old-growth forests are structurally different from the ensuing second-growth tree plantations that they are replaced with in four fundamental ways:

1. Old-growth forests have more gaps in the canopy that let sunlight through, resulting in more luxuriant understories with more plants and wildlife. Second-growth forests tend to have closed canopies that block out most sunlight, resulting in sparser understories.

2. Old-growth forests have trees of diverse ages and heights within the same stand, which forms ‘multi-layered canopies.’ Over time, different species have evolved to live in different levels of the canopy. Second-growth forests have a “single-layered canopy” of trees that are all the same age class and height.

3. Old-growth forests have more ‘woody debris’: fallen and standing dead trees, which provide food, shelter, and moisture for much biodiversity. Second-growth forests have less and smaller woody debris.

4. Old-growth forests are home to large amounts of lichens, mosses, ferns, fungi, and other flora that live on tree bark and branches (also known as ‘epiphytes’) compared with younger, second-growth stands. As a result, they support many more unique species than second-growth tree plantations.” (from woocommerce-product-gallery)

Old Growth: Here in south-eastern BC we live in the only inland temperate rain forest in the world. Because of logging the old growth and the general sweeping Earth changes including more extreme weather and hotter drier summers, it is likely this rainforest will not survive. Sharon McCann, in her book Sacred Trees, Sacred People of the Pacific Northwest (2016) recounts the moving experience of Glada McIntyre when tree planting in this area in 1990. In her eighteenth year of tree planting one day Glada noticed that in shafts of sunlight there was an area where the trees seemed suddenly to grow very tall. Captivated by this she herself seemed to grow to about twelve feet tall—then she felt an impact of sound in her solar plexus.

And it grew to an upwelling, crescendo-ing hymn of praise to the Creator and joy in creation. It was absolutely unmistakable…the whole slope across from me was engaged in this upwelling, crescendo-ing hymn of praise.”

She was sure others nearby must have heard it, yet they hadn’t.

My whole being was being reorganized to comprehend that the planet is engaged in worship. I felt that my whole life had led up to that moment…My whole preference for living in the woods away from civilization as much as possible seemed to suddenly make sense to me, to have led up to this moment of experiencing the entire planet as sentient and engaged in adoration. I was just standing there with tears pouring out of me.

And then it was as if whatever it was at worship…had tuned into the fact that I had tuned into it. I got this message that seemed to be beamed directly at me. The song of joy and praise suddenly changed into a litany of sorrow. As close as my cognitive mind could translate, it said ‘Oh noble and worthy exploiters and conquerors. Have mercy. Do not end our singing, which allows your own life here.’”

Glada had a vision of how the ecosystem functioned through the energy of the life-force. The energy was carried to the oldest beings in the old growth, and then transmitted back into the ecosystem. She received the message that mankind had removed so much of the old growth forests that the world was on the edge of breaking down from damage to the ecosystems. There was a message that the forest was sacred to the Mother: the great spirit of Compassion and Mercy—Mary, Quan Yin, and many other names. The logging company in this case was from Japan, where she is known as Kannonsama. Glada and many others here in the West Kootenays waged a great effort to have the Singing Forest protected from logging. Trevor Goward, a lichenologist, classified this forest as an “antique forest,” and discovered 27 species of lichen there. Alas, in the end most of it was logged staring in 1995. Currently there are people in BC working to promote local control over logging on private land in our watersheds.

Now we are losing the caribou population in this area, and other populations in the Province are also at risk. Logging is one reason, as it destroys old growth forests, and caribou are dependent on these forests; they are termed “old growth obligate.” Before they were so much at risk, caribou in these regions were quite protected in the old growth, which provided the lichen on which they survive. The animals that would have preyed upon them mostly stayed in other parts of the forests. With their large hooves the caribou could travel in the deep snow into the old growth areas. With warmer and shorter winters it is harder for them to get through the less-packed snow. Logging roads and snowmobile tracks have disturbed their territory, as well as oil drilling and logging of the old growth. They are now having to spend time where predators such as wolves and cougars reside. Biologist David Moskowitz has studied caribou and considers the forest in this larger area a “Caribou Rainforest.” There are places in northern BC where Indigenous elders tell of a time there were so many caribou they nearly covered the landscape. Some of these people’s cultures were based on their relationship with the caribou.

kayak 18

7/13. Yesterday in the kayak I heard an eagle and/or osprey, and saw a small group of ducks. At first they tended to swim away from me, but as I imitated their short gruff “onk” sounds they decided to stay. Then I came to the merganser I’d seen the other time; now her ducklings were impressively larger.

7/15. Today is my dear sufi guide Noor-un-Nisa’s birthday; I’ll go to her party in town with my good friends from Slocan Lake. Am looking forward to that. Today I paddled west and did not see birds until the mergansers again when I was nearly back to the boat shed. It seemed amazing how the ducklings have grown so much in so little time! Beside the mama the young ones were jumping up and gracefully diving in to the water, making a display of the dark and white designs of their bodies; they looked to be having a splendid time. It was hot, and the forecast now is for a long spell of hot sunny weather. There have already been fires in southern BC, some caused by campfires or people burning fires that get out of control. Even after all the rain we’ve had things seem crackly dry now. The saskatoons are slowly starting to dry up; Lette picked three gallons of them!

Inayat Khan said that things are limited by capacity; we live and do work as we have capacity to do it. We become ill and die because we lose the capacity to be physically strong and then the capacity for the mechanisms of life itself. I have always thought that we humans have the capacity to create societies based on respect, non-violence, sharing so all have material need met–with the loyalty to the group, to the planet, being of the greatest value. It has been only through studying Immanuel Velikovsky and other catastrophists that I have found satisfying explanations for why for thousands of years we have rarely created healthy non-violent societies. Now what is our vision as the population explodes, the arctic warms, the oceans rise, the pollution expands, the poor multiply, the refugees wander the world, dictators kill….the list of extinct or dying species grows alarmingly.?

A friend of mine has an inspiring tale of going to Israel and being with Palestinian and Jewish women for a five-day experience. I can give no details here as she signed a statement of promise not to reveal any of this on social media—for the safety of participants. Just to know about such things buoys the heart.

7/18. When I left for the birthday celebration on the 15th, my cousin’s son Rex and his girlfriend Citlali were just arriving for a visit and have been here since. They are young people, yet many of our values priorities and loves are similar. Rex is in a group working for the health of the Columbia River in Portland, while I am a member of the international Round Table formed to make recommendations for the re-negotiation of the Columbia River Treaty. Rex and Citlali had been picking morels in a burned area near Columbia Lake, so I shared with them my history of intense morel picking. Monday the 17th I paddled in the hot sun, and an osprey and eagle flew by when I was swimming on a little beach. Yesterday Citlali and Rex and I went down to swim and saw an osprey and the eagle again. Today in the kayak as I was coming back to shore a heron was there and I came rather close. Then I got to see it take off over the water. It’s a special sight when a huge heron flies low right in front of the kayak!

In the heat last evening in town I attended a talk by Wendy Holm on the controversial Site C dam in northern BC. There are many of us here in BC who want to see this project stopped, whatever it takes. It not only makes no sense and is not needed, but will infringe on Indigenous rights, and rob us of a huge area of unique and very valuable farmland. Beyond that, there has been no independent review of the construction plans, and the dam would not sit on solid earth–fractures already occur. Another grave concern is that the project is set partly to further the possibility for natural gas fracturing.

7/22. Today out paddling I aroused two herons on my side of the river, and one by one they flew to the other side: so wonderful to see them take off in flight, their large bodies lifting with grace above the water. Then when I paddled back they again flew across. I saw the ducks and the ducklings now are almost adult size. Recently I saw small birds that reminded me of the endangered swallows that used to nest in the boat shed. It is sad that for some years now they have not been around; we were being careful not to disturb their nests.

Yesterday I finished writing what I wanted to say to Prime Minister Trudeau in protest of the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion, and of the government’s plan to take it over, as there were no offers to buy it. So I made my call to his office and stated my words. Then the government actually bought the pipeline—with our taxes! Unsure where this leads.

Canada has been about two times more impacted by human-caused Earth changes than most places in the world, and the north and BC are the areas here most affected. Between 1900 and 2013 average annual temperature in BC rose 1.4 degree C. Night-time minimum temperatures in winter increased 3.1 degrees C. There has been increased precipitation, a rise in sea levels: rivers are free of ice earlier in spring; water in the Fraser River is warmer. By 2050 an increase of 1.3 to 2.7 degrees C is expected. There will be more droughts, and changes with pest distribution resulting in more infectious diseases. Agricultural ecosystems will be impacted; there will be more heat waves, producing more heat related illnesses. Precipitation in the Province will rise 2 to 12% with some drastic effects. Up to 70% of glaciers could disappear, affecting fish habitat, power generation, and quality of drinking water. Sea levels could rise enough to cause severe flooding at the coast (all from BC Government site). At my favorite place in this area a beautiful view across a lake to a glacier is now a view to a non-glacial mountain.

This is a dire time: a time for concerned people to force a choice to be made. Which road do we travel from here? One that chooses healing and values of protecting Earth and the Life She has provided—or one that extracts poisons from Earth so that a few can become even richer for a few moments as those poisons continue their contamination? Some are looking back to the war efforts in WWII, with fascism the threat, and to how many countries poured their resources together. Many people made great sacrifices. Technology and manufacturing were suddenly changed, and women learned jobs traditionally done by men. My father’s mother was proud of her time then as a riveter at Boeing. People and nations banded together in the struggle. The challenge we face now is a global, a life and death one, so our determination can be greater. We have already done it, so we can do this. It may have to come from young people, groups and communities, as most governments do not face that huge sudden changes are necessary. It’s another road, yet it is a road we can build and travel.

7/23 Today on the water one of the herons was along the shore and I kept taking pictures of it. Calm waters reflected the rocks and trees as beautifully striated. This evening a group of us from our sufi conclave went to Ainsworth Hot Springs to enjoy a soak with one who will be moving to take on a new job. We are all sad at our dear sister’s parting after four years here, and we wish her well in her new setting. The evening was very pleasant, with the mountains across Kootenay Lake in all their glory, and the clouds changing color as the sun departed and a big moon came out. The place is surrounded by large pots filled with petunias blooming in varied colors, and of course soaking in the healing waters and jaunting through the caves is always healing for body and soul. The Lower Kootenay (Yaqan Nukiy) First Nation Band now owns the Hot Springs and runs a restaurant there with some native foods and great views over the lake. On the way home in the dark we saw a moose with her calf walking right alongside the road. All I saw was just a black blur, but others got a better look.

7/24. It was hot today paddling. A heron took off at the beach just when I got there, and did not go far. In the boat I watched it standing near the creek. The water was great but a fast motor boat was playing out there. I went across to where some rock formations are and soaked in the water briefly. The water level has lowered about six inches. I realized there are huckleberry plants here, as well as wild strawberries, and the saskatoons I’d noticed before. I sat on the rocks and an osprey came flying low, right above me, with loud whooshes of its wings. Paddling back I was gazing with amazement at the rocks by the water—the motor boat came by just then and I was struck by how different an experience one has in such a craft. I treasure my priceless moments of near silence, the beauty that fills my eyes. As I came past the beach by the creek the heron was there again, still, and facing SE. Then I saw the other heron was just nearby and facing SW. This one looked a bit smaller and darker, and I wondered if it were a young bird. This scene was so stunning, with the sun getting further to the west, that tears nearly came.

heron by creek

Later from my deck the moon was an inspiring sight over the river. A quote from Inayat Khan in The Mysticism of Sound: “One moment standing in the midst of nature with open heart is a whole lifetime, if one is in tune with nature.” There are still treats for me from the thimble berries and saskatoon bushes. The former are just about too dried out, but I still find a few to eat. The saskatoons one has to pick through and find some still juicy—they are the perfect apres-kayaking snack.

Tomorrow the water will be off nearly all day, as due to fire danger the community water system improvements need to start now. I am still boiling water, though technically my filter should protect me. Today I filled jars in order to water plants, have drinking, washing and cooking water, and to flush the toilet.

7/26. Yesterday before I got in the kayak the heron again flew out. On the water I came across it two more times–then it took off across the river. Paddling back, the smaller heron was standing watch on the shore; I was very quiet and it stayed. There has been a bear through on the trail, and just down from my place a rock was turned over, so it was getting grub. Today was hot so I went to the water to cool off. Suddenly there were about nine dragonflies on my hands and flying around. I love dragonflies. Many years ago on a sunny August day in WA, on the Columbia, I was sitting above the water watching a large brilliant blue dragonfly and slowly realized it was dying in front of my eyes. I took it home and kept it for a long time.

This evening I look out on the calm waters below with their ripples moving lazily into the shore after the sun has gone down. This happens often in the summer and early fall, and just pulls me in so that I want to be there, on that water, swaying in those movements. The big moon shows more color now, due to fires west in the Okanagan. A full moon will come early afternoon tomorrow, and Mars is coming very close to Earth, brighter now than Jupiter, the closest it will be in the next seventeen years.

7/27. This morning there is a helicopter heading to a fire somewhere. And the sky has even more haze. From my journal last year on this date:

‘The weather was very hot, in mid-afternoon the electricity went off and then a neighbor knocked hard on my door and said we were on evacuation alert. A fire had started very close, just to the west. I was hot and tired, and really rallied to get things together, put much in the car. Fire trucks were coming by, sirens blaring, and then a helicopter was getting water from the river. Smoke was pretty heavy. Then I could tell they’d gotten control of the fire. Later I brought stuff back in the house. The whole thing was quite exhausting, but it was a good rehearsal—interesting process. So then I gave much thanks that I wouldn’t have to leave. Later I learned that the person living closest to the fire sprayed 2000 gallons of stored water to help keep it from spreading.’

7/28. The moon last night had even more color due to fire haze. I paddled this morning, as it was to be a very hot day. The raven took off from further away as I got to the shed. Then later one was on the opposite shore, and a bald eagle nearby. I swam in the waters and dragonflies came again, but it was just too hot to stay much on the beach. Maybe I do not see the ducks now because of the heat. In the past couple of weeks I have heard a loon early in the morning, but have not seen it.

In The Day of the Bees by Thomas Sanchez a character states “’For what is war but a mass unconscious desire for suicide​?’” As a catastrophist I have pondered this idea for many years. Velikovsky treated “collective amnesia” as very important and studied its reasons for existence. He connected this with a human unconscious drive to destroy, which came from the unresolved trauma of living through and surviving unimaginable global catastrophes. Surely this homicidal/suicidal/ecocidal situation for Gaia is the challenge for humanity. Every conscious human must live with a great deal of angst and foreboding just being on the planet right now: these conditions may or may not be in a person’s conscious thoughts. To me what is important is our effort to change this construction by our species. The meaning of the word human, as Inayat Khan taught, means “God-conscious person” and here “God” would mean that Spirit Breath which is everywhere and in everything and every living being–in all that is the unseen and unfathomable…the source of love, beauty, inspiration and compassion.

7/30. Still very hot. Yesterday paddling I saw an eagle and heron. Coming back to shore a water snake swam toward me, the largest one I’d ever seen. A surprising few saskatoons are still there after I’ve been on the river—yumm.

8/01. Yesterday I decided to paddle in mid-morning out in the wind. We are still in the fire haze. Across the river I stayed close to shore so the kayak would not get rocked too much by the waves—suddenly I saw a heron standing on the shore just still and looking out to the water. This morning I went to the river early as heavier winds were forecast, although it’s still very calm. It was just exquisite as I paddled west and then crossed the river; it seemed like the first morning of creation, so still, with just a bit of movement on the water and from shore birds and bird calls. As I came around a bend a bald eagle flew to a tree nearby making a ruffling sound with its feathers, and screeching its cry. Then coming back toward this spot an osprey flew above. When I got to where the eagle was I saw there were two of them, quiet and still, each on separate tree branch, keeping an eye out for food. This sight of cosmic perfection brought an immense consciousness of what a sacred blessing I was privileged to receive. Of course words cannot convey the beauty nor how moved I felt. I went for a dip in the water when I got back. As I came back up the hill a raven was squawking.

kayak 3 '18

Now we learn in the news of a mother orca whose newborn calf died; she has been carrying the body around for days in her grieving. These orcas are from the J Pod in the Salish Sea between WA and BC. The watchers studying them have been afraid for the mother (Tahlequah) as she is overexerting herself even though she gets help from her family and pod. These orcas, part of the Southern Resident group, are extremely at risk, especially if the trans mountain pipeline extension goes through. The group numbered 81 in 2015, with four of them calves. Today there are about 71 with no newborns surviving in the last three years. The main reason they are endangered is that there is not enough food—they thrive on Chinook salmon, and dams for hydro power have disrupted the salmon spawning routes while overfishing has depleted salmon, and hatcheries have had an unhealthy effect on them. I cry when I hear Tahlequah’s story, and it apparently is affecting people all around the world. So far as we know it is very unusual for a mother orca to spend this many days in such morning for the death of her calf. It is very possible that in the last few years Tahlequah has given birth previously to young that have not survived.


Her calf dead
Now grief owns this orca,
Her relentless task: to carry
Exhausted, the lifeless body for days
Unable to shed the weight of loss;

Energy ebbs
Her group aids with empathy;
A world watches and mourns
Hears the cries of our sea cousins

Her intolerable grief
Shows us the enormity
Of loss for us all

With no orcas, with no living sea
Then who are we?

Born on the Salish Sea in Seattle, from age two to nine and a half I lived in the desert in Yakima, my Dad’s hometown. Then later at different times I spent eighteen years in Seattle. When I was born the atom bomb was being designed and built, and one year and 39 days later the first bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. In Yakima DDT was used on the fruit trees, and later radiation was purposely released in the atmosphere to the east of us at Hanford nuclear facility. As a child I did not have to know about these things. In 1955 when I was ten and eleven, the world population was 2.8 billion. Today it is 7.6 billion. Since the industrial revolution CO2 levels in the atmosphere have increased over 45%.

One huge sadness in these times is what has been lost from the world in which I grew up. When I was eight and our family went camping for two weeks on Orcas Island in the Salish Sea there were hardly any beach houses. We would set out from the wonderful campground and find a beach, have lunch and explore. We could look out on the sun-sparkled waters and see maybe four our five orcas swimming by: it was truly a paradise. I lived in a realm without smog, without restrictions to children for fear of something outlandish happening to them. I played with my neighbors in great freedom. My family had no TV until I was ten, and by then books, doing art and music, and playing outside were my passions. We devised our own play; I had a friend Jimmy, who shared my interests in nature, art, and science.

8/02. As winds were predicted, I was in the kayak before 9:00am. In the wind it was harder paddling to the other shore. A white waning moon was hardly visible in the morning light. When I got to where the eagles were yesterday I did not see them, and then suddenly one flew down from a tree and out ahead of me. The water calmed down, and when I was almost back the heron was still near where it had been earlier. As I came ashore two osprey were flying around, and one went out over the water yelling “cheeup, cheeup, cheeup!”

Today there is a thick fire haze–the first day I’ve smelled smoke. This was a bit scary as it seemed so strong I wondered if there were a new fire nearby. The fire last year had started from a spark from the train– right where I was kayaking today.

8/03. Still smoke haze and a little cooler today. Just in the last four days 400 new fires sprang up. When Rex was here he told me that picking mushrooms in the burn he came across the skeleton of a moose that had died in the fire.

8/05. Tahlequah was still carrying her dead calf yesterday for the 10th day; its body is now decomposing. Meanwhile Prime Minister Trudeau is visiting BC and was met by protesters of the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion. He actually said the pipeline will benefit the “economy” and “environment”! There are now over 450 fires burning in BC. There have been 1,260 fires since April; about 27% of these estimated to be human-caused. On August 1st about 3,700 firefighters were working in BC. In the US so far this year 38,079 fires have burned 4,845,943 acres. The sockeye salmon return up the Fraser River was projected at a high of 14 million, yet now with the river’s waters at very high temperatures many of those will be lost. Just how the Prime Minister thinks that the billions spent of fire fighting and the drastic salmon losses will help the economy he didn’t say. Perhaps he could see and listen to the orcas mourning the calf, showing their struggle to survive.

Yesterday the heron was standing on the shore and later I’d see it flying just a short way, and then see it again. The heron sometimes is sort of squatting, and other times standing. It can stretch up its neck to look exactly like a dead stem of bush. Seen from the side it can be discerned due to its light-colored beak. It amazes me how the herons can stay in one place, in one position for so long, patiently waiting for a glimpse of food. Finally I saw the ducks again—with eleven young ones. Then a flock of Canada geese was out swimming.

8/06. Seventy-three years ago today the US bombed Hiroshima, enhancing the current most dangerous episode of human dealings on this planet. Then three days later Nagasaki was bombed and ruined. When I lived in Prince Rupert I found a  library book of photos from Japan in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. I made copies; one is of Nagasaki in 1864 or ’65, showing a main street leading up toward a hill, with trees and plants growing all around. It seems a very beautiful, pleasant and peaceful place, with houses and shops and a few people in the street. It appears to grow right out of the forest and be purposely kept as a forest garden. That such a garden and the population there could be destroyed by human design shows how far adrift our kind can become. I consider it a terrorist practice for any nation to build or possess nuclear weapons whether thought of as defensive or not.

Today I got to the boat shed and heard an unseen loon cry out. Then when paddling I saw it. And in the next little inlet past the stream I discerned the smaller heron as its beak was in profile. After I’d passed it was almost completely camouflaged: the only reason I spotted it is that I had just seen it when more visible. On this BC Day three-day holiday, there were motor boats out. As I crossed the river, I knew it was likely to be hard paddling back, so I got a work-out. When I was coming in to shore I did see the loon, which soon went under water, and right then a motorboat whizzed by. The loon was under for some time then resurfaced, bouncing up and down in the boat’s wake, as were I and my kayak. Then it called again. Back on land an osprey flew close right above me. 

eagle from kayak 2

I have been thinking about the orcas and other sea mammals. Orcas and whales do not breathe naturally, as we do after birth; they have to be taught, and then reminded, and this is an on-going process. The orca pod is made up of respiratory units so that no orca is ever left to breathe alone. Sometimes all whales in a pod breathe together, and other times a breathing unit will divide off and keep track of its own breathing. In interactions with humans orcas can sometimes think faster, and they do not like to be bored. There are, of course, tales from different places of dolphins saving the lives of humans. Dolphins teach their offspring acceptable behavior toward others. In Mind in the Waters (1974) Joan McIntyre mentions that Cetaceans appear to be intensely conscious of what they do. Whales and dolphins act purposefully and with awareness; they intend us no harm.

Below is what it would be like to have the cetacean brain–from Kenneth Marable and Misha Collins, “The Neurological and Environmental Basis for Differing Intelligences: A Comparison of Primate and Cetacean Mentality.” Https://

Your entire neural layout would gear your thoughts toward such things as interpersonal relations, introspection, and high ethical values. Your relations to others would be benefitted [sic] by the fact that you can perceive their internal states. This would help in knowing how healthy your companions are and in diagnosing what their ailments are. With experience this can be used in conjunction with outward body language for a greater detection of a companion’s emotions, a sort of sonic empathy.

You would possess a higher degree of self-control and playfulness than the average human (to put it conservatively). Your basic needs would be easy to obtain and would be only a side matter of your day much as meals are for humans (Cousteau 1986). The rest of your time (which is the entire day, you never completely sleep), is spent frolicking in general and with the other sex, conversing with your companions, and even just signing [sic: singing] as is most apparent in the humpback whales.

Cetacean social groups are oriented towards cooperation rather than competition, with little in-fighting (quite rare in the animal kingdom). You would have little or no worry about predators (few things even in groups can really pose much threat to the largest animals that have ever existed). With no technology also follows no labor beyond the providing of simple needs.

I do not want to romanticize this too much, but it is evident that cetacean neurology in conjunction with the environment in which they live is quite close to what many humans would consider Utopia. Cited: Cousteau, Jacques, Whales. 1986.

With their larger brains the Cetaceans’ priorities seem to be psychological communal and ethical health, playfulness, supporting each other, enjoying a lot of sensual contact, and spending great amounts of time singing and composing songs. Seems like a fine life to me.

So here we are now with a history of business and government decisions being repeated in ways that put the orcas and other sea life in danger. I keep seeing my eight-year old vision of the orcas in the Salish Sea, with a longing…like the longing for the Nagasaki in the photo…longing for a paradise lost. As a Velikovskian I hold that humans long for a peaceful paradise which ironically our predecessors knew on this planet in ancient times. McIntyre stated that Mind in the Waters was written by those concerned with the death of the planet and the death of the spirit of the planet as much as much as about the slaughter of whales. They could not accept the “…wholesale destruction of life and the alienation and desolation that accomplishes it.” She goes on to say we have accepted for too long “…a way of looking at nature, at nature’s creatures, which has blinded us to their incredible essence, and which has made us incomparably lonely. It is loneliness as much as our greed which can destroy us.”

8/07. Today it was 35 degrees C when I started out for the river. I was amazed the heat didn’t just knock me out, but it seems I’ve gotten used to it. In May when we had hot weather it was quite a jolt to the system. I dipped in the water before kayaking. As I paddled out the female heron flew up but didn’t go far; as I passed she was still. The colors are changing, with some yellow and orange among the dried leaves of bushes. By mid-October we get our blazing fall display as the scene changes. Most people here love having four distinct seasons; it’s as if we live in a different realm at each change. I love all of them, but fall is especially poignant with the smells, the dramatic cycle of life playing out, the energy we feel with the cooler weather.

8/08. We have some smoke-haze and it’s hot, but not so much as yesterday, and tomorrow it may get to 38! Out on the water there was the loon again. I marveled at the reflections in the fairly calm water and noticed the colors are changing even

kayak DSCF1704

more. There is a feeling the rocks in the sun bring to me, especially with trees right above them. I think of the ancestors who were here for centuries, with the river smaller, lower, and how they must have loved these peaceful sights I now enjoy. By the creek was their fishing camp. The heron was still on the shore watching as I paddled back, then flew in front of me. The merganser gang was out, and now the younger ones can scoot across the water; I love it when they do that, and the sound it makes—”r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-ruh”–they seem so happy. There are now 462 fires burning in BC, and 22 evacuation orders. To date the fires have cost 131 billion dollars, whereas there were 63 million allocated in the Provincial budget. The small NW town of Telegraph Creek suffered a terrible fire; 30 to 45% of the buildings have been lost. In the 1990’s I traveled there in my VW bus–the trip was very beautiful. My companion and I walked around the town; it is very isolated, at the end of the road. There is a Tahltan Native community there. The Stikine River runs through the town, and in the 1860’s gold was discovered in the Stikine. In 1838 Hudson’s Bay ran a trading post, and in the late 1890’s gold rush the town was the starting point for two trails to the Klondike. I loved exploring up north in BC when I lived in Prince Rupert. There are vast expanses, of forests, hills and rivers–miles and miles one can travel between small towns. One senses the way it is for the animals, the birds, with huge areas of quiet, without many scars humans can leave on the earth. Of course there are those too, with mining and logging and other enterprises, yet not too visible.

8/10. This morning just before I got up I heard the loon—that is always such a wonderful sound to my ears, reminding me of the wildness that is this world. It is very hazy today, yet no smoke smell. Am in the middle of many things to do and wrap up before I leave tomorrow for NW Sufi Camp south of Portland. I got down to the river, into the water and paddled past geese and ducks. A few of the geese flew in a line—they are so handsome with their white markings when they fly together. Then on my way back seeing the loon warmed my heart. An osprey flew above me. I got in the water again. Now it is 37 degrees C (100 F). I keep chasing wild turkeys out of the yard. While I am gone they can go wherever they want, and help themselves to the greens growing on the deck. This is the first year they have started getting into the peas.

Yesterday it had been sixteen days that the orca had been swimming with her dead calf. Among these orcas 69% of pregnancies fail due to malnutrition. The Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion would add 816 oil tanker trips per year to the orcas’ critical habitat–a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic. The amount of traffic is disturbing the orcas’ feeding habits, as they spend more time swimming.

In Mind in the Waters McIntyre states Cetaceans use a form of consciousness we are beginning to re-explore. “They help us chart our inner wilderness. We can hear whales singing. If we pay attention and let them live, perhaps we will hear them speak in their own accents, their own language. It would be an extravagant reward to experience, by empathy, a different band of reality.” Then, “I have stroked, and swum with, and looked at, these creatures, and felt their essence rise to meet me like perfume on a spring day. Touched by it, I felt gentler myself, more open to the possibilities around me.” This brings up for me a very deep sadness of a world being lost to us before we have re-united with it and re-explored what it has to offer us—beautiful wondrous sacred treasures and knowledge which can greatly enrich our lives.

8/24. Friday. This past Sunday my friend and I left NW Sufi Camp a bit early so we could get to her place near Colville, WA in the evening. Not far east of Portland the fire haze turned to thicker smoke. By the time we were near Richland the landscape was surreal: barns and grain elevators ahead on the flat landscape were ghostly images rising out of the smog. As we traveled up alongside Lake Roosevelt (the dammed Columbia) we could not even see the river at all. One didn’t want to be outside, for the smoke getting to the lungs. Monday, by the time I crossed into BC the skies were somewhat clearer. Tues. I actually went out in the kayak despite the thick smoke; the heron again was near the mouth of the creek. The calm water and reflections of the trees and rocks were strange with a foggy veil around them.

The next day I did not really go outside for more than about an hour– sad—everyday I have some tears come, for my Province, for Earth, for people having to leave their homes. This past weekend BC and Washington State had the highest pollution indices in the world, greater than Beijing or Delhi. Without fire smoke, Nelson stands in the top four percent world-wide for clean air.

Yesterday I paddled in the quiet morning and despite my dismay at the smoke, was delighted to come upon the mergansers again. Two families appear to have merged, as there were so many. I watched them all move out on the water–they seemed content, yet I have no idea how much the smoke bothers them. An eagle flew by. This afternoon I actually saw the smoke separate under the sun and had a glimpse of nearly clear sky.

News item: Prime Minister Trudeau had scheduled a fundraiser event in Vancouver, which was canceled due to great numbers of Kinder Morgan protesters showing up outside.

8/25. This morning I risked my health to get out and paddle in the thick smoke-smog. I wrapped a kerchief over my nose and mouth, which did not lessen the toxins, but cut down the smell. The heron was standing on a rock—then it flew off and was by the stream when I paddled back. I was missing the ravens as they have pretty much disappeared in this smoke. All summer they have been making noise, always announcing their presence, flying right above me. And there now are no shorebirds flying along in short spurts, no gulls. Even the osprey and eagles are not much about. Today I saw no ducks. So I continue to wonder about the wildlife in this terrible air. If it affects them as it does me, they have just a wee bit of energy. Now it is raining gently—the first rain in weeks.


“The way we see the world shapes the way we treat it. If a mountain is a deity, not a pile of ore; if a river is one of the veins of the land, not potential irrigation water; if a forest is a sacred grove, not timber; if other species are biological kin, not resources; or if the planet is our mother, not an opportunity – then we will treat each other with greater respect. Thus is the challenge, to look at the world from a different perspective.”
David Suzuki

Suzuki’s words treat a phenomenon I have considered for some time. It seems the task of this era is to reach those of our species who have lost what I think of as “being human.” One sufi perspective on this is to look at being human as having consciousness of the sacred. In The Mysticism of Sound Inayat Khan writes of the Persian word huma, relating it to a highly evolved human spiritual state. In the word huma, hu- represents spirit, and ma’ in Arabic means water. He goes on to state that with the English word humanHu” means God, or the great Mystery (my words) and “man” means mind. As mentioned above, the meaning is “God-conscious person,” or a person conscious of the Sacred. Natural human response to the miracle(s) of this reality in which we live are divine awe, gratitude, wonder, praise. We are taken to a deeply spiritual state through participating in this miracle, from the birth of a baby, an animal, a sunrise, bird songs, through to love, community, and death. Our hearts are moved and we are aware of ourselves not only as feeling beings, but beings connected in a mysterious web that reaches far beyond this physical world. So we create ceremonies, music, dance, rituals, because to contain all we experience into our one person is impossible. The rape of Earth and exploitation of life, as Suzuki says, can happen without this sense of sacredness.

I attribute this exploitation to deep unresolved fear and generational trauma suffered in past cataclysms. These may have produced changes in the human brain, and they led to conflict and war, a split with Earth–and eventually in some societies, to the drive to “control” Nature–not opening to Nature as the connected web that gave us life and sustains us…and not accepting that She  is the great Creator/Destroyer. As Gaia is a living planet, She is dependent on the health of her waters, atmosphere, soil, and minerals. As the species capable of harming these elements, we are also the species which can ensure they are cleaned and healthy and never polluted by our kind again.

8/29. One day kayaking the scene was so peaceful and beautiful that I was completely filled… and had such gratitude for the twenty-two years I have been able to live in this place. Yesterday morning after I arose, again the amazing beauty about me just seemed like a miraculous occurrence of GRACE. Even though green is still the predominant color around, the drought this summer and the cooler early mornings in August have brought some changing colors. There is renewed energy in my own system because the overpowering heat has left us.

This year has been the year with the most fires in BC in recorded history. On Aug. 15th the Province declared a state of emergency which will now extend into September. There were 34 evacuation orders affecting 3,200 people, and 53 evacuation alerts affecting 21,800 people. On Aug. 9th the estimated costs of this year’s fires was 173 million dollars.

Tomorrow the fate of the Kinder Morgan expansion could be given a blow by a superior court decision. There are many cases against it placed by indigenous groups which if honored in the courts would put an end to this pipeline expansion. On Sept. 8th there will be a massive widespread day of demonstrations for action on climate chaos by and other groups. So far there are more than 530 actions planned in 78 countries. I shall be at the one in Nelson.

09/06. Two days ago in the morning a big black bear was heading down the landscaped stairs to my porch. It was about 8′ from me, so nice that I was in the house. It looked healthy, despite the dry summer and smoky air. The bears are around more this time of year when plums and apples get ripe; they come fairly often until mid-November. Below my house I get a few golden delicious apples from the towering old tree, stepping carefully around bear poop. The other day out paddling a heron flew out in front of me, and the ducks were there. Then yesterday ducks again, a heron sailed across the river, and an eagle flew to a tree near me. As I came back and got to the creek there was the heron, still, just looking, as I snapped a photo. I went in the water briefly. This is the eleventh summer I have had the kayak, and I realize that each year I learn more about the flora and the birds and animals. Every year my heart fills with more and more wonder in this place, as to me it is paradise.

One great gift from Gaia is fungal mycelium. Paul Stamets and others have shown that ecological habitats have immune systems through mycelia connecting their plant life. Stamets has found that extracts from Reishi and Amadou mushrooms confer immune benefits to bees. More and more we are learning about the benefits of these and other mushrooms to our own brains. And humans are actually more connected to fungi than to any other kingdom. About 90% of plants are in mutually beneficial relationships with fungi. Plants provide carbohydrate food to the fungi, which in turn help plants uptake water. Mycelia provide phosphorus and nitrogen to plants, and in colonizing roots, supply plants with protective chemicals of immunity. The fungi work to facilitate communication between plants removed from each other. Stamets has advocated that the digestive capacities of mycelium can accomplish filtration of biological and chemical pathogens, can benefit and protect plants, and decompose toxic waste and pollutants.

On the Pipeline, the Superior Court gave a decision that government procedures were not done according to regulations for studying environmental effects, nor for consultations with Indigenous peoples. Even though government is still determined to have this expansion built, this gives hope to opponents. Some who know the legalities say that if the Federal Government takes this to the Supreme Court the case will be denied hearing. In the Superior Court Madam Justice Dawson pointed out where the National Energy Board and Trudeau and his Cabinet failed to apply the law correctly. The NEB failed to consider marine shipping impacts, which then the PM and Cabinet did not correct; it failed to consult and accommodate the Squamish people on their concerns about dilbit (diluted bitumen) spills; and failed to consult and accommodate Coldwater Band about effects on drinking water. It failed to consult and accommodate the Sto Lo Collective on cultural, archeological and constitutional fishing rights. (In a 2007 dilbit spill a backhoe ruptured a Kinder Morgan pipeline in Burnaby, BC. This caused a spill of 100,000 litres of synthetic crude made from bitumen, about 40% of which drained into storm sewers and made its way into Burrard Inlet.)

09/11. Yesterday when I arrived at the shed a heron took off. Then an eagle flew by on its way across the river. Such a great welcome. The colors are changing subtly as the grasses, brush and ferns dry to yellows and oranges. This time of year the sky can give huge displays of white and light gray designs going in different directions with many scooping brushstrokes—quite overwhelming with immense power and beauty.

09/13. Today was cloudy and rainy, then in the afternoon the sun came out–I looked out on the water, so calm and inviting. I got ready to paddle, yet when I neared the river I realized there were very threatening storm clouds moving in from the SW. As I was getting ready I heard thunder and pretended it was some other sound. Never do I go out on the water in a storm, but here I was, setting out. Then I was pretending the little circles developing on the surface were not from raindrops, but some magical little creatures under water. All was lovely in spite of the gray clouds, and I knew at any moment the lightning and hard rain would start right where I was. Then I was captivated by harder raindrops hitting the water; as they hit they made little circles and each one showed a four-pointed star in sparkling white. So the river was full of these little stars in their circles coming and disappearing all over the place. I was fascinated. As the thunder became louder and echoed across the hills I turned back having put on a thin poncho. The water is low now so I had to carry the kayak further before sliding it up to the shed. I dried my feet sitting on the kayak as my usual sit log was soaked. With my boots on and a towel wrapped around me I stood looking out from the shed and listening to the rain pound on the metal roof. The thunder really roared, the sound traveling across the river back and forth. A wind brought harder rain and it looked as if the river were moving east, but it was the wind carrying the rain. As it fell to the water the whitish rain was blown in waves across the river: this appeared almost like sheets of snow on the surface. In that wind two ducks flew across the river. I was simply in awe as this amazing symphony playing out before me. After things settled some, two ducks swam by.

Cold and knowing I’d walk back up to the house in the rain, I felt very fortunate to have stayed during this storm. It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Even just looking to the back of the shed in the rain, with the wet brush behind it and grasses with their fall colors, the slender branches of the little trees growing into the aging shed from the outside—was a gift. I came home, changed into warm clothes and made tea. Then I sat reading Don Quixote, and wondered if it had been the influence of that knight errant that had helped me pretend the thunder and rain were not coming.

09/17. I walked on the road across the river;  a raven rose up nearby, and flew clear across the water with a small branch in its beak that was about 2½ times its own length. There are places on that walk where Teck Cominco has tailing ponds or some such, and there are “no trespassing” signs. They closed down the old boat launch at one of these places. There was someone working there, apparently with an environmental project. So I am wondering if Cominco is going to have to clean up those areas— finally.

An August, 2017 report states that 190 million tons of carbon emissions were estimated that year in BC—nearly three times the Province’s average. The total was expected to grow as the fire season had not ended. The average total BC emissions from 2005 to 2017 was 65 million tons.

09/19. I am happy that the Colville Confederated Tribes of WA won their case against TECK (Trail BC operations) in the 9th Circuit of Appeals Court. For over 100 years TECK, the largest mining company in the world, was dumping toxic waste into the Columbia River just above the WA border. This amounted to 9.97 million tons of slag and effluent. It caused extensive damage to the water and beaches in NE Washington including on Tribal lands and fishing and ceremonial grounds. The Tribes were awarded 8.25 million dollars to cover their investigation costs. They had been working on the case for decades, and filed the suit in 1984. It is hoped that their success in this case will help the Tribes in their effort to force TECK to clean up the toxic waste. (from, Sept. 17, ’18).

Having taught school for two years on the Colville Reservation in the late 70’s, this issue is very important to me. My friends and I swam in the Columbia regularly for years, most of that time realizing the danger.

Paddling today was a delight as there was warm sun, a cool breeze…reflections on the water were mesmerizing. There were many Canada geese. For a few times out I’ve been suspecting there may be a leak in the kayak–at the stern. Next time I shall try to have a better look. Despite that I sat on my towel on the grass in the sun, soaking up the warmth of this ending summer, watching the ripples of varied colors on the water’s surface. Then I took a look at a very old hornet nest which had been lying in the path up to the house. It was in several pieces and separated from its flimsy wrapping. There was some substance in a couple cells. This was near where for years I swore I smelled honey when I’d walk there. But I’ve never found a beehive.

09/20. This last day of summer was cool and cloudy. Now I see that there is a small tear in the fiberglass right at the curve of the kayak’s stern. This summer both ends have paint scraped away at the curve. When paddling I picked up hardly any water from the leak. Later from the shore I saw a partial sun-dog around the sun, and then it was just a short rainbow in a cloud. Again the reflections on the water captivated me. I looked and looked at them. For some years I have been thinking how my way of seeing Nature must be very like my father’s was. And he was really near-sighted, as am I. He was a talented artist, and his art informs me about his spiritual life. He became absorbed in beauty and just had to put it on paper the best ways he could. The other day I appreciated a small scene my Dad painted before I was born. He and my mother lived in New Mexico for a time and a sketch on the reverse side of the piece gives the details. The painting was done from memory of a scene he saw in Taos in 1943. There had just been a snow shower, then clouds broke and sun gloriously shone through highlighting the colors.                                                     

Taos, 1943   Dave Holt

I can just imagine how striking it must have been and how important to him to sketch. His notes describe the man as Native, having just come out from the cafe; he was thin, held a staff, and wore a blue robe and buckskin clothing. I am so thankful Dad captured this scene I can gaze upon: this moment in his life 75 years ago.

09/24. Yesterday I cleaned out gutters on three sides of the house; it was nice being up at that height in the sun, yet the roof moss should be removed at some point. On the kayak I put some putty in the little hole and came back to let it dry. I went by the field below the house to check out the huge apple tree that has not been pruned in the whole time I’ve lived here. It is rising up to enormous heights with a lot of apples on the tree and the ground. The branches are so many and tangled it would be a real mess to prune. There is a lot of bear poop. I took a few apples and will take a pole soon to shake down some more.

I went to the kayak and sanded the putty. I had to move the boat and then came a few raindrops. So I moved it again and cut fiberglass pieces to fit where the hole had been. I mixed the hardener into the resin and applied it on the fiberglass. Then I turned the boat upside-down and gave the front spot another coat of primer. This all was a little cumbersome because of wind, the ground being dirt, and no good place to set materials. But I did OK. Walking slowly home along the river I gazed at the fall colors; it has been raining for some days, and now I see the ferns turned orange, the white snow berries, the rose hips ripening and red. Leaves on bushes have a rust color. With the hills, the river, it all just so perfect.

This afternoon it rained a couple times, then the sun burst out. Out the window I saw a group of mergansers swimming by, a marvel in the sunlight. These ducks have been such a delight for me this year. I look out and the full moon is just peaking over the hill. It is shining on a thin strip of cloud behind the hill as it comes up, and crickets are making their constant sounds. The stars are out, yet the river still reflects the sky faintly. Now I see the moon is reflected in what appears petals of shiny gold scattered on the water.

09/25. I realize it will take more repair before I can paddle again. This morning the fiberglass resin had not dried completely. I put primer on the center strip giving it two coats. Again I had to move the boat around. I came home and played classical guitar, which I do regularly once summer is over and I find more time. It was emotionally energizing to play, to notice how important it is for me to do this, which I started at 21. Playing brings me much peace. In the afternoon I went to the beach; it was sunny and warm. This would have been a great day for paddling, so I enjoyed  listening to the birds and lazing in the sun.

09/26. This morning I hauled materials down to resume work on the kayak. There were some geese playing in the water nearby, and ducks from time to time. I put the second coat of paint on the front and putty on the back, sanded it, and applied a coat of paint. My amateur repairs will look funny, but I am really glad that I can get the boat in the water. We have had the wettest September I can remember, and the forecast is for some more showers into October.

09/27. I worked on the boat. There were a couple crows and ducks around. Then it was back up the hill and later down a short steep bit to clear out around the septic system as a fellow is going to inspect it tomorrow. A couple of the spots I couldn’t even find—part of a tree had fallen over one, and so many thimble berries were growing over another I had to look around for it. In the afternoon some sun came and I decided to kayak even with the paint not totally set.  It was lovely; one heron was in the rocks across the river when I passed, just looking. Then it started out over the water but quickly turned back. Further along a second heron looked just like a piece of wood in the rocks until I got closer. It, like the first one, was doing that amazing thing herons do when they hide their necks. It is really something; then they look like a different sort of bird. The second one flew further along, and then when I turned and passed again it stayed put. I realize the paint I used will come off, with the kayak sliding on the ground and all, but at least the leak is fixed.

In the midst of all this, in the US the sad saga of the Brett Kavanaugh nomination for the Supreme Court is fueling great material for “Saturday Night Live.” Women went out in the streets and screamed in support of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and her words to the Senate Judiciary Committee; she related she had been unable to scream as Kavanaugh years ago had covered her mouth when he drunkenly attempted to sexually assault her. Meanwhile Trump and his greatest allies are bragging about what an upstanding citizen Kavanaugh is, and how awful the accusations he’s having to endure. Kavanaugh says he’s a great defender of women; Trump says he knows how Brett feels, as he himself has been “falsely” accused of sexual assault!! It takes some mental energy to try to decide that all this is not some gory Shakespearean tragicomedy.

10/03. Yesterday I paddled in the sun, with a nice wind. On my way back suddenly to the west big white and gray clouds had formed. They were very ominous, and in places it looked as if giant brush strokes had wandered recklessly over them with no general direction identified. It did look as if a rain would start in awhile. By the time I pulled onto shore a wind was building. There were three mergansers on the rocks. There was no opportunity to stay on the beach. My feet stayed cold even after putting on my wool socks, as I step into the cold water to get in and out of the kayak.

Walking back up the path I took in the orange and rust colors. I got into the house as the wind was stirring up. Later the rain just poured and poured. There were thunder and lightning when I was starting to get dinner ready; the power went out so I lit the gas stove with matches and cooked and ate by candlelight. As sometimes happens the power did not come back until long after I’d gone to bed. I spent the evening reading in dim candlelight. Then decided to sing and play guitar—much easier.

10/04. Two days ago Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident and columnist with The Washington Post, went missing after he’d gone into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul (he is a Saudi citizen) to arrange paperwork for his marriage to his fiance, Hatice Cengiz. She waited for four hours with no sign of Khashoggi.

10/05. It has been 2 to 5C degrees colder here than usual–if I kayak tomorrow I’ll need to bundle up but sacrifice the feet to the cold. Meanwhile south of the border, we are hearing that Kavanaugh should actually be confirmed this weekend. A few days ago Trump greatly insulted Blasey Ford as his supporters showed appreciation. This is all so ugly and demeaning to survivors (of any gender or non-gender) that I have to pinch myself to realize it is 2018.

This weekend is Thanksgiving in Canada. People gather together with gratitude for the harvest, and anything else. It can happen on any day, Monday being the official holiday. One thing that really defines Canada for me is CBC Radio, which has separate broadcasting in French. The station has call-in programs that provide a network of people’s voices all across the country. It also offers discussions of many cultural, social, and political issues; it truly is an important part of Canadian culture. We hear interviews, music, stories from a wide range of people, adventures, sports, history, current events. There are also Indigenous programs, comedy, and ferry and road reports. I just love this, and also our local co-op radio station. 

10/06. Brett Kavanaugh indeed was confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice in the US. As someone who spent twenty-one years providing counseling for women survivors of abuse, here I am now, seeing a man accused of  rape rise to the heights.

Today paddling it was warm sun. Just one duck was in the water finding food. Back on land a flock of geese flew low overhead and before seeing them I heard the flapping of their wings; I’d never heard it so defined before—a flapping leathery sound.

10/07. The blazing fall colors are here, and in a couple weeks will be in their great glory. On the water I passed guests of Lette’s out in her canoe. That got me thinking about the fiberglass/cedar strip canoe we made and that I had for 30 years–such a beautiful craft.

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I look back on so many things I have made, myself or with someone. There is such love in creating things–just as there is something wonderful that happens this time of year as I start playing classical and a little flamenco guitar. I took classical lessons in my late 20’s. My teacher was Curt Dunphy, who experienced flamenco in the caves of Andalusia. His teacher was Alirio Diaz, a well-known Venezuelan guitarist. And Diaz’s teacher was Antonio Lauro. I found a piece by Lauro, revised by Diaz, and have been memorizing it. It is the Preludio of the Suite Venezolana. Fortunatly, it is a piece I like; I wanted something that would connect me with the line of teachers. I find it a blessed and magical experience to be able to play pieces composed up to about 550 years ago. The same fascination I have when reading Homer, Sappho, Lao Tzu, Hildegard of Bingen, Hafiz, Shakespeare and many others. 

10/08. This morning a bear woke me up with its feet–sounding different from a deer’s. I looked down from my bedroom window onto its broad back. It must have been feasting at the apple tree.

Today the news brought, finally, a dire warning that if carbon emissions are not curbed 50% by 2050, it will be impossible to restrict global warming to 1.5 degree C. Tipping points will have been crossed. Even though I suspect a few tipping points have been reached already, and though this announcement comes years too late, I was glad it came. We were aware of this during the Paris Climate talks, yet the media didn’t stress it.

It seems to me that peoples of the world, including organizations and some governments, could together decide on which major issues to confront as we march into these last eleven years we are told we may have to prevent human-caused Earth chaos from getting much worse. I emphasize that it will be in the first couple years that the greatest work must be done, to start momentum. An example of a list that could be chosen might include 1) immediately install public transportation, convert to renewable energy, build buses, rails and trains, create incentives to reduce energy consumption. Support businesses, workers to convert. 2) drastically decrease air travel. 3) protect more public lands; clean up and preserve air, water, seeds, forests, seas, as the commons and not available to be exploited. Plant trees. Clean soil via fungi. Clean oceans: 50 to 85% of O2 in our atmosphere is supplied by oceans—most of it from phytoplankton. 4) stop fracturing natural gas, which has a carbon footprint equal to that of coal; leave tar sands in the earth. 5) do no business with banks investing in the oil/gas economy, and pressure them to divest. 6) do regenerative farming: end big agriculture; end GMO’s, pesticides and harmful chemical fertilizers; educate about health. 7) target and pressure the 100 companies which emit 71% of pollutants. 8) pressure stores not to purchase commodities wrapped in plastic; prohibit plastic production. Work toward zero waste. 9) destroy all nuclear weapons and ensure none are ever produced again. 

We cannot clean up all of the dangerous pollution our species has produced, yet we do have the capacity and intelligence to do any of the above and more. The will to do them is crucial. There are many possible actions and some already begun. Besides the idea that exploiting Earth is OK, and the rampant capitalism it has created–I suspect resistance to sudden changes may be because so many have learned to live without the embodiment of our interbeing—without the mystical experience of Gaia as a living being of which we are a part. If we cannot experience ourselves as part of this sacred web of life, loving it, cherishing it, protecting it, then we miss a sense of self as connected. Another complication may be the hold that uniformitarianism has had on the sciences, beginning in the 1700’s. Often now the “scientific” predictions about the time lines for human-induced Earth changes have been off the mark–being too long. This can help create a sense there is no urgency. Catastrophists have been here for ages, and consider that changes having tremendous impact—on Earth,  planets and solar system—can happen in a day, even an hour or two. So here is a clashing of ways of understanding cosmic processes and the history of species, of Earth, and the solar system.

Here there has been a recent celebration by BC’s government about liquid natural gas extraction starting in the north. This goes along with the prior decision to build the Site C Dam. So besides the struggles against Site C and the Kinder Morgan Pipeline expansion, we now have that of LNG.

10/11. Yesterday I paddled in the wind, then it settled down and though cool, it was very pleasant. I went into the little cove across the water where three ducks were swimming. The autumn colors reflected in the water were a delight. As I walked back a squirrel climbing a tree stopped and looked right at me and ran up the tree again. On the path up to the house the bear kindly left its leavings to the side. 

On the Khashoggi murder, President Trump stated he would be talking with Saudi king, Mohammad bin Salman. When questioned about the kingdom’s record on human rights, he avoided a direct answer. Today the Turkish government informed US officials that it had audio and visual evidence proving Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi Consulate.

10/14. These last few weeks have been packed with heart-rending news. There were the facts of Jamal Khashoggi’s, gruesome murder. Then the Kavanaugh debacle. Hurricane Michael devastated the Florida panhandle and nearby areas, killing eighteen people and leaving many homeless. Indonesia suffered an earthquake and tsunami in late September which caused devastation–over 2000 people killed and 5000 missing. I am thankful for the line in Inayat Khan’s Prayer for Peace: “Send thy peace…that amid our worldly strife we may enjoy thy bliss.” This has been helpful for me over the years.

In BC people are being jailed and fined for defending our precious and unique Salish Sea…fighting the planned pipeline from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby. Last night at a fund-raiser here for their legal fees we had a potluck and watched the film “This Living Salish Sea,” by director, Sarama. This film is powerful and I was very moved watching it, as were others. There are many organizations here, many Indigenous, some international —working to protect these waters, the land, the rights of Nature, the rights of Indigenous groups, and of all. We realize we are these waters, these sea creatures, these rain forests, the whales and orcas, and that we absolutely need to speak for them. It seems BC is right now one of those crucial places in the world where those who are proponents of the extraction economy are coming to head with people accepting our duty is to defend Earth and the Life only She can foster. And we must keep at this.

Yesterday I paddled in the wind until it finally calmed. A gull flew far and high with its wings blazing silver in the sunlight. Today several grouse skittered away as I started down to the river. It was calmer; the rocks, trees and fall colors were stunning, including the rust pine needles on the ground. There is something which gives me great comfort with trees spaced not too close, and the ancient rocks with their silence. I have lived many years in this type of surrounding. As I started back home a flock of geese flew east, honking. I listened with appreciation to the crickets and imagined how far their singing might extend down the continent. Back in the house I looked out at geese flying by in a V shape just above the surface of the water.

kayak 10/18

Words from Najagnek, an Inuit shaman:

The soul of the universe is never seen;  its voice alone is heard. All we know is that  it has a gentle voice like a woman, a voice so fine and gentle that even children cannot become afraid. What it says is ‘Be not afraid of the universe.’”

10/15. In the south-west of France there was as much rain in one storm as is usual in a year; at least eleven people are dead. After many Canadians urged Parliament to call a special discussion on the urgent need for national responses to the Earth crisis and changes, now this has been done.

This afternoon it was warm and I paddled just amazed at the fall colors and the ripples on the water. Going past that tree which reflects so much I watched those wavy reflections journey down the cliff as well. There were three ducks and then later a lone duck was feeding by the shore. When I came home it turned quite cool after sundown. This will probably be my last week to kayak, as on the weekend we are having a Dances of Peace event and the next week I shall be away. So I am thankful the weather is so nice now, as it often is in October, and before the full moon, which will come next week.

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                                                              mallards feeding

Always on my mind is our human response to the needs of Gaia right now. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe wrote about commitment. He said at first there is hesitancy, yet once the commitment happens “…then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance….Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” To me this has significance for these crucial times. In my heart I want to have faith in my human family…that we shall not allow huge corporations and many governments to continue harming this planet. That things have been heading toward such utter destruction for so long is unacceptable. In our hearts do not we recognize the significance of this crossroads? In Coming Back to Life Joanna Macy states “Grace happens when we act with others on behalf of our world.”

Yesterday coming up from the river I took long looks at the fall colors and realized that my heart is stirred to a deeper appreciation of Nature’s beauty in these times of our periled planet: beauty and sadness which go together. I find that with the deep grief that 60% of the Earth’s wildlife has disappeared since the 1970’s, my awe and reverence for sacred Earth and Her Life are more awakened. I feel this physically in my heart and my throat.

Below is from Mind in the Waters: article by Scott Mc Vay from Natural History, January, 1971, “One Strand in the Rope of Concern.”

The form of our survival, indeed our survival itself, is affected as the variety and abundance of life is diminished. To leave the oceans, which girdle seven-tenths of the world, barren of whales is as unthinkable as taking all the music away and everything associated with music—composers and their works, musicians and their instruments– leaving man to stumble on with only the dryness of his own mutterings to mark his way.”

In the summer I wrote the song below, inspired by the birds that brought me such joy: kayaking. I sang it at our local Dance Camp.

GARDENS OF PLENTY               copyright 2018 by Candace Holt

Rising on wings, then landing swiftly–this river home all that you know; ducklings on your back–you teach them gently, to swim fly and play, to gather rich feed;

Chorus: Your world is simply beauteous perfection, in this river home are gardens of plenty–I follow you dreaming;

Heron on the shore waits long with patience, blends with the rocks, still as the sky–then up with spread wings gracing the waters; in awe we gaze as you circle far;

repeat chorus

Calm morning waters, two eagles resting, each on a branch of a tall regal fir–I paddle by, you take little notice–my heart fills with peace to be in your midst.

repeat chorus.


10/17. Even now after the way Khashoggi met his death, both Canada and the US are still selling arms to Saudi Arabia. The weapons are being used to devastate Yemen, where there is a severe outbreak of cholera and about 50% of healthcare facilities are closed. There are 8.4 million people in Yemen who are starving, including 1.8 million children. In one of his last columns in the Washington Post Khashoggi called on Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to end this cruel war. When our governments are willing to take part in sentencing millions of people to death and their country to ruin, is this not a call to democracy?

Today was my last kayaking this year. It felt even warmer, with fairly calm waters. A magical painter seemed to swept the trees with their fall colors onto the water where they displayed themselves as distorted, and their colors darkened by the smoky depths of the river. Everything in this painting was constantly moving and changing. The water is always reflecting this movement and change, and it truly absorbs me.

11/04. Today, a twelve-minute drive from here we had a dance leader meeting for our next Dances of Universal Peace. A herd of elk that live in that area and in the afternoons elk often come near the house. Indeed they were there as it started to get dark, and we could hear the male, at least one, whistling. It was really something to hear and to know we were surrounded by these magnificent four-leggeds.

11/06. On this day of the US elections I went down to the river to get the kayak emptied out until late next spring when the water will call me out again. As I had been busy, away, then we had a lot of rain, I finally got to this. The fall leaves are crusting together on the trail down the hill, and there are many more dead birch trees losing their tops every year. This is from a disease combined with some years of summer drought.

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Down below, the path before the railroad tracks was nearly unrecognizable with all the fallen leaves. Near the shed the white snow berries stood out on this gray moist day. After I dealt with equipment and put the kayak on its side, five geese flew by honking. As I started for home a bald eagle flew high crossing the river, just reminding me he is the king of the skies here. I am less sad this time about putting the kayak away; I had wonderful and deep experiences on the river and once again I have been its most constant human to venture many hours there. It has given me wonders too great to tell…and magnificence, and peace.

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                                            canoe in fire haze, Slocan Lake, 2017


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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 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!


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






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



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
Picking Princes in September
Nimpo Lake                                                         7
Breaking Confines                                             8
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
Latest Word
We at the Millennium                                     19
Ancient Singing                                                20
Tipi                                                                        21
Wind Music                                                        22
Watery Reaches                                                23
Bear Salmon Forest Bear                               24
Aurora Borealis
Vaya, Wind Spirit, Deep in-Breath            25

She Ponders                                                       26
Moreso Morel                                                    27
Creek Dreams                                                   28
Centers                                                               29
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


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 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.




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

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

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

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



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.


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



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.


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



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


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

Now you….




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 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.


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



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
And sense there is something of me
you always will cherish.


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.




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.


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



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

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.


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.




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.


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.




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.


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!



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.


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.




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

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



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.

(For Kathleen)

Everybody’s waiting in faded guerrilla denims
Incense-scented candle-lit apartments
For the Revolution
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
She is the blood, the bones, the marrow
She makes mush of the weak
While she hones the strong.




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

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.




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
Singing rarely now
But for a few Old Ones
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”
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!
many-hued robe
River ripples below
A singing lovelorn Princess keeps to her cliffs



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
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.




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.


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.


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




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?



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.




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?


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.




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.


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

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;


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.’


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.


In a hug with you:

The nicest place I have been

These many long moons.




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.




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.


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



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.


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.




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
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.


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


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.


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



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!


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.




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.


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.


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,



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.


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



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.


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.


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;



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.


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.



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.


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.




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.


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.



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.


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.




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




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.


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?


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!


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.




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.


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



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.


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.




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

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.


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.




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
Song of the unfathomed

My dead skin rattle in the wind

Leaves rustling.




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.



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



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.

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.

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.

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.


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.


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.

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.


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.