Thursday, January 3, 2013


The first few days of 1997 received no notations in my black-leatherbound book. I offer these morsels, these bursts of in-spiraling, these indelible moments for your delight!

Jan. 6:  Grief to gratitude, darkness to pink mountain tops, now all in sun and blue sky...
Where do these mindstates go? Like clouds, dissolve.

Jan 7: Like a bellows--birdwings, twenty little grey guys impelling from the haybarn to junkpile (grocery store to condo) in winter's deepest cold. Fast beating hearts moving quick liquids; tiny eyes alert, nay vigilent; parts of one great flockmind, bound to survival by invisible instincts!

Jan 8: Oh, animals, you are deep in my psyche, silohetted against the blue snow, deer crossing river, heron in the icy flow on one firm leg, geese scattered acrosss the vast white pasture heads bobbing while eating; and in my deep places, inaccessible, you surge through to keep me: wild, harmonious and free!

Jan 9:  Water rushing rock; rock obstructing water...great sound, sudden white. Oh! Heron!
What sound do your thin legs make, rooted in icy waves?

Jan 10: Red stallion sweaty and impatient tied to a tree. I will soothe you, smell your fecundity, your virility, but free you? We are tethered brother, but not for long.

Jan 11: Tears of joy, tears of sorrow: tears all the same. Breath of rage, breath of compassion: breath all the same. Purity in substance; all dissolves.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Raising plants, children, grandchildren and animals has occupied roughly 49 years of my life. I ask myself: why would I be excited to raise a kitten? After all, there's the litter box, there's litter-scatter, there's the smell, there's toys on the floor, another animal to tend, and worst of all accomodating our squirrel-crazy dog to this little furry creature who looks so much like a squirrel. Is it like going over the next mountain, just because it's there? I haven't ever raised a kitten so I need have that life experience? Is it nurturing hormones suddenly alive in a body that, by all other measures, has stopped making hormones? Is it a romantic notion to rev up my marriage?

All these questions began when my granddaughter walked around the corner with a seven- week old, long-haired tabby kitten at my birthday party, and put her in my lap. While I have been considering a kitten, actually having her in my arms (squirming, none too happy) was another matter indeed. Now, four days later, I am hooked, and the nagging questions and their fictional answers slowly dissolve, like the snow on this sunny day.

We're going through this together. My husband, the dog and Ila, whose new hiding place is behind the toilet in the second bathroom on one of my soft shawls. And yes, the dog is utterly convinced she's a squirrel. He spotted her through the new pen/fence I've got across the door for the first time today, and when she disappeared into her hiding place he assumed she was outside, and ran barking and squealing to the door to go chase squirrels. And I've already bought litter that doesn't track so much, and yes, a catnip mouse. Hook, line and sinker.

We are approaching Solstice, and even now dark shadows stripe my study. I think of Ila as a seed who will grow, change, require ongoing care, and please me, almost every time I see her. She will be a funny distraction as the sun slowly returns and warms the garden, and by the time the parsley is up, she'll be wandering around outside. She will deal with dogs, other cats, busy days, quiet days. That she is a "rescue" cat says little about my new commitment; mostly it's about inviting new life into my aging life, smiling at her antics, gaining her trust, seeing yet another being come into maturity in her own way. Not to mention the comfort her companionship will offer as time goes on.

And then there is the quiet independence that cats radiate. No leashes, no commands, no barking, just a warm observer who offers herself on her own terms. And oh yes, her beauty. She has 6 toes on each foot, white socks and fur sprouting out of her ears. Already I can imagine her aloof elegance, a quality I've never been able to cultivate.

Her name could have been Mittens, or Rowdy, or anything else, really. But I've always loved the name Ila, which was my maternal aunt's name. I never met her and never even heard one story about her. There might be one picture of her somewhere, but I don't have it. So that sound, Ila, will live on in our family, and bring with it all the blessings a growing kitten can offer.

Is this a trend? By next winter will I have chickens, dwarf goats and two more dogs installed? My husband assures me this is the last animal (for awhile). So it's doubtful the chore list will be extended. But taking her on says something to my heart: I'm not too old to take on new life. My nurturing spirit is alive and well, and the playing's not over yet.

Friday, December 14, 2012


My dearest daughter, now 40, let me know this past year that she is longing to have my mother's wedding rings. This was a surprise to me. I thought they were too old fashioned for her liking, and that she had her eye on a gold one with a ruby and two diamonds.

This morning opened up, and allowed me the grace of saying good bye to those diamond studded rings, of wrapping the package with as much ritual as I could, and composing a letter to go along with them. My heart is heavy with the awareness of the journey of those stones to reach my mother's finger in 1927, coming from squalid conditions in African diamond mines, dug by black men suffering hunger, poverty and loneliness. In the U.S., they indicated prosperity, and she worn them until her death in 1969. Then they come to me, who also wore one of them for many years, and now to they'll grace another woman's finger, who will no doubt pass them on to one of her beautiful daughters.

To me diamonds represent the pressure under which women live their lives. My mother served my father every single day, though he wouldn't allow her to work, or buy property, and physically abused her, even while he travelled, womanized and lived a life of relative freedom and wealth. They raised three children "together," my mother hiring a nanny for me, as the youngest, so she could continue her socialite role as the wife of a bank president, CEO, and general wheeler dealer. Years later, I watched her tear up the divorce papers he sent her because, she said, the dates were wrong on their marriage. She never let him go legally or emotionally.

I wore the wedding ring, with it's tiny diamonds all the way around, with a certain ambivalence. It seemed to carry such a tragic story, that eventually I tucked them both away, to be retrieved for memory, but not for use. But my daughter has no energetic connection to the rings' history, and she may find them a delight to her eyes and inspiration to her heart.

I believe the soul, if it could be viewed by a human eye, would look like a living diamond; that is, sparkling, shooting rainbows, and streaking out light into the atmosphere on its own, whether an external light is present or not. And the more we nurture our souls, the brighter our radiance becomes. Perhaps my mother will know me by my radiance when I arrive on the Other Side. We carry so much deeper understandings now than we did when she was alive: diamonds are forever.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


It’s been awhile. Like the big wave on the sun-drenched beach that drives the swimmer to the depths, the choice becomes going with the flow, or frantically grasping for the steady state of the surface. I’m going with the flow, tending family, working, and reading great books these past few months.

Two books lay on my table currently: Rilke’s THE BOOK OF HOURS: LETTERS TO GOD, edited from the German by Joanna Macy, a longtime heroine of mine. It feeds my Zen poet’s mind. The second, GILEAD, by a female author, is written in first person male point of view, a dying minister communicating about his life to his seven year old son. The son is too young to comprehend the developmental issues of aging, but the reader is not.

Writing, my passion, arises in my journal, in a couple of poems I’ll post, and strangely, on Facebook! Fathomless, innumerable, subtle and gross, words are my bloodstream. In the spring I began a novel set in a Montana mountain town. I set it aside for summer, line edited it last month, and see the character, a waitress in a café, needs “fleshing out,” as the editors say. I want you, the reader, to see, smell, and touch Elly’s very being, perceive her motives, her weaknesses and her keen intelligence. My winter opens up in January for longer periods of solitude in my study to add in the muscle and tendons.

Today the low sun creeps across my desk, and I’m planning a hike with my partner and our goofy dog. Sunshine trumps the computer. Thanks for tuning in. Here’s a couple of poems.

Oh co-ed, striding across the campus
With purpose and integrity:
I’ve worn gray boots like yours,
suede boots that empowered me.
No really! They had a heavy heel with
High lace-up tops; they fit like a glove,

Just like my new-found authority
Enveloped the woman full of fears.
Tying bravado into two stout bows
I marched the streets, my voice raging,
Finally letting all the anger out.

Even now, I’d buy another pair!
Looking down I’d recall the tear gas,
The slogans, the feel of 10,000
People chanting, “No! Oh, the belonging,
the righteousness!

I’d remember fifty years of resistance
to slaughter, to poverty, and greed;
while saying yes to community
where vision, transparency and trust
pave the path for souls to stroll
and share their delicate stories.

March on, young woman, to your next class
wearing your resolute purpose.
Speak your mind and your heart,
While running roughshod over complexities.
The world beckons you to take a stand.
I’ll walk behind you all the way.


Even now, emaciated and moving with such difficulty
You grasp the pencil, and erase yesterday’s
Additions and subtractions from your will.
Is it necessary, we wonder, at this late date,
To adjust the amounts and recipients?
Is this the very last attachment, or will
Your grasping mind find another project
That must be done before you die?
Stopping, you drift into the nether world
Where problem-solving’s ceased. Eyes
Close as if in death, body’s shutting down,
Without food (several weeks) or water (several days).
If your last effort in the name of generosity
Falls from the chair, and you slip through
The bars of the prison window
To fly free this sunny morning,
May that slender cord, that gossamer thread
Dissolve, releasing you to the field of
Infinite beneficence and eternal gratitude.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


I live in Montana, the 4th largest state in the nation, with only a million people, most of them arriving to isolate. At one point we had the largest number of x-CIA officers and Viet Nam Vets living in our lovely Western mountains! But I deeply believe this is the time to be making clans, tribes, alliances, and families, complete with all the hassles that entails!

Last week I was heartened in my belief by visiting with young people from around the world at a gathering in Big Hole, Montana. We were there to offer ceremony in the creation of the Sacred Door Trail, a long-held vision of Weston Pew, a 32-year old man of integrity and patience. The trail will be a 165-mile pilgrimage akin to the El Camino de Santiago in Spain, where pilgrims walk for several weeks, welcomed along the way by villagers. Weston had walked long pilgrimages in Spain, Ireland, and Peru as he incubated the idea for the Sacred Door. He envisioned the trail being a doorway to reconnect with one's ancestors, and in the present moment of putting one foot in front of the other, move into evolved conciousness that nurtures the earth and all her creatures.

I met Weston as we drove into the site. He surmised who I was by my license plate, apparently the only one from my county, and called me by name. Attendance was limited to 75 folks by the Forest Service, so I had registered early on. Long and lanky Weston wears a scruffy beard, and looks like a tree-planter or a gardener. His heart shines out from his blue eyes. He remembered names remarkably well, although many who gathered had met him elsewhere, at other gatherings, including Burning Man, which are taking place (and changing conciousness) all over the country.

The setting was a 40-acre meadow of blooming Blue Camus (cammasia), a food staple for native tribes in the past. This alone made it a sacred site, because miles and miles of camus have been eradicated through housing, highways, and civilization in general. Gazing across the meadow, the scene was of a shimmering lake surrounded by pined foothills, and intersected by Golden Willow guarding the meadering creek. As I wandered the area later I also found Elephant Head (pedicularis), a short stalk of tiny maroon blossoms which do resemble the tusks and trunks of elephants. Before the end of the first day, I had thrilled to the call of Sand Hill Cranes, and their echo from the mountains, like a hallelujah chorus. If I had doubts about what I was getting into, these elements encouraged me to stay. Magic was afoot.

As the first evening unfolded, we sat around a Sacred Fire to listen to a Lakota Elder, his wife and daughters, sing and talk about Weston's vision, and the need to turn away from "slash and burn" and embrace gentleness with every step. They sang old prayer/songs that moved our hearts without knowing the translations of the Lakota words. We gathered then under a shaded area and a Sacred Pipe was offered, touching every lip or shoulder, the smoke filled with prayers for the trail to assist the transformation of small selves to sacred selves.

After dinner we again gathered around the Fire Pit and experienced a shamanic offering by a young couple from Peru. They used instruments that mimicked sounds of nature, including a very small guitar with 10 strings that was played with a feather. Their voices called out to the night birds, who responded softly from the trees. The "pan pipe" enhanced the sense of sacred breath they created, as they blessed each one of us with Condor feathers and rose oil. The deep silence when they were done permeated every heart. We sat in stillness, only the fire dancing in front of our eyes.

The second day Weston asked us to identify the direction we resonated with, and be willing to hike and climb to the trail itself and build rock cairns, with ceremony. I found myself in one of two cars heading East, with folks who were instant friends, talking about the difficulty of living in a culture of death while carrying the Heart of Life within us. We hiked 4 miles in a another pristine meadow within sight of Maverick Mountain, where a long snowfield lingered like a wide chalkmark dividing thriving pine forests. We were not directed how/what/where to create this ceremony, but all of us knew the elements, and built a cairn for travelers to add to, imbued with prayers from the Christian, Jewish, Sufi, Goddess and Nature traditions, with chant and drum to complete the occasion. All of this excursion was accompanied by hundreds of mosquitos who, thankfully, were not biting, but made themselves known in ears, eyes, and any patch of skin left available.

Returning to Hogan's cabin, we wanted to stay and hear the stories of what the other folks from other directions experienced. But my friend and I needed to return home, and sadly packed up our little tents, and bid adieu to new found friends. Many impressions remain of this sweetest of events, but above all, I am so incredibly heartened at the young people I met, from all over the country, who are carrying the flame of unitive conciousness, of tolerance and of compassion. I strangely feel, as an elder, that I am marching in the front of the parade, singing my song of Peace, while they are numberless, bringing up the rear. This is a metaphor others might reverse: they are the leaders now, and I am standing watching the parade, as one who went before. Nonetheless, as polarity seems to grow, while the old regime dies, I feel far less angst about the future. Weston Pew and millions like him are there for my future, for our future. They will not let us down.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Dreams of the pow wow highway start drifting through in February
While gazing through the window at the vast snow laying deep on the still vaster earth
Or with the first glance of a new morning, still dark, moon in the east.
Not quite memories, certainly not plans, the scenes tumble along
Of teepee villages, Grand Entry, smiling faces smudged with frybread honey.

Along about April, snow soggy with the longer days, lists start coming to mind:
Sage, sweetgrass, toothpaste, bugspray, sunscreen,gifts for elders,dancing moccassins,
And sometime in late May the grocery list: chocolate for Little Bear, pancake mix, honey for Grandmother Twila, summer-canned peaches for Uncle Bill
(he's alone now, loves fruit),
And that deer jerky we made in September, take the last of that to share.

Not very organized, but filled to the roof (on top is the old teepee and a liner),
The first miles roll under the balding tires toward Arlee, and items come to mind
That got left behind: baby wipes, toothpaste, a potholder for the coffee pot,
some arnica balm for sore joints after a night of bone game.
Oh, check that stuff in the bandana that White lady gave us.
There's some in there. And a Hershey bar to sweeten the way.

Dance, eat and pray: the formula for Big Buffalo Hearts, and Peace among the families.
No secret: just dance, eat and pray.

Ogeebees, traveling spirits, go with you, laughing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Rain has blessed the valley for almost a week now. Chilly nights necessitate tarps over our little flower and tomato beds. I've been ecstatic to have days for puttering around on the property, installing some new herbs, including Golden Seal, and Monarda, and checking on old ones like the Nettle, Comfrey, and Elderberry. My life is as rich as our compost. It seems I get carried away in various directions for days on end; for example, yesterday my herbalist mentor took me to her picking place for Arnica Montana, where the blossoming plants perfectly matched the Oregon Grape blossoms! Together we gathered the wild yellow heads, and later I ceremoniously dropped them into liquid coconut oil, to simmer out the water for the night. Then I went on line, and hauled out some of my books to re-research Arnica and marvel at the precious medicines that are available to us from the Earth Mother. When I returned from a class last night the whole house smelled like cookies, the result of the warm sugars in the blossoms and in the coconut oil!

Yesterday I tended plants, some days trail off into praying and reading, or writing poetry. Others evolve into sitting with friends telling stories and joking about ourselves. Sometimes I am a housewife for several days: cleaning cupboards, touching up paint, moving furniture and throwing out old stuff. Then there's cooking days, when we are oversupplied with vegetables or a turkey carcuss, and my creativity flows into tucking them away for future use. The privilege to choose the activity of the day, to follow those subtle leanings of my being toward one or another joy, brings deep humility, after many years of doing what MUST be done (raising kids, earning wages, etc.). Is it privilege, luck, destiny or just life that gives me these freedoms?

I imagine this creative period of my life similar to a spring-budding tree whose juices stir with the warming of the earth, and rise to catalyze all the processes for bud, leaf, flower, and fruit. All nature's forces come to assist this blooming; in my case, nature's forces include my good fortune to be healthy, to have a encouraging partner, to live in a peaceful valley where food is abundant. And like the tree, whose leaves offer shade, whose flowers offer scent, whose fruit offers nourishment, my offerings flow to my partner, family and community in a continual stream of blessing. There is profound reciprocity in this dance, to the degree that the difference between "me" and "them" dissolves as skin absorbs light and radiates health simultaneously.

The rain moved east late yesterday and the sun, perhaps a little lonely from Venus' transit, shines equanimously on all beings in our neighborhood. It calls the tomatoes to lift their leaves, it calls the sunflower seeds to push harder through the soil, and it calls me to the next tasks awaiting me outside. I will work harder than my muscles would like, and after I decant the arnica blossoms, I will have a warm balm to rub into my shoulders and legs with some to share with friends and family. This sacred cycle of working in grace, receiving in grace, and offering in grace feels fragile, so subtle, like the tiny ladyslippers we found yesterday, purple blossoms soon to die. If I'm lucky I can live in this dimension of reciprocity in my work out in the world, remembering the divine unity that allows trees, plants, and human beings to unfold, taking just what is needed, and offering their best.