RUIN AND BEAUTY

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Category Archives: RESTORATION

This Earth Day, Let’s Not Forget the Long Environmental Plight of Native Americans

From uranium mining in the Four Corners to the Hanford nuclear site, the U.S. government has consistently treated First Peoples’ land with disregard.shutterstock_64893586

Uranium mine tailings clean-up near Moab, Utah.
Photo Credit: Gary Whitton/Shutterstock

In March 2008, a small group of medicine people, healers and health professionals accompanied a native woman back to the Four Corners Reservation in Arizona after 22 years of self-exile. She had been suffering from leukemia, and then kidney failure from chemo, as a result of unknowingly playing in uranium tailings as a child. Yet she was healing despite stopping chemo, and she knew enough from her tradition that physical healing depends also on spiritual and soul healing, and so the journey was arranged.

The first morning in Tuba City, Arizona, we were surprised to meet members of the U.S. Geological Survey team who were looking to discover hidden uranium tailings poisoning the waters. As it happened, the woman had such information from her childhood, and in turn the survey team directed us to a private back road so that from above, we could view the now covered pit where she had played.

It was an extraordinary visit and significant for each of us in different ways. I was deeply rattled at the very beginning when we stopped at midnight at the entrance to the reservation in the tiny town of Cameron. We wanted to approach this homecoming with formal respect. It was necessary to do ceremony. We exited from the cars although it was bitter cold, and I bent down to touch the earth. Running my fingers through the sand, I was astonished to find they were hot. Cameron had been a major mining and storage site for uranium, but uranium is not hot. Nevertheless, on this cold night in March in Arizona, the sands were hot.

I could not forget that moment. It persisted in my thinking for years. In 2011, I began writing a novel, A Rain of Night Birds, about two climatologists, one native and one non-native, who upon meeting each other had to face the emotional and spiritual anguish of their profession. Unsurprisingly, the non-native woman goes to Cameron and discovers that the sands are hot. Her professional training doesn’t help her solve the mystery, but she pays respect to the profoundly wounded earth.

Writing a novel is a mysterious process. Fiction requires the bedrock of truth to be of value and truth requires fiction to translate its deepest meanings and implications. When I was writing the novel, I found myself seeking the bedrock through which the story of the characters’ love for each other and their anguish for the world would be revealed. In October 2013, I visited the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center Museum and was captivated by the First Peoples exhibit on the history of the original people who lived in the area of the Gorge.

Like the burning sands of Cameron, I could not forget these First People. I was also puzzled by the focus of the museum, at once on the First Peoples and their ways of life, myths and wisdom, and also on the local history of transportation in the modern era. It is a disconcerting juxtaposition of soul and steel. The next August, I had to return; the Columbia Gorge and the Four Corners Reservation were becoming important sites in my novel. I had two visits in mind: the first to the Hanford Nuclear Reservation and the second to the Yakama Reservation.

The U.S. government has the audacity to call Hanford a “reservation” after expropriating Lalik (Rattlesnake Mountain), sacred to the Yakama, for use by the Manhattan Project, which built the B Reactor, the first full-scale plutonium production reactor in the world, which made Fat Man, the bomb that destroyed Nagasaki. Hanford is decommissioned now, but it cannot be cleaned up. It is one of the 10 most toxic sites in the world and the most toxic in the United States. It affects the entire Columbia River and its watershed.

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Aerial view of the 100-B Area with Reactor B, the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built. (image: Everett Historical/Shutterstock)

When my traveling companion and I applied for reservations for the tour of Hanford, we were told they were sold out until 2012. But the day before we left for the Northwest, two tickets became available, so we took the tour into hell. The following day, we met with Russell Jim, an elder of the Yakama Nation, head of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Indian Nation’s Environmental Restoration and Waste Management Program.

Jim spoke with us about the devastation of the land, how it is affecting the Yakama Nation and about the environmental impact of the radioisotopes that were released into the areas surrounding the B Reactor and the other nuclear reactors aligning the Columbia River. He spoke of the radiant salmon hanging to dry on the porches of the local people, and the radiation experiments enacted on non-consensual local natives. “But we will not leave our way of life,” he said. He was determined that his people would not become like the conquerors, or like those who created Hanford and nuclear bombs.

At its best, literature allows the reader to enter another world and experience another being’s life. In order for this to come about, the writer herself must enter the reality fully. In 1977, I had breast cancer. In 2008, I put my hands on the earth on the Four Corners Reservation and discovered the sands were hot. In March 2011, at the time of the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima, I lay down in my imagination within the body of the Earth Sea Mother to feel the radiation burn she cannot escape. On Aug. 11, 2014, I took the public tour of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation where an accidental release of a plume of radiation burned into my body, evidenced by extreme C-reactive protein levels that took months to cool. For the next years I lived in the body of my imagination or the imagination of my body or both of the realities of the two climatologists whose lives I was coming to know and chronicle in my novel.

We will not survive as people or as a planet if we do not learn each other’s reality in every cell of our bodies. We will not survive if we do not look unflinchingly at the grave harm we are doing. Empathy and the willingness to experience common jeopardy may help us heal our psychotic condition. Writing this on April 6, 2017, I learn that our infantile and demented president has sent 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles onto the bleeding soil of Syria. This Earth Day, I offer you an excerpt from A Rain of Night Birds. May our Earth Mother survive us, somehow.
September, 2007, Canyon de Chelly. It was just weeks since Terrence had collapsed. As they drove in the long about way she and her father favored through Cameron, Tuba City, Kayenta, Many Farms to Chinle, Sandra’s thoughts inevitably flitted to the earlier trip. She had never gained an understanding of the hot sands. She couldn’t set it entirely aside because she believed that Terrence had buckled when he penetrated, with his piercing eyes, the history that led to the contamination of sacred land at Hanford Nuclear Reservation. He had looked through Wy’east (Mt Hood) to see it, in the way he had looked at the 2007 IPPC report through the wide-angle multidimensional lens of his mind.

Alone at Massacre Cave Outlook, where the brutal Kit Carson and his men had slaughtered mostly women and children in order to eradicate the Diné, the sands dribbled back into her consciousness. Terrence’s precarious condition had seemingly allowed her to set aside the entire spectrum of ills from the Anthropocene – from war to the poisoned earth – to focus on him. And also his condition had raised her alarm to orange alert. Worried about him, she turned away from the hot sands, but she could not forget them when standing at Adah Aho’doo’nili (Two Fell Off).

She could see into the earth to its fiery core and as far as the sun, as he could see forward and back seven generations and widely to the origin of the wind, its destination and return, to the swirl of currents, rising and falling, emerging and diminishing, an unending circle encompassing the globe.

Now she – so much had they become one – had to hold alongside Terrence’s collapse looking at Hanford, the inescapable fact, though she did not understand it, that the sands at Cameron had been hot at midnight on a cold March night, 2005, just before the advent of the spring equinox.

Meeting the Times November 9 2016

Yesterday, two experiences early in the day assured me of the existence of spirit. Then I was, as are many of us, mystified, stunned and fearful as the unimaginable came closer. Donald Trump was elected president. For some the world shattered.

I have to ask: What are we called to at this moment?

Let me say what I must directly. We are stricken. We don’t know what is coming toward us, what we will be called to meet. And we don’t know what to do or how to do it.

I am thinking about the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Despite adversity, they have created a village. It formed on behalf of endangered and violated Water and on behalf of sacred land and the ancestors. The elders created protocols for entering the culture of Standing Rock:

“Ceremony and prayer are the bedrock of Indigenous peoples’ connection to land and water and are central in protecting them. Actions are ceremony and along with meetings, usually begin with prayer.”

A small group of us will join those at Standing Rock from 11/29 to 12/2. It is more important than ever to stand there on behalf of Water.

There are sacred circles of standing stones across the globe.  Dan Berrigan spoke wisely in the midst of the Vietnam war: “Just don’t do something, stand there.”

Several people met at my house on election night. No one should be alone tonight, we said.  We agreed that rather than watching the returns constantly, we would spend the night in silence, prayer and council. We invited spirit, we passed a prayer pipe several times; we listened deeply.

A core question repeated itself: How do we meet this moment?

For myself, there is a clear call to divest myself from all the systems in which I am / we are embedded that have led to these dire circumstances. Even as they will beckon more powerfully, so determinedly must I refuse them. I am aware of a similar need to disentangle from Western and colonial mind that have brought us to this brink.

Watching a tsunami of fear and analysis which is reifying the divisions and the danger, I will not declare war or name enemies.  i want to walk the No Enemy Way.

It is a time for living the medicine without compromise or accommodation. We are being called to lives of exquisite integrity.

Let us try not to be self-righteous; let’s try to be courageous.

In the darkest times, we have seen people abandon each other out of fear and to serve power. We saw it in this election. Let us try not to be like them.  In the darkest times, we have seen people join with and sustain each other.  Let us be those people.

We are being called, once again, to meet what we must.  Perhaps this is not just a spiritual opportunity but a spiritual demand.

In our circle last night, simple ways repeated themselves:

Invite spirit.  Listen deeply.

Move with heart and prayer.

Bear witness.

Create, confirm and sustain community.

Stand in communion and community with each other, with all others. Stand in the community of all beings. The 19 Ways became increasingly relevant: http://deenametzger.net/19-ways/

Protect the Mother, Earth, as the primary, daily, on-going activity.

***

Last night we consulted the I Ching. Question: How do we meet this time?

Hexagram 50. The Vessel. (No changing lines):

Ding is a ritual vessel that signifies connection with the spirit world and the ancestors. It is divination… submitting questions to the oracle, as well as the right moment to act. …It offers nourishment to the warriors and sags and the sage-mind in all of us brightening the eye and ear. It suggests a mandate, a fate conferred by heave that is also a duty or responsibility. It means becoming a true and responsible individual.

1972, I marched with thousands of people in Santiago, Chile, in support of President Allende and the Unidad Popular. One year later, I was in Cuba on 9/11/73 when the brutal golpe in Chile occurred. For the next years, I recited the names of those I had met in Chile as if saying a rosary to protect them. (It was not all I did on behalf of Chile to end the horrific violence. I was devoted.) Whether coincidence, magic or the power of prayer, those whose names I said, were not killed by those who were torturing and murdering.

Today we are putting all the names into the circle. We call you into the circle. Let us stand with and love each other and the Earth very well.

Mitakye oyasin, all our relations.

***

Realities Enter Our Lives: Fukushima and the Future

Every morning when I awaken and see the amber light on the old dying elm and the vigorous eucalyptus, the one that bled crimson sap one season I think, ‘Beauty is still here.’  Relief and gratitude.  Life as I have been living it – shall I call it – life as usual – goes on.

I can meet the day.  I determine to go on living my life as well as I can.  The early morning light is beautiful as it was yesterday.  Today will be hot again, but the nights are cool and clear.  We are meant to sit under the stars. 

Life as usual, what is it?

At this momentarily quiet moment, it is: Pray, eat, write, work, water, feed (the wild), dog, walk, read, family, friends, solitude, sleep. Again and again.

But also at this hour and every hour, deadly radiation – 300 tons of toxic water per day – is leaking from the storage tanks in Fukushima.[1]

“The water from the leaking tank is so heavily contaminated with strontium-90, cesium-137, and other radioactive substances that a person standing less than two feet away would receive, in an hour’s time, a radiation dose equivalent to five times the acceptable exposure for nuclear workers,” Reuters reported.

TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company has finally admitted what we, and they, have known from the beginning: they do not have the means or the knowledge to remedy the situation.

An hour later, the light is stark and will remain so all day.

After twenty-seven years, I am divorced.  The reality of this great loss enters my heart.  I did not expect to have to re-imagine and rebuild my life at this age.  One prepares for the death of a life partner, but divorce is an unnatural death blow to the heart.  After divorce, I have to assess what life is, so I can reconstruct a pattern that is a life.  The essentials are there: Pray, eat, write, work, water, feed (the wild), dog, walk, read, family, friends, lots of solitude, sleep.  Now Fukushima is here.  Drone, and dissonance.  It adds another dimension to the question: How does one go on?  How am I to live?

These are not the questions I expected to ask at this time in my life.  But now I must ask them.  The personal and the global coincide.  Fukushima, only one of the myriad horrific consequences of the ways we are living our lives.  How do we go on?  How are we to live?

1985.  A dear friend died.  I was inconsolable.  Driving on the freeway one gray morning, a disembodied voice said, “Forgive those who have left early.  Who could not stay to witness the end.”

I protested that I was also unwilling to stay to witness the end, but I would stay as long as I saw that I might make a difference.  I was not fifty yet.  Too young to know that one doesn’t win when trying to bargain with the spirits; I thought I had made a deal:  I would stay. We would all work to change consciousness and there would be no end to Creation.

I was certain or I was determined: The human could not (would not) overcome the Holy.

Last night, August 24th, I was anguished about Fukushima, climate change and the Rim Fire “swallowing everything in its path.” as it approached Yosemite . My own personal pain and unexpected loneliness, miniscule and irrelevant before the anguish of the earth. Losing a soul mate is not the same as losing a planet, even though it raises similar questions about how to live and what has meaning.

“A raging California wildfire has grown to 200 square miles and is so large and burning with such force that it is creating its own weather patterns, making it hard to predict where it will move,” fire officials said. “As the smoke column builds up it breaks down and collapses inside of itself, sending downdrafts and gusts that can go in any direction,”

She is really angry” a Native American friend says.  “No telling what She will do.”

I went to bed asking for wisdom, which only rarely comes to me in dreams.

I dreamed a friend has decided to commit suicide.  Her husband and I are accompanying her as witnesses.  We are facing her as we sit on the ends of a small couch, a large space between us.  She is speaking to us but she is speaking in absolute silence.  She is standing, restless, as she reveals her decision.  She does not have to explain.  We know.  We understand.   Sometimes my friend suffers what the world is suffering in her body.  We see that she cannot bear the pain.

My friend is living in a neighborhood where violence, always a constant, has suddenly escalated.  She is aware that the escalation in her neighborhood is an analogue of the global escalation.  She is not willing to respond personally without also considering the global dilemma.  So she speaks, without words, of the local incidents, the murders and break-ins, and the parallel events in our country, and around the world.

The communication between us is entirely silent and precise. We could elaborate, but, in the dream, we are committed to short hand:

She is thinking of the violence in her city, the violence in our country, the violence in the world.  Personal violence, national violence, global violence.  Murder, massacre, terrorism, war.

I am thinking of climate change, global warming, nuclear accidents, oil spills, extinction.

She is considering suicide.  We are immersed in ecocide.  We are each holding everything the other one is holding.

She and I have declared our houses as sanctuaries for the community of human and non-human beings.  Now sanctuary is threatened.  Sanctuary , a quality of earth, is threatened everywhere.  In the dream, the reality of the loss enters her heart.

At first, neither her husband nor I interfere.  It is, after all, her life.  We know her anguish.  But then it seems, I do question her decision and she falters.  She cannot stand her ground about suicide.  It seems she decides to live.  Or rather, she decides not to take her own life.  In the dream, I am now responsible to her for the unbearable pain she will have to bear.

She will ask the question:  How shall I live?  She will ask that even if there are no remedies that she knows.  No remedies for her pain.  No remedies for the disasters the world is facing.

I am trying to follow the wisdom and direction of the dream.

On August 23d, NPR played an interview with climate scientist Judith Curry, who in 2005 predicted that hurricanes were going to get more severe due to climate change.  She also did diplomatic work behalf of the IPPC, the United Nations, International Panel on Climate Change.  This spring, she testified  to a house subcommittee that “If all other things remain equal, it’s clear that adding more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere will warm the planet, but all other things may not remain equal.”  She didn’t feel certain about the outcome and so she recommended taking no action.  “I have six nieces and nephews who have recently graduated from college,” she says. “Not easy finding jobs in this economy. Are we going to jeopardize their economic future and they may not even care?”

Leaked material from the soon to be published IPPC 5th Assessment Report declares that scientists hold humans 95% responsible for climate change.  Until we are certain of this, do we indulge business as usual for the imagined economic benefit of our relatives without considering all the other beings, human and non-human on the earth?

Native Americans have an answer to this.  In Lakota, it is mitakye oyasin, all my relations.  Ideas are not abstractions.  Embedded in culture, they, like the force that turns sunflowers always toward the sun, magnetize and focus our energies in particular directions.  These two words, alone reveal the great gap between a culture that lives for a technology that created Fukushima and a culture that lives through a reverent love of the earth.

As it happens, I am writing a novel , A Rain of Night Birds, about an atmospheric scientist.  The novel was ‘given” to me.  I would never have conceived of it, nor could I have developed it, by myself.   I have been writing it for two and a half years, faithful to whatever is given me, listening, listening, listening, deeply involved and yet not knowing.  I have given the summer to it and in turn I have been guided in ways that bring me to my knees.

Because of a series of accidents and complications, I was seated in my car and turned on the radio, just as the interview with Judith Curry aired.  Had this been an ordinary day or hour, I would not have heard her.

These are the last days of the writing retreat.  When the novel came to me, I knew no more about climate science than the average well educated citizen.  Frustrated with trying to write intelligently about  characters whose work and knowledge are central to the story while I do not share their understanding, I set out to query several scientists for a reading list of books I could understand without having the math background necessary for environmental sciences..  Years ago I had managed to learn what was necessary to bring Daniela Stonebrook Blue, an astrophysicist in my novel, The Other Hand, to life.  The research had taken a year or two, but afterwards I could write in the language of the stars.  Maybe I still have a year or two to learn enough of the environmental sciences to satisfy the integrity of my characters.  Within a few hours, and before I wrote to anyone, a reading list appeared with articles I could understand that cover the entire field: “Welcome to Resources in Atmospheric Sciences.”  Welcome, the title says.  Welcome!

I do not generally associate technology and magic but I see that the spirits use any means necessary to communicate with us in ways that we can accept.  They use dreams and they use Google.  The combination is breathtaking.   And a little humorous.

Earlier in the week, other strange circumstances connected me with the IPPC 4th Assessment Report.  I had never read it.  A brief section startled me: The Role of Local and Indigenous Knowledge in Adaptation and Sustainability Research.[2] “Research on indigenous environmental knowledge has been undertaken in many countries, often in the context of understanding local oral histories and cultural attachment to place. A survey of research … outline the many technical and social issues related to the intersection of different knowledge systems, and the challenge of linking the scales and contexts associated with these forms of knowledge. With the increased interest in climate change and global environmental change, recent studies have emerged that explore how indigenous knowledge can become part of a shared learning effort to address climate-change impacts and adaptation, and its links with sustainability.”

How did this report come to me?  The novel called it forth.  The inner world and the outer world, experience and the imagination, life and spirit, they are always in resonant exchange.  This report came to me because its material is central to the novel.  Every environmental /earth scientist will read the Assessment, so will the characters in my book.  But perhaps, the Assessment came so that I, as a citizen, will read it.  So that it can be brought to your attention here.  So that you , and I, will learn something of what we are facing AND that spirit exists.  Both and together.

I do not know how to restore the earth any more than I know how to write this book.  But I do know that it is necessary to take signs seriously and listen deeply.  This is one of my commitments to these times.

And so the dream.  I am trying to follow the meaning and implication of the dream.  In a strange way, Judith Curry is part of the dream.  As so are the characters in the novel I am writing.  Environmental scientists.  Earth scientists.  How do they bear it?  How do they live given what they know?

Often dreams pose questions rather than answering them.  Dreams focus our attention in new ways.  Here are some questions the dream may be asking:

How do we live if there are no known remedies?

Are there changes we are being called to make whether or not we know in advance whether anything will make a difference?

What might it mean to give up life as usual to actively face and meet these grief times?

How do we shift, if we don’t know what to do?

At least for this moment, let us agree.  Let us not live life as usual.  Let us not live  business as usual. Let us not allow life, our lives, to be beholden to commercially designed, media driven, technologically determined life style.

How, then, will we live?  How will we live each moment with integrity?

I had breast cancer in 1977.  I sought out the life force, as a healing strategy, in the face of threat.  In 1997, I wrote a journal of healing, Tree.[3]  In it, I named the life force, Toots.  It was a proclamation. The question I asked then:  What are the forces in me that say Die and what are the forces in me that say, Live?

The answers were so easy then.  So personal.  I had to change my life and I did it.  At that time, a dream that alerted me that I had cancer, instructed me to step out silence.  To speak. That was one way.  I was a feminist; I understood how essential this was.

That dream in 1976  centered on fascism.  It was set in Chile under Pinochet.  It featured the Dina, the Chilean secret police, and a Nazi matron from Dachau who intended to use torture to silence me.

Today, as I remember the dream, and our need to identify our real lives, Daniel Ellsberg declares “”We have not only the capability of a police state, but certain beginnings of it right now,” Ellsberg told The Huffington Post Wednesday.[4] “And I absolutely agree with Edward Snowden. It’s worth a person’s life, prospect of assassination, or life in prison or life in exile — it’s worth that to try to restore our liberties and make this a democratic country.”

In my dream of August 24th, 2013, my friend and I speak silently of everything that is bringing us to grief.  Somewhere in our hidden conversation, teaching us how to live in such times, are Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange.

Here is another question inspired by the dream and the gravity of this time:  If we have the courage and capacity to consider everything that is threatening us at once, might there be responses that can help us meet everything at once?

What would it mean to hold and consider everything at once?  In the dream, my friend wants to die because she cannot bear it but later it seems she capitulates to the need to live and bear everything.  What is everything?  We each have our own list:

It is probably divided between the deliberate killing and the concomitant dying.   The wars we are waging and the victims we have become of those wars.

(Please stay with me, with us.  If you’ve come so far, please read this list, create your own and stay present to it.)

The development, sale and use of weaponry and the victims of these weapons..  Nuclear weapons and the dangers of nuclear power.  Hiroshima / Nagasaki and Chernobyl /Fukushima.  Syria and the new potential for horrific war sparked by the U..S. Arms sales and rapes and murders.  Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Drones., Surveillance, poverty and prisons.  Sexual abuse, domestic violence, torture. Home foreclosures and city bankruptcies.  Hurricanes, tornados, and fire storms.  Monsanto, Keystone XL pipe lines, fracking, drilling, mountain top removal, coal,  and mining,   The melting glaciers, the release of methane from permafrost, the rise in carbon dioxide levels, the holes in the ozone layers, the rise of seas, the deaths of the polar bears …  Our maddened and suffering children.  All our losses and disconnections.

We murder and we die.  This is who we have become – murderers and victims, both and at once. “I have become death, “Oppenheimer declared.  That recognition did not save us.

Here is the challenge – for me and for us:  If we have the courage and capacity to consider everything that is threatening us at once, and every way we are living that supports it, might we find ways that can truly help us meet everything at once?

And what if no answers come that guide us to know what to do?  What if there are no remedies?  How will we live our lives?

So often, I come to writing thinking that there is something new and urgent that I must set down.  And then, I find myself, as at this moment, at the same insight.  But once again, with urgency.  Perhaps that is what writers and artists do.  We are given an essential form or insight that is ours to continuously examine and perfect.

Remember the classic story of the renowned Japanese carver who had saved a very particular log.  Being more than eighty, he told a friend, that after a lifetime of study, he  thought he might be ready to begin to carve.

Mitakye oyasin as a response, as a standard, meets everything at once.

The repeating, on-going, continuous, relentless, insistent understanding:  if we change out lives, if we step back entirely from those forms and habits that directly, if inadvertently, lead to Fukushima or any of the horrors we faced above, then … then … we still might save Creation.  Everyday, the need to change and the radical nature of the change gets greater and more urgent.  And even so, if there are no carbon emissions for the next year, the seas will not freeze over as before in a year or two.  But we do not know what might result from such a united and complete offering to Spirit.

Judith Curry wouldn’t speculate on global warming because she can’t calculate all the factors.  Or perhaps, she hit despair. When we hit despair, we go on with life as usual, in its most diminished form.  We continue to insist on what we, individually need and what we individually want.

Unlike Judith Curry and like all the contributors to the IPPC 5th Assessment, we can assume that global warming will get worse and we are responsible.  Therefore …

Just after 9/11/2001, I wrote in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing (Hand to Hand):

“At the time when the planes hit, seven of us … were engaged in fierce ritual work.

“Two stories intersected in that moment: a story streaming toward destruction and a story streaming toward healing.”

The path toward destruction has gained momentum.  Fukushima may mean that destruction is imminent.  And yet …

I don’t know what is at the end of that last sentence.  I will let you finish it.  But the dream implies there are right responses even if we do not know them.  And that we are to choose life.  I am asking myself and all of us, what does it mean to choose life?

Are we willing to change our ways, to live in what Native Americans call the good ways, to step away from what leads to the tragedies we have each listed, even if, ultimately, it may not save our lives?  Are we willing to make those radical offerings?

At the end of When Women Were Birds, Terry Tempest Williams writes: “An albatross on Midway Atoll, dead and decomposing, is now a nest of feathers harboring plastic from the Pacific gyre of garbage swirling in the sea.  We can kneel in horror and beg forgiveness. Or we can turn away.  But the albatross crying overhead, buoyed up by the breeze, is now suspended in air by her vast bridge of wings.  She is the one who beckons us to respond.”

Terry learns that she has a tumor close to the language center of her brain.  Surgery might threaten her understanding or her speech.  Doctors giving second opinions “all asked the same question: ‘How well do you live with uncertainty?’

“’What else is there?’” she said.

The friend from the dream and I have just had a conversation.  “I have made the pledge to live twice,” she said.

“I have as well,” I answered.  “But I made it conditional upon reversing the terrible disorder of things. Perhaps the dream calls me to make the pledge unconditionally.”  As I write these words, I wonder if this is the offering?

My friend says, “You will not be alone if you choose life. We will help each other bear it.”

***

Since I was young, I have been told that we can’t go back to the way it was.  (Also that this way is better –  that is not worth bothering to refute.)  Don’t be a Luddite, I was advised – or warned.

This is the other theme explored here:  Everyone of us comes from an indigenous culture. That means we all come from people who knew the spirits, loved and interconnected with the earth and all its beings.  It means we have the love of the earth, beauty, art, song, healing, vision within us.  It means we have access to deep peace and respect for all beings.  It means that we can all follow the African way of Sankofa, the mythical bird that flies forward by looking back.

It means we can go back.  it means that, as in the dream, we can falter in our determination to kill ourselves and destroy all life.  It means we can gather the wisdom we need to live real lives.  It means we can be freed from what has taken us over. It means we do not have to continue on this death march of our own invention.

When Fukushima first exploded, I journeyed to Her, to the one who I called the Great Earth Sea Mother.  I didn’t dare do this in what is called real time, but I could do it through the ways that Spirit has given us to reach across from one realm to another.  I wanted to comfort Her of course.  She did not allow me to ease my heart that way.  “Be with me,” she said.  So I was as extensively as I was able.  Imagine then, the pain of the on-going nuclear reaction within her, the unimaginable fire, the continuous, relentless agony.

We don’t know how to decontaminate the waters.  We don’t know how to ease her pain.  A hundred years estimated to repair the nuclear facility?  How many years until the radiation is spent?

But we also don’t know what will be possible if we go back to the original wisdom and live accordingly.  I don’t think any indigenous people on the planet have the intention of  saving  us.  But living in the old ways, that they have so carefully and respectfully preserved, may save the earth.

Mitakye Oyasin.

SOLSTICE 2012: MYTH AND POSSIBILITY

December 21, 2012 — Many of us were involved in a myth that could carry us into consciousness and bring healing and restoration to our besieged and suffering planet. There were many opportunities for exploitation, obfuscation and fear mongering around the date, and most of them, if not all, were utilized. But those who had studied the myth and its archeological foundation knew, and we hope the others see by now, that whatever was or was not happening on that date would not lead to planetary or galactic disaster. Rather we were witness to and participating in the unfolding of a mythic story derived from ancient consciousness. The source was Maya in this instance. It is important that so many people across the earth were willing to grant foresight to an ancient people. To honor the myth was also to honor their culture and knowledge and make amends for hundreds of years of brutal oppression, followed in the most recent years by patterns of chilling genocide. It was also to begin a process of return to earth-centered sanity that has eluded the dominant culture for hundreds if not thousands of years.

One way of understanding myth is as a living story, a vital pattern, enacted on individuals and cultures, again and again, in different forms, but not, usually, literally. In the movement from 2012 to 2013, we entered in the energy and vitality of one cycle ending and another beginning. The classic myth of the celestial journey of navigating the Sacred Road along the Milky Way was coming into prominence and heralded possibility not destruction. People across the world used the myth/date as a common opportunity to work toward changing their lives and, as importantly, their life styles. The mythic resonance was an opportunity for a global conversation, a council of sorts: What will it take to initiate personal, cultural and political transformation? The media and different governing bodies feared (and stirred) people’s fears of imminent destruction. But many of us were, and continue to be, alarmed about the somewhat slower (not by galactic time) but relentless trajectory toward extinction unless the human population on the planet changes its ways.

Changing its ways means stepping out of the materialistic, power driven, violent dominant culture. The date, its association with the end of a cycle, did not imply apocalypse; the date could auger new beginnings.

John Major Jenkins articulated the myth this way: The alignment from the perspective of earth, of the sun with the galactic center, the dark rift in the Milky Way, is a story of the birth of First Father (the Sun) from the womb of First Mother, (the dark rift or the black hole from which the galaxy, itself, was born.) The birth of First Father augers the beginning of a new World age. “We are living today in the Mayan end times. The Great Cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on the winter solstice of 2012 A.D. Following Mayan concepts of cyclic time and World Age transitions, this is as much about beginnings as endings. In fact, it was considered by the ancient Maya to signify the Creation of a new World Age.” (Jenkins: Thesis and Mayan Cosmogenisis.”)

For the Maya, this journey across Xibalba, is the journey from the birth canal, the journey of life to death, the way or journey of spiritual transformation central to each person’s life.

My dear friend, Guatemalan writer and human rights activist, Victor Perera,wrote about it this way: “ … the fabled twins of the Popul Vuh, Hunahpu and Xbalanqaué [descended] in Xibalba to defeat the Lords of death [in] as seminal an event in the Maya cosmology as Mose’s ascent of Sinai is to Western Religion.”

And these lines from my novel, La Negra y Blanca: “Something else is entering that is neither death nor eternity. We have no name for what it is. The Maya had a word for it. Their word is Xibalba. Awe. The place of Awe. The entrance to this world has no door. What it has is an opening in the heart.”

These stories are not about the accuracy of astronomy, though they could be, but about the essence of mythology, the way the great stories recur in, frame and guide our individual and collective spiritual lives. At a time of such tragic global descent into violence and environmental destruction, the possibility that an ancient, indigenous myth might help us emerge into a new time of restoration is welcome and most gratifying.

It is striking and important that this mythic assistance comes from an ancient, indigenous civilization, one that predates the Conquest. Its origins underscore a growing understanding that challenges the poisonous thoughts and merciless actions of the European Conquest on both hemispheres, North and South, and all instances of colonization and imperialism, everywhere on the planet, in the last two thousand plus years. Increasingly and everywhere, the old, old cultures are being honored and attempts made to recover, record and restore their teachings. It may not be appropriate to practice their rites and rituals, that is to subsume or co-opt them, but it is essential for planetary survival that we study and learn their wisdom and live accordingly.

What we now call the old, old ways, the ancient and indigenous cultures, the tribal ways, the earth and spirit centered ways of life were profound and honorable. When we went to war against the original peoples of the land, we went to war against the sacred; banality, alienation and the pain of modern life are what we have reaped. Restoration calls us to retreat from the criminal trinity of the military, merchant and Christian missionary structures of the 4th world toward a spirit centered and earth centered 5th world. The great wisdom of the original people of North America, is contained in the simple but profound phrase, mitakye oyasin, All Our Relations.

Idle No More is just one example of the strategic relationship between honoring indigenous rights and protecting and sustaining the entire earth and the future – all actions considering, at the least, the next seven generations of ALL beings.

When I was young, everyone asserted that we should not and could not refuse the developing technology. We were told that we must not become Luddites, that we could not go back to the old, old ways, that progress was good, necessary and inevitable. Those who were unwilling to participate and serve it, would be left behind, exiled, ostracized, or as we learned from history, destroyed in a thousand different cruel ways.

This is no longer a truism. 2013 may not be a carte blanche to all technology. We may be entering a time of choice. Perhaps we will become free to avoid the dangers of being immersed in fields of microwaves, radiation, toxins. Perhaps we will give priority to our concerns about the fate of our autistic, depressed and emotionally disturbed children before we sign on to the environmentally and emotionally toxic world we have been told we must accept. Refusing genetically modified foods, the Keystone pipeline, a gun culture, drones, increasing surveillance and smart meters develop out of the same ethical concerns, out of a passion for loving kindness. 2013 can be the opening of a passageway from the world of death, the inanimate, the technological, the object, to a vital, animated and inspirited universe. Perhaps Solstice 2012 was a door.

December 21, 2012. People everywhere on the planet marked the date. In Topanga, we held a three day Solstice observation that was coordinated with other observations across the hemisphere. We entered into meditation, council, story and dream telling. We walked the land. We set up tents in the four directions, so individuals could meditate on and for the land despite the cold, rain and wind. We sat in silence. Some of us fasted. We entered ritual space and did ceremony. We ate simply and communally. We prayed and we prayed and we prayed.

It’s been seven weeks since the 2012 Solstice. It is time to reflect on our time together and what, if anything, has come to be as a consequence of that ritual experience. Did something, anything come to be? Are we altered? Are we altared? Might a new cycle have begun, at least for some of us? Enough to provoke a shift for all of us in time?

Seven weeks is hardly long enough to truly observe and consider what might be emerging for any of us, or for the collective, from the long time of preparation and the three days that some of us spent transiting, we hope from one world toward another. Seven weeks is hardly long enough to note and confirm a transition from one way of thinking to another, tiptoeing out of the 4th world and stepping toward the 5th world. Might we consider that the beginning of change occurred even though the date was preceded by the Newtown massacre, by further revelations about rendition, torture, drones, by war, more war and more war? Might we hold firm to the possibility of a shift despite more and more revelations of the on-going destruction of the environment and the intensification of the suffering of animals and other living beings.

Perhaps the three days in between are just symbols of the lifetimes it takes to transform from one state of being to another. Perhaps we are on the border or in between, in the Bardo, in the dark river, in the chrysalis, in the womb or in the birth canal, in the nowhere or the no place, in the ending or the beginning. And though we cannot assert yet, that we may as a species have come to a point of return to goodness, it is still important to reflect on possibility, on those three days, and on the time that has intervened. Where have we been taken?

This was the structure of the three days in Topanga: December 20th: Deep Reckoning and Introspection. Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World. December 21st: Alignment with the heart of the universe. Transformation December 22nd: Invoking and honoring Spirit. Meeting the land and yielding to the ways of the natural world. We couldn’t look toward the future until we took responsibility for the past. The first steps were not going to be easy.

“Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World” required awareness of the tragic patterns of our time, the activities and values that reinforce them, the fear and consequent violence that has characterized these last several hundred years. Despite the security of familiar patterns, despite thinking there are no other options, we have to be willing to step away. Actually, it was to interfere in these tragic patterns that we had prepared for months, even years, for this moment. Only by beginning the process of disengagement, could we align with the heart of the universe. Removing the obstacles, we were able to bare our hearts. Having bared our hearts, we created a habitat for Spirit and gained the guidance and intelligence needed to walk on the earth in the right ways.

We began drumming at 12 noon on December 20th. Brian and Keith Davies brought their djembes and their drumming, sometimes together, sometimes spelling each other, often drumming with others, and continued until 4:30 am on December 21st. Earleir, when we had come up in procession with drums from the yurt at 11 pm, where we had been sitting in council, we found Jonny Nadlman drumming at the fire. He continued without stop, entranced, until after the solstice moment. (The next evening he, his wife, Carrie Dinow and their very young daughter, Ruby, attended council and helped prepare and serve dinner. And so community coheres.)

At 3:15 am, after sitting in ceremony, meditation, council, ritual space for fifteen hours, after keeping the drumbeat for same time, “To send a strong message to Spirit that we are here and sincere in our intentions,” we came to the sacred fire we had consecrated together and made offerings to the Heart of the Universe with which we hoped to be aligned.

When Native American people give a gift of respect, such as tobacco, they often say – four times – “From my heart to your heart.” We were entering, we hoped, into such a connection. “From our hearts to your heart, Great Mother of all Life.” It did not matter if the alignment was a physical reality. It mattered that we were responding as if it were true, as if there were a direct line between the earth, the sun, and the Womb or Heart of Universe. Our sincerity mattered; we were determined to try to stay in such symbolic and spiritual alignment for the rest of our lives.

A most memorable moment was when Lone Eagle, an elder in the Lakota Sioux tradition, spoke of what it means to offer oneself to the Sun Dance on behalf of the people. He is an old maner. He is not well. He often needs a walking stick or assistance. But he is still dancing at the Sun Dance, no matter the blistering sun or his own difficulties. He has and continues to give his flesh. What he and his wife, Morning Dove want more than anything is to walk the Red Path and to live in the right ways.

Offerings: Sound healer, dream tracker, Danelia Wild committed to live absolutely by an offering she had been moving toward for several years. She offered to live by all my relations, by right relationship, no matter what. Binding oneself with such a pledge, is a moral, ethical and spiritual act. It implies a shift to we from I. It refuses dominance and calls forth alliance. It requires constant scrutiny and devotion. It is not a new year’s resolution, quickly forgotten. Speaking about this with Danelia, two days ago, I heard her voice crack with emotion. The depth of her intention still with her.

The Hebrew tradition has language for such an act: “D’vay kut – I bind myself to You.” A pledge between self and the Divine is far more serious than a promise to oneself or another human being. Meeting the Heart of the Universe, hoping to shift one’s self on behalf of a future for all life, carries such solemnity, such significance, and carries joy. The joy of releasing ourselves to our best selves. The joy, even delight, that the slightest shift here makes a great difference there. That the slightest shift now will make a great difference then. The joy of living according to our soul’s wisdom. The joy of the possibility that our lives might really make a difference.

Change doesn’t happen in an instant. It isn’t mechanical. It arises out of a shift in consciousness which leads to different responses and reflexes, to different circumstances – then, suddenly, one is living differently and then we are living differently. With the hope that this might occur – the slightest consistent shift in thousands of individuals creating an enormous difference – people entered meditation or gathered, not concerned with the end of the world, but rather with the possibilities of new beginnings.

As I am editing this piece, Julie Ariola calls. “Everything has changed since the Solstice,” she said. “The patterns of 68 years have to change. I have been given a ‘redo.’ How often does that happen?” We are all called to such changes,” I say, “Every change you make is for all of us. Every success you have, shows us that we can do it as a species.”

Surely, we have all noticed differences in thinking, new assumptions, postulations, new values in the last years, weeks and days. An elegant austerity or frugality replacing conspicuous consumption and flagrant consumerism. Downsizing everywhere. The value of paying for services instead of things. Exchanges.

Simple value shifts. Wearing a heavier sweater in the house, turning down the thermostat to preserve cherished resources. Increasing activity against Keystone, against further oil drilling, against coal, against nuclear plants, against topping mountains and being willing to do without accordingly. Publicly and frequently valuing all the creatures and beings of the earth. Increasingly refusing to see other human and non-human beings as commodities. Using paper carefully, planting trees whenever possible, often as gifts, and, yes, talking to them, offering prayers. Portioning one’s use of water, fuel, even food. Blessing food before eating as a sincere rite of community, setting out spirit plates, making offerings, living reciprocally, valuing relationships, praising and protecting the earth increasingly – a subtly arising consciousness occurring globally.

But there is so much more to leaving the dominant culture, or stepping out of the 4th world than simply limiting or diminishing the familiar ways. Thinking of all our relations creates a new and spontaneous kindness. Once you are in a dialogue with the invisibles, once your life becomes an offering instead of acquisition, everything changes. On Sunday night, at the conclusion of the event, we learned that Kathryn (Mama) Farmer had cut off all her hair in order to express her devotion.

My own offering to the fire was to be even more conscientious about choosing Spirit whenever I discerned the call. No exceptions. This leads to different goals, ambitions, passions, concerns. To live by dream, by divination, intuition, checking and rechecking to be sure I am not being bamboozled by my own desires, and then meeting whatever Spirit calls me to.

I’d had a dream in 2010, which I have written about before, in which I was given a year to become an indigenous woman. I attended that dream for a year, asking each day and at each critical moment, how a native elder might respond, how an indigenous elder would understand a situation, what values needed to be honored, what action needed to be taken to align with indigenous wisdom, what served the land, the community, the future, also water, fire, air and earth. Over time, as you might imagine, I changed. Dominant values fell away, indigenous wisdom inserted itself. Soon I began to see that my reflexes were different. After Solstice, even my dreams have changed. Increasingly, they are about the presence of spirits. I move toward Spirit and Spirit confirms its existence. So I feel encouraged. Encouraged for all of us and the future.

Admittedly, I don’t know how to meet these times. I don’t know how to change the trajectories. I don’t know how to meet a world in which murder, cruelty, rape, assassination, torture and the killing of innocents by armies have become commonplace. But I believe that Spirit knows that there are ways. And I believe that Spirit is able and willing to guide us, if we listen. I do believe this. It is the basis of my hope.

Living by Spirit isn’t always easy, even on the small and personal level. After Cherokee’s sudden death a year ago, I had to yield to repeated divinations that denied me any one of several four-legged companions who seemed perfect in every way. 2012 was for me the year of being broken hearted. It was a year of losses of all kind as it was for so many I know. Month by month, loneliness increased and yet the divinations remain consistent: No! Two weeks ago, I was propelled out of my chair to check the internet for Husky rescues and found a site I had never seen before. The next day, with the confirming divination, I brought Cheyenne home. He is the perfect companion. This is, undoubtedly, his home and community. Beautiful but soaked in urine from the less than adequate conditions, he called out across time and distance to bring him home. His need – not mine alone. All our relations.

Back to the Solstice Daré. Several dreams were at the core of the event. We heard them on Thursday and listened to them again on Saturday. Ending war in ourselves and in the world was central to our concerns, particularly after Sandy Hook Elementary School; the dreams spoke to our distress. We had come together so that the group energy would help us understand the dangerous conditions of our time, so we could disengage and, together, find and commit ourselves to pragmatic life-giving forms. We couldn’t be certain in advance that it would be possible to realize our prayers and intentions through council and ceremonial work, but by Saturday night, many of us, believed that we had actually crossed over, that we were altered (because altared) and so would be living differently.

After fifteen hours of continuous drumming – “to give a strong signal to Spirit” – it began to feel as if the signal had been received and we were on different paths from the ones we had been walking before. Susan Hammond told a dream of harming children and helping them. A mother, a grandmother and a former teacher, she was devastated by the reflection that she had done harm. After Newtown, all of us were distraught about the harm coming to all our children and focused upon what we must do to make their lives safe and vital.

Katja Beisanz told a dream she’d had 35 years ago. It remained in her consciousness even though she had rarely spoken about it. In her dream, “a community, exhausted from constant war, was offered the opportunity to end it. Thinking of the children, the people agreed it was more important to have peace than victory. Then those who had never fought were required to take up swords in order to pierce the hearts of those who had wielded them while looking steadfastly into each other’s eyes. “In healing,” she concluded, “there is a moment when you have to look at something unbearable and bear it.”

Ayelet Berman Cohen dreamed, “If you want, if you choose, there can be an end of war for you.” A year before she had dreamed that she was on an island in a lock hold with an enemy that she was wounding. The enemy couldn’t heal, she couldn’t be free and they couldn’t leave the island as long as the wounding continued. Spirit was speaking to us adamantly: If you, if we want, if we choose, there can be an end to war.

How shall we accomplish this? We don’t know but we see that we are being guided. Our dreaming is changing. We are, increasingly, receiving dreams that resemble the dreaming of indigenous people. In order to honor this gift, we have to live the ways the dreams instruct us.

A week after the Solstice, Sharon Simone dreamed that we are to teach the young children the Four Directions. In the dream, if she could orient herself according to the spiritual dimensions of the Four Directions, she would not be afraid in the wild. Because she is living by dream and divination now, because she trusts the ways to the 5th World, she flew from Los Angeles to Connecticut to teach her grandchildren, five, three and one years old, the Four Directions. Her five years old grandson, the most aware of her young students, woke her each morning to watch the sun come up in the East of new beginnings.

In such difficult times, it relieves the heart and soul to see evidence of a spiritual intervention on behalf of the earth and the future that can guide us to restore sanity and possibility in a broken world. Because indigenous understanding has been violently suppressed through colonization and missionary activity, we have to learn the wisdom ways again. It takes years and we are still very young in our knowing, but circumstances seem to be calling us to new ways. On the third night of the Solstice ritual, we danced.

Two weeks ago, I co-lead a Circle, the Healing Path of Story, focusing upon lived and traditional stories, with the Native American elder and healer, Lewis Mehl- Madrona, M.D. During these days, the dreams that came to a gathering of people who did not know each other spoke repeatedly of the Road, the Path and the Way. One Native American woman told several dreams that indicated to Lewis that she was dreaming the sacred ways that had been suppressed and lost. The dreams and stories gathered us into our common longing for restoration of the real life. It was for a day, simply a familiarly extraordinary workshop, full of wonder and surprise. Then Barbara Mainguy, Lewis’ wife, ritual and ceremonial partner, took out colored cloth, string, scissors and tobacco. Soon she had taught us how to make prayer ties. The circle continued but differently, far more profoundly, as it was also sustained by the underlying rhythm of placing a pinch of tobacco on the cloth, folding, tying, praying, and on to the next. Pinch. Fold. Tie. Pray. Pinch … Pray. We were now in another kind of Circle, this one located in the 5th World.

The Solstice rituals of December 21, 2012 were on behalf of the 5th world. But they were also the enactment of the way of the 5th world. To go toward is to become. Some years ago, Spirit taught me that even, or especially, the healer must make an offering on behalf of bringing healing to the afflicted one. The one who is ill or in pain, calls forth the healer in us. Such a calling is a great gift to receive.

I go out in the mornings of the on-going dry season and offer water to the frog people on behalf of rain. Sometimes the clouds gather in a startling blue sky and the predictions of clear weather are revised toward rain. I only pray for the non-human beings. If the earth is restored, you and I will have everything we want and need. You and I – we don’t matter – we are the obstacles in this time – except as we become the conduit to Beauty. My dreams tell me so.

I dream a passionate discussion of the power of dream images. In that dream, I remember drinking mead in a hotel in Poland after spending three days in Auschwitz-Berkinau. Honey mead in the midst of devastation. Then I buy amber earrings for my mother. Somehow amber is another kind of honey. The honey of preservation. I dream I buy a gift for the Mother in a time of devastation. Maybe the dream means we will save the bees.

In my recent dreams, the spirits look into the great window and laugh. Another time, they come into the house and take what they need but not a penny more. Or I look out of the window onto a magical path winding between small green trees, red flowers and dappled light. In my day life, the gold finches have, after six months or longer, found their way to the new feeder; I can see them as I type this on the computer.

At Daré, our on-going council (fourteen years now) on behalf of personal and global healing, we realized that everyone in the circle at that moment had been at the Solstice Daré and everyone recognized that their lives had changed. Not because the date had come and gone but because they had prepared deeply, entered ritual, engaged in ceremony, and offered themselves. The old ways are true ways if we take them to heart.

December 21, 2012 marked the end of one cycle and the beginning of another. This is the cycle of restoration and beauty. It is also called the 5th World. If we walk the Sacred Road together, it will take us to the 5th World.

* * *

The 19 Ways to the 5th World (see Ruin and Beauty blog and my website, www.deenametzger.com) describe some of the changes of mind to which we are being called. I am teaching A Training Program for the 5th World to understand and incorporate these ways. Individual work, guidance, counseling and mentoring are available for those who wish to be part of this shift through this essential transition. If interested, please write to me at deenametzger@verizon.net.

The Ones Who Accompany Us to 2012

This is Day 16 before 12/21/2012.

I awakened this morning without dreaming except for a continuous image of a thick Modern Library book, entitled Change.   I felt the need to listen deeply to voices that are not my own nor human. I was reminded of the “Transmission Letter,” I wrote in May 1986. It circled the globe, passed from hand to hand by the original thirty-six recipients. In that letter, I spoke of a voice I heard while driving on the freeway some months after the death of my dearest friend that said, “You know, you are being asked to forgive those who were pulled out early, or who did not volunteer to be here to help with the necessary change or to bear witness to the end.”

I have been carrying the consciousness of that letter since that time, twenty-six years ago.  Now we are at an essential moment when everything is being asked of us for the future.  We either continue as we have and the descent into the on-going tragedy of human and non-human life will accelerate, or we will become those who are here to initiate the necessary changes and offerings so that we will not be called to bear witness to the end.

Guided by the 19 Ways to the 5th World, that were given to me and to the community, (see this Blog) I have understood that the mythic date of 12/21/2012 marks an opportunity for each of us and so for the planet.

In Topanga, we have been considering this date for several years and are gathering for three days to meet this moment.  I have written about this before, if not endlessly, and it is the focus of the Blog I started a few months ago, To Consider 2012, http://toconsider2012.wordpress.com/, on which this is also appended.

(Details are at the end of this posting. I offer them so that you don’t have to invent the wheel in order to create your own gathering, and so you can be accompanied, if from a distance, as you also observe this time in our global lives.)

As I mediated on the dream image this morning, I heard what felt like a call similar to the one that came to me in 1986, to listen, to step entirely out of my own personal concerns, even the concern to listen well, and to … “Begin writing!”

2012        As I began considering the aperture that this date, because of its mythic significance, has for us, I didn’t fully understand what is required or made possible. I admit, sixteen days from the very date itself, while I am writing this piece for and to the community, that I still don’t understand.  How can I or anyone understand?

2013        The date 2013 pops up on the page as if I am writing an outline, or Spirit is assuring me / us that there can be a future.  I am willing to be seen as a fool while I take note of what might be signs, rather than miss something.

I thought I was writing to the community that was preparing to gather, though I did not know what words would follow, and then realized I was also inviting you to read this.

***

We are going to spend three days together marking this opportunity to align with the heart of the universe.

The Kogi people, probably the last surviving pre-Columbian people on the planet, who have devoted their individual and tribal lives to sustaining the heart of the world, have advised us, relentlessly, since they decided to emerge from seclusion in the Sierra Nevada of Columbia, that the world is dying and we are responsible.

The Kogi came to me in a dream in 1999.  It was a true meeting.  They asked me what I would give in return for the possibilities for the planet that they wished to transmit.  I said I would give my life.

My friend, Victor Perera, had met with the Kogi through Alan Ereira. Ereira went through great ordeal to create the film, The Heart of the World.  Afterwards, he  wrote the book, The Elder Brother’s Warning, and then established the Tairona Heritage Trust,  http://www.taironatrust.org.

Victor is a protagonist in my latest novel, La Negra y Blanca, Fugue and Commentary.  He is now on the other side, and is, perhaps, guiding me, us, from there. In response to my dream, Victor said that the Kogi had always been able to communicate telepathically with the elders on the planet, but now the communications are blocked by all our activities. I was profoundly humbled by the dream meeting I had had and  have devoted myself, as best as I know how, accordingly.

In this moment as I am writing the above, not knowing what will appear next on the page, but continuing nevertheless, I remember that the Kogi have been, for several years since their first emergence into our world, calling together, partnering with the Indigenous, the Native People of this planet so they can learn from each other and live and act in concert. They certainly recognize that they are among the ones who know what has been violated, what must be healed and what are the intrinsic ways to accomplish this. If the original spirit and earth aligned wisdom can be restored then we will have a future.

I am trying to imagine the actual content, exchange and activity of their secret gatherings, secret from us, the perpetrators.  I am trying to imagine the specific ways they are meeting among themselves and with each other.

We must understand the gravity and urgency of such times that call the Kogi to dare to enter into our midst and run the risk of being blinded and contaminated by our distorted ways in order to gather with the Indigenous and to alert us to the fate of the heart of the world.

How would they sit, or gather, or meet on these three days with any of the Indigenous people they have already met?

Remembering the content of my true, if dream, meeting with the Kogi: they said, “Teach the pattern.  Put the forms in place.”

We understand that form is content and, therefore, if we continue to use and have allegiance to the old forms of our lives, if we adhere to the conventional assumptions and dominant culture, the content of what we do will not change no matter what is said, no matter the small activities we engage.

As many of you know, I have a real and profound relationship with one we call the Elephant Ambassador. So I am trying to imagine what the elephants, who I consider the wise ones on this planet, are demanding that we do to meet, observe, and change in these times  so that all life might be preserved and Creation restored.

What are the Kogi, the elephant, dolphin, whale, wolf (being slaughtered in this country as I write) eagle, lion people, what are rain, fire, wind, earth asking of us, demanding of us?  How are we each to use the sacred opportunity of these three days to meet them fully?

***

What is this date after all?  Why the fuss and urgency?  The ancient Maya identified a place in the Milky Way that was, for them, the place of birth and death.  Individual lives, tribal life and the cosmos were intrinsically connected to it.

– – And as it happens, the place they identified is the dark hole around which our solar system circles, is the dark hole from which the solar system and so all known life, all our lives emerged.

— And as it happens, our very sun, around which we circle, will be, with other planets,in a direct alignment with this dark hole, this place of birth and death, the heart of the universe, at 3:12 am on December 21st.   The light of the sun aligned with the dark at the center.

Or so it is said.

How will we meet the demand? How will we meet the Heart of the Universe?  How will we step out of our involvement and enchantment with the details of our own little lives, the bloody sacrificial altar to which we have been relentlessly bringing the earth, so as to meet this sacred challenge, the great possibility of our collective and community lives?

Everyone who is reading this is has been met by spirit and called to some awakening.  Perhaps you met Hurricane Sandy, heard the trees snap in the fierce wind and cold, or suffered the torrential rains.  Perhaps you are in the Midwest, wondering where the water will come from for your crops or are watching the Mississippi decline rapidly, aware that it may soon be unable  to transport goods along its length. Perhaps you have been a recent a victim of earthquake or landslide. Perhaps you have witnessed the recent forest fires and fire storms.  Maybe Gaia is speaking.  We cannot  continue to live as if the consequences of our behavior will not affect us or our families or the earth ?  Or perhaps, it is your family or beloveds who are being blown up or tortured now almost anywhere on the globe?

Apology.  I have misled us.  I didn’t know better.  My best thought, until this moment, has been that this date is about our shift in consciousness, yours and mine.  A radical shift in consciousness leading to living differently, entirely.  It is, certainly, about this, but not so much that our personal shift, insight, activity, takes the only focus. Not so much that we continue to focus upon the small things we will do to appease our fears or conscience.  Not so much that we want to decide in advance what we will do or not do on behalf of planetary and species survival.

This morning it seems to me that we are being called to another consciousness, not ours, but that which was connected with the earth in the beginning.  A consciousness that would never have developed the ideas and values that have led to the horrors that are afflicting all beings at this time.

Imagine this.  The Kogi, the Indigenous, the Animals, the Dead, the Ancestors, the Elementals, Gaia, Herself, will be entering our circles, temples, yurts, meeting rooms, will be literally behind us, invisible but present, insisting that we devote ourselves to meeting this moment.  Will we listen, hear, accept their call, instructions and guidance? How shall we be, who shall we become, in their presence?

This is the question we have been given to hold at the alignment with the Heart of World and the Universe.

***

What follows are some excerpts from our original announcement regarding the Topanga gathering  The schedule as we have imagined it until this moment is also included.  However, we yield in advance and entirely to the guidance and direction of Spirit as it is offered.

Happily, some of those who were going to join us for our small Daré are choosing, instead, to stay home and gather the community around them in resonance with us.  At the least, there will be parallel and aligned gatherings and ceremonies of one form or another in Seattle, Santa Cruz, Oakland, Connecticut, Texas, Philadelphia, Curaçao, Guatemala and, perhaps, Nashville. These are not open gatherings, but our hope is that you will find the means to be with Spirit, in solitude or gathered with us and with community, human and non-human, wherever you are living, in the ways you are led to for these days.

If there are any spaces, at the Topanga gathering, it is primarily because these other gatherings are manifesting.  Please contact us immediately if you  wish to  join us, Most importantly feel free to post open, aligned events on this page in the comment section.

***

Dare’ on Behalf of the Future

Here in Topanga, we have been thinking deeply about 2012 and have been for many years. This mythic, historic, astrological, astronomical moment calls us to step across fully into the heart and mind of the Fifth World so that each breath of our lives assures a viable future for all beings. The time of integrity is here. How do we meet it together?

12/21/2012 is the spirit centered, earth centered, heart centered, community centered moment that calls us to live, as the Dine’ say, according to the Beauty Way. Hozro. We have been together in so many ways over the years. We have been together considering the gravity and possibility of these times, holding fast to each other’s hearts. We have hoped to sustain the heart of creation and to contribute to a shift of consciousness that helps restore balance and beauty and creates sanctuary for all beings. Now 2012 is upon us. What do we want to create and how will we do it?

Preparing to do so in our own individual ways for so many years, shifting as we have into new lives with and among each other, these days call us to meet this great challenge together as a community. 2012 invites a new lived consciousness of human and non-human beings.  

The Dare’ 

  We are offering a three-day Dare’ from December 20th at noon through December 22nd at midnight.

December 20th     Deep Reckoning and Introspection.

Dedicated disengagement from the Fourth World.

December 21st      Alignment with the heart of the universe.

Transformation.

December 22nd     Invoking and honoring Spirit.

Meeting the land and yielding to the ways of the natural world.

Articulating the new ways.

Responsibility.

Entering the Fifth World through commitment to the Way. 

The Means 

Rounds of      Meditation, Prayer and Communion, Invocation, Silence, Solitude and Blessing. Meditation and Prayer on the Land and For the Land.

Council, Visioning, Dream telling, Story Telling and Divination.

Drumming, Music, Ritual, Ceremony and Camaraderie,

Solitude and Silence

Tending the Fire.

Offerings and Offering of Oneself to the Spirits, the Land and the Beings of the Land.

Tentative(!) Schedule

Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 DEEP RECKONING AND INTROSPECTION

12 noon          Light Fire

Astrology Reading

Focus and Purpose

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

1:30 pm          Council – Dedicated disengagement from what injures and destroys.

3:00 pm          Drumming Begins [ continuous drumming 12/20 3:30 pm to12/21

3:00 pm          Camaraderie

4:00 pm          Dream Telling

Story telling re difference between 4th and 5th worlds.

5:00 pm           Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer, Music

6:00 pm            Dinner

7:30 pm          Council – Intentions

9:00 pm            Journey and Visioning / Dream Telling / Story

10:30 pm         Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:00 pm          Supper

12:00 am          Begin Fast – for those who wish to fast

12:00 am          End but for Drumming

1:00 am            Begin four hour sacred drumming.

3:00 am           Group drumming to acknowledge the solstice moment

3:12 am           Under the Milky Way

3:30 am           Relight and rededicate fire.

5:00 am           End group drumming

Friday, Dec. 21, 2012 Alignment with the Heart of the Universe.  Transformation.

Fasting if desired

Drumming continues

10:00 am        Relight Fire

Align with Center of Galaxy

Focus.  19 Ways

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:30 am        Dream, Story, Vision

12:30 pm        Council – Alignment

2:00 pm           Break Fast, Food and Camaraderie

2:45-3:45 pm   End Drumming together

until 4:30 pm   Continue Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

4:30 pm           Community Divinations

5:30 – 7 pm      Council – Offering oneself to transformation.

7 – 8:00 pm     Food and Camaraderie

8:00 pm           Journey and Visioning / Dream Telling / Story

9:30 pm          Council – How does a Community Cross into the 5th World?

to Midnight    Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012: Exploring and Articulating the New Ways. Responsibility. Entering the 5th World through Commitment to the Way.

10:00 am          Relight Fire

Retrospective – Where have we come?

Focus and Articulate Goals

Meditation, Ritual, Land, Prayer

11:30 am          Dream, Story, Vision

Reading the Signs

12:30-2:00 pm  Council – 5th World

2:00-3:30  pm   End Fast, Food and Camaraderie

3:30-4:30 pm    Music, Dance, Celebration

6:00 pm            Meditation

7:00 pm            Food and Camaraderie

8:00 pm            Council on the future of community and all beings.

10:00 pm           Drumming, Music, Community

* * * * *  

We are being called together to create the possibility to meet these times. We will do it as simply and cooperatively as possible. This has to be a small gathering. Our hope is that we will be able to be outside for much of the time, meditating on the land, sitting around the fire, using the outdoor kitchen for very simple food preparation and serving – reviving some of the most simple and old, old ways of community and communion. However, the indoor space is small, the weather unpredictable.  Parking is limited. When it rains, the land becomes virtually impassable.  We can expect to encounter just the right difficulties to help us transform. We hope to meet whatever arises with heart, great generosity and exquisite care for the land, our neighbors, each other and all the beings present.

2012 requires us to be simple, quiet, modest in our gathering and to take responsibilityfor ourselves, each other and the land.  It is asking us to create forms with light footprints. It is asking us to meet Spirit and the land more than it is asking us to meet each other.

We will set up four tents, one in each of the four directions, so that, no matter the weather, someone can be meditating for and listening to the land and the spirits throughout the gathering.

As the three-day Dare’ on Behalf of the Future approaches on Dec. 20-22, 2012, we find ourselves immersed in preparing ourselves both individually and as a community to mark this event.  We are asking what questions we carry for each other, what changes we are preparing to make, how we can serve the time.

We are imagining a progression of detaching from untenable lifestyles to resonance with the heart of the universe and then to stepping into the possibilities of new life for ourselves and all beings.  We are looking to see how we can each shift and how a community shifts as well to meet this time of difficulty and opportunity.  The schedule provides some framework to do this work and be in ceremony together.

Notes and Intentions 

Our core time marking the solstice alignment is from 1 am to 5 a.m. on the morning of  December 21, 2012 with the exact moment at 3:12 am PST. We will have a focused drumming session for that time. Ideally, we will also have continuous drumming from 3 pm on December 20th until 5 am December 21. This is dependent on who is here and what emerges as possible. It will be arranged according to what Spirit presents during our time together.

A sacred fire will be lit at the beginning of the event and will be kept burning until the end.  The fire will be renewed ritually at the beginning of each day.  It will be renewed again at 3:30 am on December 21.  People may volunteer to be fire keepers.

* * * * *

While the land in Topanga will be open to the community for these three days for ceremony, ritual, prayer, meditation, drumming, music, invocation, silence, tending the sacred fire and blessing, along with food and camaraderie, conversation and companionship, no one will be able to sleep over or camp on the land overnight. Everyone must arrange for their own housing for sleep and restoration.  Food contributions, soup, bread and rice, will be needed.

This Daré, will be one of great simplicity. As 2013 requires us to simplify our lives profoundly, these ritual days will be in keeping with that directive.

A question we will hold at each moment is:  How will we treat and take care of each other, human and non-human, and the earth in the 5th world?

Contributions/Dana are expected to support the cost of the event and, hopefully, to bring in a few elders and wisdom keepers who cannot afford to attend without having transportation and expenses paid for.

Tax-deductible contributions can be made through the 501(C)(3), Mandlovu at SEE, Social and Environmental entrepreneurs, 22231 Mulholland Hwy, Ste 209, Calabasas, CA 91302. (Tel: 818-225-9150, Fax: 818-225-9151). Or go to SEE’s website at https://p10.secure.hostingprod.com/@www.saveourplanet.org/ssl/Donate.html

***

Please note again, there are a few places left for the Topanga Daré 2012,so if you are hoping to attend,  please call Danelia Wild, 310-815-1060 or email her at dwild4deena@ca.rr.com immediately to receive the necessary information to attend, to make reservations and/or for questions.  No one admitted without reservations.

***

Peace, Hope and Blessings,

Mitakye Oyasin, All Our Relatios]ns

JOURNEY TO THE STONES – MEETING THE SHAMAN BARDS

Let me tell you some stories.

In Ireland, that would be the voice of the Shaman Bard.  We don’t know if it is the shaman speaking as a poet storyteller or the poet is speaking as a shaman (healer, visionary diviner, historian, myth-teller, peacemaker); they are entirely intertwined and it has been so for thousands of years and was so when I was there this month.

On the last day in Ireland, we visited the stone circle, the largest in Western Europe, at Lough Gur that dates back at least 5000 years. A few miles away, ancient stones, also moss and lichen covered, comprise the Wedge tomb, where an old woman had lived for many years.  On a grass covered hill among hawthorn and oak trees, the stones serve as a threshold between the lake, Lough Gur, and the Grange Stone Circle, The Lios.

When the old woman died in the early 18th century, the roof stones were thrown off.  The money diggers who searched the tomb found only burned bones in an old jug.

It is said that there is a buried treasure, especially in the nearby extensive Knockadoon circle, which is guarded by a fire breathing mythic bull that no one has been able to subdue, so great is the fear that arises when the bull arises from the earth.

***

Earlier in the week, we went to a dolman, a small mound tomb in a farmer’s field on the Beara peninsula.  As such a tomb is ancient, and the cap stone or other times may have collapsed, you can sometimes still see that such a structure invited one to cross from this world to the other world as one moved through it and beyond.  In this instance we needed to climb over a ladder, descend along a small stream of rainwater, pass through the narrow entrance between two boulders and cross the field to a sacred tree and the small tomb.  KJ went first, striding across the wet grasses, before noticing the four bulls that were following her, before noting that she was wearing a red flannel jacket. When she turned around, she saw she had time only to scamper to the entrance between the stones, remove and hide her red shirt, then clamber to the roof in order to establish height.  The bulls, particularly, the black bull, were not daunted and remained guarding the tomb.

And so it was left to me and L to return to the road thirty feet above the grassland to see if we could locate the farmer to help us.  L. went ahead of me and I walked to a spot across from the dolman, leaned over the stone wall and called to the bulls, “Come here, my beauties, my beloveds, my lovelies.”

In the long history of Ireland, cattle are known to be sacred.  The river Boyne is the Goddess Boann, is the sacred cow, and is also the river of stars, the Milky Way of life and death whose center will meet all of us directly on December 21, 2012.

The shaman bards know the ways to work with or around the fire breathing bulls and to meet the holy ones with praise.  For centuries, they have been carrying the practice of crossing between the worlds, speaking across species, communicating with the holy ones:  “Come here, my beauties, my beloveds, my lovelies.”

My intuition proved correct.  The bulls, even the black one, turned and slowly grazed their way toward the cliff where I stood as KJ made her stealthy way back to the alleged safety of this world.  We met, woman and bulls, for a moment eye to eye, though separated by the hill wall, and then I also returned to the car.

***

Approaching any event, I am always alert for what is at the threshold.  In this instance, at the Wedge tomb, just hours before leaving Ireland, as we walked quietly toward the past and what wisdom we might glean for the future, we were assaulted by the reverberations of shotguns from a hidden glen across the road.  Reverence on our side of the road and gun shots on the other intermingled in a constant rhythm for as long as we were there.

Then we went to the Grange Circle itself.  This circle is one of many stone circles and mounds, Newgrange, Loch Crew, Knowth and Dowth, that seem to have been erected as giant calendars to mark the coming of sunlight and or moon light on the quarter days, solstices and equinoxes of the year.  The farmer who owns the land upon which the circle sits was not there this Sunday.  Still, we put coins in the rusted money box, its donation slot barely visible, as we went through the gate onto the site where the sun enters the passageway on Midsummer’s Eve.

It seems to me that I learn more standing in silence and wonder, while holding the question of what vision has driven people all over the world to exert what seem like more than human efforts to erect stone monuments honoring the light, than I understand when I engage with the various theories and our desire to know.

***

In the classic tale, the sojourner goes out into the unknown to bring back the useful insight for the beleaguered and suffering individuals and /or community.  More so, one hopes, at such a time.  Might the old ways, even the one as simple as making the journey, help as tradition asserts, they have in the past?  What are the true and potent medicines for a world whose life is at great risk?

It is only at this moment, as I try to convey something of what might matter for all of us, that I see the familiar stations of this journey, but most strikingly, the entry into the unknown and the ways the light, sunlight or moonlight, only briefly illuminates the darkness, one hour, perhaps, once a year, perhaps, if the clouds disperse.  If the clouds disperse…. But, that one moment is sufficient for one’s soul.

***

Because I was suddenly charged with leading a writing retreat, scheduled to visit ancient sites in the Boyne valley and the Beara peninsula, places I had never been, I had to offer myself entirely to whatever might occur.  Just days before I understood what was calling me, I had decided not to read or prepare for this trip.  But then, grievous circumstances required that I step forward on behalf of someone who had originally imagined and arranged the trip. We could not cancel the trip, she had said, adamantly, and I trusted that she understood this in ways I could not then.  The learning curve was steep, and ultimately, I was relying on John Matthews’ book Taliesen, the Last Celtic Shaman.  Taliesen and Amairgin the Bold, both shaman bards, became ever present guides.  They teach the ways to negotiate the passage between this world and the other world, between, past and future, human and other, dark and light, life and death.  We needed these teachings because, as with the gunshots at the threshold of Lough Crew, death surrounded us from the beginning to the end – the ordinary deaths of two old men, the unbearable tragedies of two violent suicides, the great loss that come from drowning.

We had come to honor and attend the great mounds, all seemingly both tombs and corridors of light.  And death surrounded us on the journey.  Death surrounded us at Lough Gur.  And death and violence surround all of us, in extraordinary measure, in what passes as the ordinary world.

Sometimes for us, the deaths were highly personal, sometimes they were simply in the air we were breathing.  For example, the workshop that was to follow our retreat at Anam Cara, was cancelled when the leader, Irish poet, John O’Leary, drowned.

XXVII. (from Sea, 2003 by John O’Leary)

To Do List:

1.            find dragon and slay

2.            exorcise cat

3.            prove conclusively the identity

of Beauty and Truth.

4.            watch, fast and pray

5.            sail Atlantic single-handed

6.            write name in water

7.            return Teach Yourself Waltzing Tape

8.            weep for Adonais and feel bad

9.            write her a letter telling her

you love her

10.            go out into the midnight

and check for new stars.[1]

***

When you walk a labyrinth of wild grasses to its center, as you can at Anam Cara, you are at the center of the middle world between the past and the future.  Turn 360 degrees to see the mountains and sea, the cattle and sheep, the cemetery on the hill and the cascades at the bottom of the meadow. It is from this place that you can ask the question that your soul is carrying or the question that the world’s soul requires us to address.  Turn again and retrace your footsteps listening deeply to the words that pass through your heart but which originate elsewhere, somewhere beyond yourself.

When people die, we gather in circles to tell stories.  Perhaps because the Irish seem to have such a profound relationship to the spirits of the dead, it is a country of storytellers, musicians and bards.

We approached the top of the legendary Hill of Tara.  Gerard Clarke, former director of the Hill of Tara, stopped us so that we would proceed with awareness and concentration.  When you cross this trench, he said, you are entering into the other world.  We paused.  Language we had heard again and again was about to become real.  We were, indeed, about to step across.  This is not a frivolous or fantasy activity.  There are many who strive to separate the worlds rather than allowing them to intermingle.  We learned that the stone barriers that had existed here were not to keep the enemy out; they were to keep the spirits in. If one dares to cross over with respect, one may receive great gifts.

On September 21, we left our lodgings at 5 am even though the sky was covered and it was raining.  It had rained every day since my arrival on the 17th and would continue to rain each day, except for one brilliant sunlit day Saturday October 5th. You never know, Gerard Clarke said, what the weather will be at Lough Crew, (forty-five minutes away) even though he had last seen the light enter the mound fifteen years ago.  As we approached, the center of the sky cleared but a broad band of clouds remained in the position of 6 to 9 o’clock and 3 to 6 o’clock at the eastern horizon.  We climbed the hill in the mist, a fierce wind blowing, the temperature dropping.  We were among the first of a small shivering band (and a few dogs) that had come with hopes of seeing the sunlight of the Equinox make its way, illuminating the carved stone walls of the mound.  We would not have been surprised if it began to snow.

There is only a small sacred interval through which the light enters.  7:15am to 8:30 am.  Then the possibility is over for a year.  We made our offerings and waited.  The wide band of dark clouds remained as wisps of mist began to waft over the other megaliths just below us.  The sun climbed steadily and for a brief moment paused at an eye in the clouds but not close enough to reach the great stones.  And then at 7:30 when we had almost lost hope, a thin ray of light began to make its way toward the entrance revealing the spiral carvings at the stone entrance.  Six by six we were admitted into the tunnel to see the shining spiral at the back wall that had been viewed at equinox after equinox for thousands of years.  A miracle and a sign of grace and the awesome presence of the Divine as it must have been for those who built this tomb against all odds, bringing the massive stones uphill, without the wheel, from miles and miles away,

***

At Tara out guide alerted us to the entryways between the roots of the great trees where the fairies, defeated and exiled from this world by Christianity, by the fearful and violent disbelievers in and enemies of wonder who began to colonize Ireland in the 400s C.E.  The shaman bards tell us that like the light, the wee people emerge for only one day on Samhain / Halloween.  This day, the beginning of the Celtic new year, is also the day totake stock, settle debts and decide upon future activities. A general armistice during this period allowed for meetings at the Hill of Tara between sworn enemies, made possible diplomacy and social activities beyond tribal and political boundaries.

We have been warring for so long.  We have been exiling the light for so long.  Yet, thankfully, it persists.  The sun and moon rise.  The clouds part.

The roles of the Shaman bards are complex and profound.  The poets and story tellers are also singers, musicians, healers, prophets and diviners. They know the elements.  They write and read the Ogham, the sacred alphabet of the trees.  They speak with the birds, animals, plants and stars.  They dream.  They read the signs. They know the history and genealogy of person and place.  They keep the rulers honest.  They know the land.  And even thought they are often warriors, they are also called upon to mediate between warring parties.  They are born and reborn and reborn again and again. They remember.

The old tradition of story telling is still intact in Ireland.  We didn’t fully expect to meet story tellers, to meet shaman bards, but we did.  We didn’t fully expect to find magic, vision, healing, stories, music alive in the old ways but we did.  Ireland, like other countries suffers conflict, the tension between Dublin and the loyalists and the on-going legacy of British colonization.  It suffers poverty, domestic violence, alcoholism, and other modern ills like deforestation and environmental decline.  Ireland’s young people are living a diaspora again,  leaving the country as they have in the past in order to make a living.  A mother I met said, her grandfathers had gone to work in the mines in Butte, Montana and now her sons are leaving to work in the mines in Australia.  There is concern that the influx of laborers from other countries, particularly from Russian and central Europe during the ‘Tiger’ years of economic boom, may be a problem now that the economy is declining.  All the problems of contemporary Europe are here, but the antidote is that the spirits are present and recognized and that the storytellers, musicians and poets thrive; the vitality of these ancient traditions make all the differences.

.

A story is told of the great Irish hero and wisdom carrier, Fionn Mac Cumhail, who was involved in great conflict and so was told, “he durst not remain in Ireland else he took to poetry.”  Poetry as strength and power that can protect and redeem a warrior.

Poetry the gift of the gods was sacred to the great goddess, Ceredwin of the cauldron, whose other faces are the Goddess Bride or Brigid and  Cailleach Beara or the Hag of Beara, who is also associated with stones and bones and who governs dreams and inner realities.  On one of her journeys, she dropped the stones she had gathered from her apron and they became the mountains.  Poetry, healing, peacemaking and smithery were sacred to Brigid as earth goddess and keeper of the eternal fire.  Saint Brigid, the disguised pagan goddess, kept these attributes and also took on the care of the poor.  Two sisters of the Brigidine order introduced us to the ways of their order, Solas Bhride, a Christian Center devoted which focuses on Saint Brigid and Celtic Spirituality.   We were taught how to make crosses, including the Mexican eye of god, out of rushes gathered by the streams.  Then we were taken to the holy wells where the sisters sang songs as we walked from stone to stone representing Brigid’s offices.

Brigid’s sacred fire/flame that had burned from pre-Christian times until the 16th century was re-kindled in 1993, in the Market Square, Kildare, at the opening of a justice and peace conference. The conference was entitled “Brigid: Prophetess, Earthwoman, Peacemaker.”

“How does the Church respond to your work?” We asked the sisters. “The Church is not enthused,” one answered, “but the Dalai Lama visited us.”

***

Mary Maddison, a thin, delicate woman, 72 years old, has storytelling at her house one Saturday night each month and music one Thursday night.  We sit in a circle on old couches, over stuffed or straight back chairs, on pillows and stools in the small room called The Rambling House, that also houses her collection of sea shells, some gathered into the shapes of animals and other beings.  Here the young people and the older ones are invited to speak or play music when the stone talking piece passed from one to another reaches them. In another room are her landscape paintings and another room is full of stones and gems.  In this room, Mary Maddison, shaman bard, healer and story teller, puts our feet into bowls of agate then tells the stories of our lives and futures by reading the stones that remain attached to us when we lift our feet.  She has been doing this since she was a child.  She saw the stones on the feet of those who walked the pebbled beach.  “I had thought everyone read the stories,” she said,

She shows me the small house which will hold the crèche at Christmas time, the outside of which might have been decorated by Simon Rodia who created Watts Towers.  Then we enter the mediation room with a pyramid glass ceiling and chant and pray together.  We tell each other stories for hours.  Stories of the everyday miracles and magic that occur when one honors the spirits that create and sustain the world.  The rooster crows, the peacocks call, the crows fly overhead cawing.  A magnificent sunset turns the ever present clouds red, purple, orange, amber.  As twilight darkens, Mary speaks of the lights of the fairies that come forth in her garden at night.  I am in the presence of a true shaman bard and she is one of many, of the tribe of shaman bards in Ireland.

Writers in the US are not asked to assume the complex and committed roles of the shaman bard. To the contrary, we often feel divided and quartered by what appear to be the conflicting demands that the shaman bard reconciles. The call to solitude, for example, challenged by the call to community.  Writers are often criticized for being political and it is rarely assumed that the poet is called to keep the rulers honest while also speaking with the animals and the trees.  Revealing truth, bearing witness, devoting oneself to matters of conscience are not always compatible with the commercial interests that dominate publishing.  But these are the essential concerns for the shaman bard and how lucky we would be if we could reinstate and be faithful to the tradition.

The old old ways still survive in sacred places and among indigenous people and cultures all over the world.  They survive despite the relentless wars against them, against the land and the natural world, by religion, science, the military and the nation state.  The fate of the earth, the life of the world hangs in the balance.  This journey to Ireland convinces me that it is time, again, to call forth and inhabit  the shaman bards in all of us.  No matter the risk, it is time to tell the true and lyric stories of restoration of the old old ways, to tell our own experiences of our true spiritual lives and our stories of experiences within the natural world.  It is the time to fully honor the rare, slender rays of light that come forth from the clouds to illuminate the old carvings, the old wisdom contained in the stones patiently standing in circle, these thousand of years.

To Consider 2012: A note to you.

This is just a note to you:  There are five posts on my parallel blog: To Consider  2012  http://toconsider2012.wordpress.com/   Because we are now at Day 102 before 12/21/2012, I want to keep the posts together of my ruminations upon my own attempts to meet this astronomical, astrological, mythic moment.  i am aware that writing the Blog, To Consider,  intensifies my own commitment.  It calls me to be awake.

We are all being called to transform so that there might be a future for our descendants and for all the non-human descendants.  The future grand grand grand grandchild of the Elephant Ambassador, for example.  That his ancestors survive.  That his ancestors not be brought to extinction by the warfare against the innocent on behalf of ivory.

This is not hyperbole.  Poachers are using advanced war technology to hunt the elephants.  (Just as wolves are being hunted from helicopters in the U.S.)

Stop for a moment.  Shape shift. Enter the bodies of these extraordinary beings and now imagine the helicopters and AK-47s coming after you …….

Thus we pray that there be Elephant Ambassador descendants, that they will be living in peace and will have adequate  habitats for the herds.  That we truly understand that zoos are not habitats nor are research laboratories.

Linda Hogan said, “If there are no animals, there will be no totem animals.”

That we learn co-existence.  That we give up making enemies or thinking only of our own welfare.  That we change and transform our ways entirely. Now. We have 103 days.

i will be leading a writing workshop in ireland for the next weeks.  At Lough Crew, i may be fortunate enough to see the light illuminate the darkness on the Autumn equinox.  i will post here or on To Consider 2012 when i return on November 20 – perhaps before.   Then we will have a month until 2012.  You will only  receive notices for posts on To Consider 2012 if you subscribe to it.

This is a critical moment in human history.  Let us meet it.

Peace and Blessings,

Deena

SPIRIT SPEAKS TO US WHEN WE OPEN TO IT

SPIRIT SPEAKS TO US WHEN WE OPEN TO IT

For Heidi Hutner who inspired this scrutiny.

Scientists in Alaska are investigating whether local seals are being sickened by radiation from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/45800485/ns/technology_and_science-science/t/scientists-test-sick-alaska-seals-radiation/#.TwJvPZi1n9I

This is the second day of 2012.

The way I live my life is causing great pain and injury to many beings.

I am hoping that the trajectory of our lives will change on 12/20/2012. This will only happen if we approach it deliberately.

Here is a first step. It is so simple and ordinary an act; it is a leap.

I have to do what I have been asking everyone to do:

I have to disentangle from whatever I recognize causes harm and injury to the earth. Why would I allow myself to continue to live in ways that agonize the beings of this world?

The seals are in great anguish. There are no painkillers for them. Little ones are in agony. Some have died. Who was with them? Who comforted the mothers?

The cause may be radiation from Fukushima. I have never advocated for nuclear energy or weapons. But the life I live and the privileges I accept, are congruent with nuclear energy. I have to begin to turn away from the life style that harms others so extremely.

Seals have lives. We have life styles. The discrepancy is intolerable.

I have to disentangle from the minds that can tolerate others suffering such pain or suffering for the sake of economic or military gain or …. I have to recognize and accept that they are mad. It is no longer important to know why they are mad. It is essential to know they are crazed and to step away from the circle of their constructions.

Every day another technological, economic, political, social event, activity or invention violently diminishes or harms life. Our lives disappear and what is substituted is a manufactured reality, increasingly the domain of the criminally insane.

Spirit disappears. It cannot exist in the unnatural realm. To do so, perhaps, would be to accept our life styles.

Conventional wisdom says that I have to acquiesce to the contemporary world, to how things are. It says, I have to submit in order to be effective, to create change, in order to survive. This is what you have to do to survive, it says, kindly.

This is not true. It is only true so long as we agree to live this way.

Spirit was the source of different lives. Spirit shows us other ways. Living each day and moment in a dialogue with spirit, responding as spirit would have us respond on behalf of Creation, is a Way.

We once were one with spirit. Each of us lived within the sacred conversation. We had the means and the understanding. That relationship was once intimate and continuous. No one was denied it. No one was outside it. We breathed it and it rained upon us. It was a great light. It was the comfort of being immersed in starry darkness.

A great distortion came into our midst and separated the human from spirit.

The moments of vision that we sometimes experience and call extraordinary reality, and that are so brilliant that a single instance can sustain us for a lifetime, are merely sightings through pinholes to the radiant world we once inhabited.

It was once this way. Then listening was forbidden. Then it was mocked. Then it was overridden.

Spirit speaks to us when we open to it. The way to disentangle from what causes such great harm and pain is to reconnect.

It is so simple.

A true and ordinary life is entirely connected with spirit that benevolently considers and praises all beings.

Nothing else is required.

Be with me as words enter the world through the invisible conduit that has always served creation and is sufficient.

Image: Occupy Wall Street or Occupy Los Angeles or Occupy Everywhere. There is no microphone. Someone, however, has a megaphone. A simple device. She, or he, says a short sentence. The crowd repeats it and amplifies it a thousand fold. Not only does everyone know what is being said, but everyone passes the words through their bodies. In this way, every word is understood deeply, is taken in, and what is being spoken is vital for everyone.

Spirit speaks. Spirit speaks when we open to it.

In this moment, something is being spoken that I did not expect. Spirit is speaking and I am passing it through my body as I write the words on the page. I am speaking them aloud as I type. Words doubly etched. An antidote for alienation.

Stay with me. If you like, repeat what matters to you. We are in a practice, an exercise that undermines possessions. The words are entering. They are entering in their own time.

I listen. More importantly I take the words into me. I want to understand and offer myself to be altered.

Of course, I have to trust these are spirit’s words, not my own or anyone else’s. Certainly, I can’t be sure., but they are surprising me. What is being communicated is simple and is startling.

I am coming to a standstill as if yielding to a wordless understanding that is beyond me. There is nothing I can do to invite it closer. We will see whether or not this comes to a conclusion. We will see whether the entire understanding will emerge roundly.

Spirit speaks. Because we have opened to it.

This is so simple, I cannot pretend I am inventing it.

I am afraid that this is so simple, and so familiar, that I will not be able to meet it. That I will not turn the 180 degrees that is required to meet it at this very moment.

I am afraid that I will ignore it. I am afraid I will say it is obvious and banal.

The challenge is to recognize this simple and yet enormous truth. I am afraid I will not understand that this is important enough to turn my entire life around. To turn my life around entirely, here and now.

Is it possible that the full realization of my life depends, now, on the simple gesture of turning my back so I face a life that does no harm.

Living with spirit is something we have known. It was of us but we separated from it. It became an idea and it was no longer a Way. We stopped living accordingly. Ideas that we do not live, do not matter. These words are insisting on being a Way again.

I was on the way to writing something else. But these words began coming and insisting themselves. This may be a reliable sign.

I think these words emerge from kindness. I do not think they will do harm. I see that it may serve to let these words pass through me and become the Way I will live my life. You can do likewise, if it serves you

To know serves us only when knowing is alive, when we live accordingly.

If something strikes you, let the words will pass through you also as they are passing through me.

These teachings come to us so quietly from ancient and indigenous wisdom traditions

Kabbalah says that Spirit descends into the world. A great light or rain or wind arrives from elsewhere.

Kabbalah says that we also rise up to meet the holy.

The way to disentangle from what causes pain is to reconnect with spirit. Spirit comes when we open to it and live within it as if it is the air.

Spirit exists and is entirely benevolent.

Beauty and Heart are one and interchangeable in the Presence.

The true and ordinary life requires us to be aligned, at each moment, with spirit, with what does no harm.

Nothing else is required.

I insist that I will find ways to sustain and be sustained as I return to the real world that was never constructed of others’ pain.

I can do this. We can do this. A new step each day away from what causes such pain. Step by step, we can do this.

This is what the Dine call the Beauty way.

THE LANGUAGE OF RELATIONSHIP: ENGAGEMENT WITH ELEPHANTS

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language
of bodies, of bodies on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is
the language of dreams, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten the language.
We do not even remember that it exists.”
Derrick Jensen, A Language Older than Words.

On September 13, 2011 I traveled to the Chobe National Park in Botswana with Krystyna Jurzykowski, founder and former Chair of the Board of Fossil Rim, a preserve in Glen Rose Texas that was originally for endangered African animals and now includes animals from North and South America. I wanted to see if communications that had occurred between me and one individual elephant on three separate occasions, and whom, accordingly, we named the Elephant Ambassador, might occur and be witnessed again. I was choosing for the second time to be with the Ambassador on my birthday; Krystyna was also choosing to be with the white rhinos in the area of Ghanzi, Botswana, a week later, on her birthday. We dared not speculate about the meaning of such events except in the ways that they accord with the developing understanding about the mysterious nature of the world in which animals and other non-human beings reveal themselves capable of intentional activity and of originating inter-species communication. We chose to do this on our birthdays so that, if the elephants came forth yet again, we would be open to being catapulted onto new paths to realize the work of the rest of our lives.

It is difficult to speak of this because western languages lack the vocabulary for such experience. Indigenous people from many parts of the world would understand our journey having lived with such assumptions and experiences until imperialists, colonizers, westerners denounced, diminished, prohibited this knowledge and, ‘cleansed’ our language of the means of this discourse. In the way of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ the languages, and the beings themselves, are being disappeared. The right, the means, to speak with the animals and of the animals as sentient companions as essential to the planet as human beings, is regularly dismissed. It is replaced by the ever increasing human passion to dominate animals and the natural world, to use, consume, and enslave,or, at its “best” to confine these non-human beings in circuses and zoos for our entertainment or education. And finally, to only allow them to live in designated areas or on reservations that too often become the equivalent of displaced persons camps.

In this century, preserves such as Fossil Rim, or the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary are necessary tiny sanctuaries protecting the species’ existence, attempting to preserve the gene pool and to provide some peace and quiet for a few members rescued from the violence of habitat destruction and hunting. But they are not able to replace the wild and vital life that was once original to the planet. Traveling to be with the elephants in this way, Krystyna and I were treading in the area of the forbidden.

Both Krystyna and I have had many encounters with animals that could be considered a dialogue. Both of us know that animals are intelligent, sentient and adept at communication. However, this was different. We were traveling to the wild, or a small strip of what is left of it, half way across the world, with the hope of keeping an appointment that could be made only in our hearts but would call us to change our minds, and so our lives, in the most profound ways.

***

We have not yet learned fully why Krystyna was called to be with the rhinoceroses. The experience with them was different than with the elephants in Chobe. They live in the wild but this wild has to be fenced. Wherever they live, they must be protected or they will be slaughtered for their horns. For awhile, conservationists hoped that if their horns were removed, they would be safe from poaching; this has turned out not to be true. Poachers who track rhinos from the air have taken to killing those without horns so that they will not spend the efforts tracking them only to find there are no horns to be gotten. It seems hopeless.

Krystyna was greatly surprised to see that Edo’s Camp in the Kalahari near Ghanzi is a mirror image of Fossil Rim. Similar antelopes and small predators, like cheetahs, populate the preserve. Like so many private preserves, they were both once used for hunting. The question, in Africa in particular, is whether eco-tourism can finance what hunting once financed. Can preserving life be as profitable as destroying it? Krystyna was intrigued by the ways in which Edo’s Camp and Fossil Rim resembled and differed from each other and what might come of their learning of each other.

The first night we were there, we toured a small portion of the preserve, watching the rain clouds come in two weeks early, mesmerized by the flashing lightning and rolling thunder. A good sign and a relief to Krystyna because Texas had been in flames for the months before we left. (When we had arrived in Botswana, she received a text saying that an inch and a half of rain had fallen at Fossil Rim. Just days after her return, seven inches of rain fell. The pans were being replenished and the first tufts of new grass and red flowers were emerging.) We were at home at Edo’s camp: there were impala, wildebeests,

kudu, sable antelope, springbok, waterbok–

the antelopes that Krystyna knows so well from Fossil Rim.

Then at night, as the African sunset was bathing the earth in its red light, seven of the twelve rhinos moved with an unexpected determined grace down to the water hole.

Two of the rhino were pregnant, their young sons keeping close contact with their mothers, knowing that as soon as the birth contractions begin, they will be sent out to be alone. There are no longer small groups of bull rhinos to receive them and teach the ways of the species that existed for 50 million years. Rhinos are the old ones. The ancestors. These young bulls, however, despite their heritage, will be alone and lonely and untutored for the long time until they are ready to mate and then they will have to fight the dominant bull for a female to begin their own herd. There are not enough bulls to sustain this natural conflict and replenish the species without human intervention moving bulls from place to place.

Edo’s camp, like Fossil Rim, is one of the few places on the planet where rhino breeding has been successful. So again, Krystyna was at home there. When she had been drawn by intuition to this area of the Kalahari, she hadn’t known of Edo’s Camp nor was she aware that we would be with the rhinos in the (protected) wild. Another strange circumstance to be fathomed over the next months as she cogitates on the possible connections between these two preserves and works to understand where and to what the rhinos, so so so endangered, might be calling us in their own slow and powerful ways. What is rhino intelligence, rhino legacy and how might we meet it?

***

We were going to meet the Elephant Ambassador that I had met before on three separate occasions: Once on January 6th (Epiphany) 2000, with four other companions, a Jungian analyst, Michele Daniel, a shamanic practitioner, Amanda Foulger, my husband, a writer and RN, and a Zimbabwean medicine man or nganga, Mandaza Kandemwa. Again, in August in 2001, when my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill and I made the pilgrimage alone, the Ambassador came to our car from a great distance, aggressively pushed through a small circle of females to stop inches from the front of our car and trumpet. The third time, that we met the Ambassador was also on my birthday, was in September 2004. Filmmaker Cynthia Travis, also founder of the peacebuilding NGO, everyday gandhis and I had gathered a small delegation of Bushmen, Africans from South Africa and Liberia, and participants from North America to meet the Ambassador and encounter the wild. a similar group, including ex child soldiers and ex combatants, would travel with us again to Tanzania where we would once again have unprecedented real meetings with elephants.

Each time the connection was made with the elephants at the same place in Chobe, at the same tree, at the same hour 5 pm, which was the very last hour of the very last day that we could be in the park. That last time, there was material evidence of an incomprehensible but irrefutable exchange between the Ambassador elephant and ourselves. After becoming the audience for a carefully choreographed display or performance, we were thrown a bone. Literally. Those who know something of elephant culture, who know the enormous significance of bones to elephants, might guess what gifting us with such a sacred object implies.

This return to Chobe was six years later. As we entered the park, Krystyna asked if the elephant that had come the last time, was the same elephant. Did I recognize him by his tusks or ears? Did I recognize him at all? I didn’t know. “I believed it was,” I said, “but I don’t know. It may be that it is the same energy carrying the same intent but I do not know if it rests in a particular individual or moves to another or other beings.”

I was also wondering whether the elephant’s intention emerged from a single elephant, or arose from the consciousness and intent of the species at a critical time in their history, or was an expression of Spirit’s intent using elephant, or none of these, or was some combination of all. I continue to wonder if I will ever be able to answer this question with confidence. In the same way, I do wonder whether I am Spirit’s instrument or whether I am merely acting with human agency even though I always hope that I am aligned with Spirit on behalf of the future of all beings. Am I intuiting? Am I being guided? Are these my ideas? Is Spirit working through me? Can anyone of us answer these questions with certainty?

At our last meeting, the Ambassador had introduced us to his female partner, another younger female and a calf, a very young bull elephant who wanted to stay with his father. We had also been a tight knit group that afternoon, my husband, Cynthia Travis and shamanic practitioner, Valerie Wolf. The others in our group had decided to explore the park on their own. When we saw what was being presented, the four of us assumed that the Ambassador wanted our family to meet his family. We began to understand that our communication was to be focused upon family and its meaning among his people.

As I write this, I realize I had attributed all agency to the Ambassador without considering that the Matriarch might have been collaborating in the meeting, or that the energy and agency was moving through them, not only through him. The new understanding fits the social structure and wisdom of elephant culture – which is tribal at its best, is relational, not individualistic.

As a writer, I am immediately within the dilemma. I am comparing elephant culture to human culture, anthropomorphizing. The error is not that elephants can’t attain human development but rather the opposite; these experiences indicate that Elephant may be communicating beyond what we have achieved, that Elephant is a culture that may in many ways be more developed than our own. That Elephant may be coming forth to teach us as we increasingly fall into brutishness.

There – I have said it!

***

In the years that have followed this third meeting, there have been other experiences and many opportunities to compare notes with others who have found that the hierarchical thinking that places humans above all other non-humans is wrong and unacceptable. These hierarchies merely serve the industries that exploit animals and other beings as food, resources and subjects of experimentation Such hierarchies, and the criminal intentions they serve, are at the core of the myriad forms of racism, sexism, colonialism, economic and political exploitation. Science, for example, is not likely to recognize sentience and intelligence in the beings it tortures for prestige and profit.

The first three meetings with the Ambassador challenged everything I had been taught to believe. I was/ we were astonished and grateful. Those of us who were working with everyday gandhis would soon learn that elephants are seen as peacemakers in Liberia and that they have played a mysterious role in helping to end the Liberian civil war, 1989 -2003. As a writer, and Senior Advisor to everyday gandhis, I was trying to detail what was being revealed about elephants as I was trying to integrate these three experiences into my life. To be honest, I might have been trying to normalize them as they challenge the very basic assumptions of civilization itself.

It is easy to write such a sentence. It is very hard to live with it. The foundations of my life were shaken as my heart insisted that I meet what was being revealed sincerely and without bravado. It was very important to refrain from exploiting the experience or my knowledge for my own enhancement. My loyalty had to be to Creation, to the elephants, and the nature of what was being unveiled.

The first time we met, I had said to the Ambassador, “I know who you are. We are both from a holocausted people.” Then I continued, “Your people are my people.” I have to live according to my word. One does not want to invoke rhetoric with a species that knows truth.

This morning I spoke with a writer who said that truth is the entire foundation of culture and identity. Without truth, there is only violence, disorder and despair.

***

I understand now that it took six years to be able to return and be worthy of, that is readied for, what might occur. As I prepared, inner understanding cautioned me to be more concerned that the Ambassador would show up than that he would not.

I was preparing for another experience that could be entirely discontinuous with modern or post modern life, with Western culture, with the dominant assumptions of the media, and with current religious, scientific, commercial, political, technological and military ideologies (or ideology). I was preparing for the possibility of an experience that constitutes a significant cognitive and ethical challenge to our way of life.

In the intellectual and spiritual communities that I serve, we have developed a common response to extraordinary events: “What is the true nature of the universe in which such things occur. And how then shall we live?”

The advent of the Ambassador had been leading me to ask what is the real nature of the universe that we inhabit. What is the real nature of the universe in which such events are occurring? Hardly the first to ask this question, I was grateful to be companioned by Krystyna who has also been reflecting on this for many years.

I had met Krystyna in 1995 when I interviewed her for the anthology, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals. In her essay, “Dance with a Giraffe,” she wrote, “When I am in direct, intimate relationship with an animal I am more able to ask questions from within the cycle of nature. Animals take me into the nature of nature. The universal dance of form and relationship–creation and destruction, of which we are all part.

Krystyna’s words came out of her deep, unconditional respect for animals and the complexity and sentience of their lives. “Being with the giraffe, Old Nick, brought this feeling to me, especially when I was summoned to participate in his dance with death,” she wrote as she described the hours she had spent before he died with his head in her lap, as the other giraffes circled and circled him in the ritual moment.

Hearing this story from the Founder of Fossil Rim, who is deeply involved in conservation on national and international levels, was fundamental to understanding animal intelligence. We had not expected some of the conclusions that developed from gathering the essays for Intimate Nature: “At the center of empathy and compassionate understanding lies the ability to see the other as true peer, to recognize intelligence and communication in all forms, no matter how unlike ourselves these forms might be. It is this gift of empathy and connection, embodied in the relationship between us and other species, that enables us to thrive now and into the future.” Krystyna’s essay and her experiences were critical to our understanding of the field of relationship between women and animals that had been challenging the more conventional beliefs held by science and western culture.

If the Ambassador came again, in whatever way and form, I would have to transform my life entirely to meet this real event and its implications. I could not imagine what would be asked and was glad that I was not pretending to know. However, I am carrying the question each moment of each day since my return: How then shall I / shall we live now?

***

I am always alert to events at the threshold of a journey. Just days before the trip, I learned of an attempt in South Africa to save a particular bull elephant, the patriarch of a small herd, from being the object of a hunt. The price on Ngani’s head was $20,000+. He had been sold to a hunter by the owner of a small preserve who had been in financial difficulties. Now the old owner wanted him back but the new owner who had organized the hunt for very wealthy international clients, wanted twice the money he had paid. From the moment I learned of Ngani’s situation, I felt as if a brother of mine had been kidnapped and was being held for ransom. I was impatient with all the maneuvering as everyone, even those with the best intentions, had agendas to fulfill through serving Ngani’s story; I wanted to secure the life of my kin.

The appeal for Ngani was prescient. Most of the conversations we had with guides and tourists in Botswana and Namibia centered on the economics of eco-tourism, buying and selling animals, stocking and restocking, hunting, canned hunting (shooting an animal such as a white lion confined in a cage) and the technology and munitions involved in the poaching of elephants, lions and rhinos. Poaching has become a militarized industry using advanced technology, helicopters and machine guns. Modern warfare at its most insidious.

At the time we left, we did not know the outcome for Ngani, but we did learn to our horror, at the end of the trip that even if he were to be ransomed, another elephant would be hunted in his stead. It was hopeless.

I had once dreamed that my father and I had been given the task by Nazis to choose ten people who would saved from the Death Camps. In the dream, we tried to find those who had the most life in them, who would live longest, who would be able to … who knows what. In the dream, the task was horrible and haunted me for a long time. Another instance was occurring in real life at a time when I was preparing to make an unprecedented alliance with another very intelligent, socially and ethically developed species.

Now we were both searching for ways to respond to Ngani’s situation and to hunting in general, an activity that Krystyna knew well from her professional history of animal activism. In her essay, Krystyna recalled a pledge she, as a child, had repeatedly made to a baby anteater. “You are my friend, you are safe here, you will be taken care of.” She has been living according to this pledge her entire life. But, at the very beginning of our journey, we were being challenged by the dangers that animals experience each day and were wondering if / how we could create safety for them.

(Editing this on Wednesday, November 30, 2011, I know the terrible outcome of the terrible situation. Ngani’s life was saved but another elephant was offered up. The hunter was given a “destruction permit” on the very last day that it could be issued. He came upon Beuga, the matriarch of the seventy elephants in the herd, darted her and killed her. (See http://www.corporate-wildlife-teambuilding-adventures.com/2011/10/further-elephant-communications-saving-the-life-of-ngani-and-beuga’s-plea/)

There are no words to describe this tragedy.)

When I was considering going to Chobe to see if I could meet the Elephant Ambassador on my 75th birthday, Krystyna had said, “I want to go with you. I want to meet him too.” When I heard her words, knowing who she is, I knew that we would go.

***

I traveled to Africa, this fourth time, with the stated intent or, hope, to meet with elephants, to sit in council with them, and to see how we might, together, act on behalf of a viable future and the restoration of the natural world. For the fourth time they came. They came even though we do not have, or I did not know we have, an established means of communication.

Krystyna and I could exercise our human will to the extent that we could board a plane and make our way to an established meeting place in Chobe. After that, what would occur was in the elephants’ trunks, so to speak.

We had three and a half days to stay in Chobe. We would go to the appointed place. We would see what if anything, outside the realm of tourism, might occur. I knew that we had to be very sensitive to any gestures, movements and activities so as to distinguish which, if any, were directed toward us, and which were part of ordinary elephant activity. Yes, we had come to see the elephants as they live their lives, but we had also come to be with the elephants.

We do not have a common language. If there were to be a conversation, a language would have to be created. And so it was. At first it was a language of gesture and response, then a language of event, then of events becoming motion. Motion and meaning became one. That one can also be understood as Story. Then all the other stories integrated to become one Story. Except by arriving each time, it was not a language that we initiated. The elephants had agency; we were the respondents.

I don’t know the first sentence of the communication between us, because I do not know if they called me/us or whether we called them. I know that each event or moment might have been understood as static, as a noun. Then the nouns gathered, one after another, like a procession that had a dynamic energy that could be called a verb. Syntax: noun – verb – object became verb, became dynamic, became resonant relationships, like an Athabascan language. Utterance by gesture, then reply and acknowledgment. And again. Call and Response, inseparable from each other. Music. A divine order that includes all.

We, the two humans, who met the elephants, as we had seemingly agreed, in the years before, at a certain place and at a certain time, did not create the language except by making the journey and keeping our word. This was already a great leap out of the conventional human world into another dimension. We went toward the elephants who, we came to believe, called us, with eagerness and without expectation. That they had come before had been an unimaginable gift, not for us alone, but for the future, for consciousness, and creation. That they might come again, might recognize the gesture we were making toward them, was more than we could hope. It was enough to see ourselves as willing to set forth because this alone might have the possibility of changing the field. But then they came.

Immediately, yes, but at first not from within Story. We were just, it seemed, passersby, even merely tourists, different beings in the same place at the same time. Then we realized we were in a dialogue. And the dialogue became a Story – a coherent, complex, inter-connected, resonant set of events that gathered meaning as they progressed. Then this story began to merge with the previous stories and we saw that we were in another field of knowing and being altogether. Story. Story as I have known it and have been teaching it for more than thirty years. Story: A series of comprehensive, interlocking events, experiences, and understandings that arise determinedly and spontaneously, from within and without one’s life, that cannot be willed or controled and that,ultimately, create, establish and reveal a little world, a singular and integral cosmology.

The reality, according to which humans, particularly westerners, have lived for several thousand years and which they consider absolute, was being shattered as these two humans and the elephants were considering each other as peers with the ability to converse in the ways and field of another dimension. We met in the field called trust. As humans, Krystyna and I hoped to be trustworthy. It is a new territory, a manifestation of ancient knowledge and current experience.

Needless to say, this is not the first time that animals and humans have had such an exchange. Such is the very basis of indigenous life, myth and spiritual understanding. Such meetings have been increasingly recounted in the last years. Nevertheless, the experience is awesome and those who participate are left undone – as they should be. It is required that we fall apart and reconstitute to meet the new reality. I knew this and Krystyna knew this and we offered ourselves to it.

***

After we left Chobe National Park, we were traveling with Wilem Barnard, the son of Izak Barnard who had introduced photo safaris to Botswana, and the grandson of Bvekenya Cecil Barnard, the notorious elephant hunter, who had given up elephant hunting when he saw that it had become a terrible, commercial business and was no longer remotely a sacred or respectable activity. At age 43, he had hunted a great mammoth of an elephant and at the last moment, Barnard recognized who, indeed, the elephant was and risked his own life by letting him go. Barnard quit hunting and forbid his sons to ever hunt again.

As I watched Wilem interact with the animals, and the ways he avoided our being surrounded by them, or the way he avoided elephants who were coming toward us, as he had to do as a responsible guide, I understood how remarkable the experience was that Krystyna and I had had. We had gone ourselves where few go unguided and mutual trust had allowed us to truly come together.

From the beginning, when we were alone in our car in the Park, we were always directed by mutual intuitions to be in a certain place when the elephants would also be there. Within minutes of our coming to a place where we felt we should stop, an elephant herd appeared and quickly and gently surrounded us as if we were not there, as if we were ourselves elephants. Though there were very young elephants in the herd, some nursing, and though the car often separated the young from the adults as they crossed behind or in front of us where we were parked, there was never a sense that we were disturbing them or intruding upon their lives.

In contrast, we saw a white car make its way down the road by the river when elephants were crossing to the waterhole blocking the road. The driver of the car insisted on continuing and we watched, alarmed, as a matriarch reared up and trumpeted in rage. Frankly, I was concerned for the consequences to the elephants should they have been provoked to defend themselves.

When it was time for us to leave the Park at 6 pm on the night of the 16th, we made our way carefully without incident. Soon, we found ourselves enveloped by elephants coming toward us – we stopped instantly – and then released toward the Park exit just before closing.

On the 17th, the elephants were always with us during the hours we spent by the river at our meeting place, the tree. Then at six, we made our way toward the exit. We were taking our last photos when Krystyna spotted another tree. “An elephant ears tree,” she exclaimed. I took the photograph. I was astonished to see that the tree appeared with a rainbow on it.

“Rainbow as a covenant” had been a theme for Michael and myself in the summer when we had gone to Canyon de Chelly. At the last hour of the last day we were at the Canyon, rain clouds had gathered, a greatly welcome sight at a time of drought and fires. As we stood at Face Outlook we watched a rainbow descend into the canyon and then rise up again making a double rainbow before us. Then the rain came.

I had met such a rainbow on the summer solstice at the Arctic Circle in 1996 and had written a song which ended, “Rainbow as a covenant/ God exists /And Beauty has won. / God exists / And Beauty has won.”

A rainbow preceded our journey to Africa after Canyon de Chelly and welcomed me as I was telling the story of the journey to Michael on our return.

The strange appearance of the rainbow on the tree caused by the light bouncing off the car mirror echoed the time in the Canyon and Topanga and alerted Krystyna and I that we were being asked to enter a covenant with the elephants.

On the last day, we went toward our meeting place early but on the way we saw a herd of elephants out on the field across from the river and we stopped to be with them. They were not close but we did not feel we could leave unless we had permission from them. Much out of character, and perhaps playfully, I asked the elephants to give us a sign if we should go to the tree where we had met the elephants each time. We were aghast when the elephants broke out of the clutch they had formed and stood, evenly placed, in a line facing south to the tree. It would have been rude to ignore this sign and so we went to the tree. To the south was another group of elephants standing in random order. When we arrived, they also briefly formed a line and faced us. We were now, it seemed, in the right place at the right time. The area where we were at the water hole was, however, empty of animals.

In awhile, a small elephant, three years old perhaps, came down on his own to the water hole. We were alarmed. Lions had been in the area in the morning and they would not hesitate to take down a lone little elephant.

I began, we began, to pray for its safety.

Soon a truck came by with a guide and tourists. They stopped to photograph the baby and I flagged them down as they passed us. I asked why this baby might be alone and the guide said that it was probably ill and had not been able to keep up with the herd. From all appearances, however, despite his thirst, this little one was not in dire straits and the herd was not threatened and needing to go on without one of its own. Everything I know about elephants contradicted what the guide said, and we were troubled by this anomalous situation; elephant mothers do not desert their child, nor do the herd members, unless it is dire.

So, we continued meditating, praying both for the health of the baby and for the appearance of his mother. As we sat there, I found myself in the grip of strange emotions. I have been visiting Africa and participating in Safaris since 1985. I am deeply respectful of the rules and the ways humans are ethically required to behave in the wild. The first time on Safari in Kenya, we were witness to a young male lion testing himself by stalking a baby elephant behind his mother in the midst of a herd. Even when the lion was perched on a great rock above the little one, slowly hunkering down into leap position, we were enjoined to be absolutely silent and let the wild enact itself. Human restraint is essential. In that instance, just seconds before the leap, the elephant mother flapped her ears, even without looking up at the lion, and he slunk away.

Now I was observing a baby elephant without a herd and without his mother. What would happen if a lion came? I tried to gather myself into disciplined silence, but another part of me suspected that I might not be able to control my impulse to run out of the car and protect the elephant. It was a mother instinct that I had not known before with non-human beings. It would be wrong. it would be foolish, it would be dangerous, and it would be ineffective as the two of us might easily be taken by the lion. But something was occurring within me. The words I had first uttered to the Ambassador were becoming real: “Your people are my people.” These words were not sentimental. This was my kin. This was, as if, my child or grandchild were threatened. I had crossed the species border finally into unexpected and entirely, for my life, unprecedented relationship.

In about fifteen very, very long minutes, two older elephants came to the water, a mother, we thought, and a sister. They spent some time at the water hole and then went on toward the sand bridge that led to a wide plain along the river. Again we were alarmed as the baby did not move. But then the two returned and stayed with him.

At this moment, another white car approached and a stopped. A photographer stepped out of the car and approached the elephants closely. I yelled to him to return to the car, afraid of a repeat of the elephant anger that we had seen the day two days before. Ultimately, the man returned to the car and the car took off and we were left alone, again, with this tiny group. Soon the three began walking toward the sandy plain.

We watched them for a long time, relieved, as they were staying together. Then we were stunned as elephant after elephant came down to the water hole. So many elephants of all ages.

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

We were together for a long time when the sun turned orange and began setting and we knew it would soon be the end of the last hour of the last day we would be in Chobe. Then more elephants were coming toward us from every direction, as if all the elephants in the area were gathering around us. In the last minutes, we saw that the elephants with the small bull were returning.

The female we thought was a sister stayed at the break in the sand bridge, directly across from us,

reminding me of the photograph by Cynthia Travis of the Ambassador on the cover of my book, From Grief Into Vision: A Council.

The larger elephant had gone forward to join the others and we were enfolded, again, in a very large herd.

Now, it was time to leave. How very difficult it was. But if we didn’t leave, we would be locked in the park for the night. Not a comfortable situation. So I turned the key and began moving very, very slowly onto the road. Immediately, the largest elephant of the herd bounded up the incline from the water hole and stopped in the middle of the road. Others joined, including another little one, and we were effectively and adamantly blocked.

I remembered well the incident with the first white car and so I leaned out of the car and told them that I would not insist my way. We would not be willful. We would yield to their wishes. I turned off the engine and we sat looking at each other. Then they ambled down to the water again. Regretfully, I started the car and we crept slowly past the herd on the road they had vacated. When they were behind us, we stopped again. They were forming a long line with the great elephant in front and, we saw, the little elephant who we had prayed for earlier, the last, following the female elephant and kin up into the brush. Within a moment, they had all disappeared.

The next day as Willem Barnard was driving us on the highway that bisects the park, we slowed for three elephants crossing the road who looked exactly like the three we had prayed for the night before. They were together and it was clear the little one was healthy and vital.

***

Yes! Another part of the story inserts itself on October 10, 2011. I am writing this essay and looking at the photographs I took for the first time. I stare at the photographs and revisit the scene I could not concentrate on before because of my concern for the little one. The large elephant is a bull.

The smaller one, obviously now, the mother of the little bull.

We have been met by a family as we had been the time before. A most unusual circumstance and so an event to be noted and seriously considered.

Elephants do not travel in nuclear family units. The older bulls stay to themselves. Breeding herds consist of the females and the young ones including young bulls.

We have been in the presence of the Ambassador without knowing it.
The question I was asked before? Does the Ambassador always come in the same form? Will you recognize him?

The Ambassador came. It takes time to understand what is being said in the language of the Elephant People.

The Ambassador came and did not announce himself but engaged us in a Story, as is his nature, or is the nature of this gathering. We have been met again, family to family, and we have been taken into tribe. The great elephant who ran up to block the road and test us was probably also the Ambassador. We have, indeed, crossed the barrier and have become kin. I am awed and frightened in the way one is shaken by the Presence.

How, now, shall I live?

***

I am reminded of Krystyna’s questions upon the death of Old Nick. “Am I willing to imagine the possibility of true partnership in nature? Am I willing to engage in the mystery of language beyond words? Will I trust what I hear? What am I being called to remember?”

***

The first time we met the Ambassador, he had stood a few feet from the side, the back and then the other side of our own truck and looked in our eyes for no less than ten minutes in each place. Then he had disappeared. But as we drove along the river to leave the park, all the elephants in the area lined up along the river and bowed their heads and flapped their ears as we passed.

The second time we met the Ambassador, he came at the same hour from a very great distance, a mile away, perhaps, and shouldered his way aggressively through a group of female elephants at the water hole, then climbed up the embankment and stopped directly before our car and trumpeted, then disappeared.

The third time, as I have written, we were introduced to his little family and then were given a sacred bone.

We have had four remarkable, unprecedented, irrefutable meetings with elephants acting with agency, intent and grace. This time, we were enfolded into the herd. But also, they tested us, as well they should, to see if we are trustworthy. Would we be honorable? Would we yield to the circumstances they were clearly creating, even to staying overnight in the park if required? Would we follow their directions and their lead?

In the proximity of these great gray beings, I understand that they are not merely another species; they are a formidable and beautiful people inhabiting the earth with us, capable of complex communications and wiser than we can imagine. The Elephant People are essentially kind, exceedingly intelligent and conscious presences, increasingly maddened and driven to acts of unnatural violence by our destructive behavior, tortured beyond endurance by their clear understanding that the earth, all life, their little ones, will not survive unless we human transform entirely, become more like they are again.

( See http://www.kerulos.org/learn_more/elephants_edge_assets/BradshawSchoreEthology07.pdf”)

Krystyna and I were allowed to cross the barrier that humans beings created when they separated themselves from all life and manufactured cultures entirely incompatible with the life force. Barriers as hideous and real as the great stone walls we arbitrarily erect to isolate ourselves from all others.

In contrast, every gesture, every action from these great beings revealed or involved us in vital and dynamic relationship which is the very core of elephant life. The Elephant People made visible the depth and profundity of their connections with each other, they reached out to us and spoke to us in profound and irrefutable ways, and they reminded us that human beings have fallen out of the network of all our relations and the consequences for all life are tragic.

Their communications were clear and the language precise. As we were leaving the area, they appeared again, as to underscore what we could barely comprehend. The Ambassador and the Delegation from the elephants called us to them from across the world. And now I am transmitting their call to you. Come meet with us in the way of beauty. Be aligned fully once more with an inspirited world. Become whom you must become in order to communicate with these great ones, in the field of their understanding, in a language older than words.

This fourth meeting with the elephants, with the Ambassador, with his family in an unusual and notable configuration, and then also with an entire Delegation is the unequivocal answer to a prayer that we, as a species, might truly be in alliance with other species. That the human people might meet the Elephant People as peers. That the original ways of Creation can be restored and, together – “Your people are my people” – we might strive to help the earth and all its beings survive and flourish.

Another Meeting With the Elephants

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

Friday, September 30, 2011

THE ELEPHANTS.

These are the only words I have to speak from the cleft between awe and wonder. Soon, I hope, the Story will be able to be told.

i arrived in Africa on September 15th.

Many meetings with the elephants occurred over the first days when
Krystyna Jurzykowski and I were in The Chobe National Park, Botswana, with our own 4 x 4 vehicle. Some of the meetings might be dismissed as ordinary or happenstance, except that the individual events formed one indisputable Story enacted over those three days.

The final confirmation or small wonder occurred as our guides,having arrived for the rest
of the journey, were driving us toward our next destination.

At the last moment in the park on September 17th, the second day, my
birthday, an almost invisible event, but one no being could have orchestrated, occurred that was as true a sign as any I have ever experienced.

And again, on September 18th, as has occurred before at the last hour of the last
day on three different days of three separate years, there was a final event
that could stand on its own as a meeting and was, itself, incontrovertible. It transpired over the last two hours, 4 – 6 pm, of our last day in the Park.

The Delegates Meet Us Eye to Eye

We were not met by a single Ambassador, but by an entire delegation.

The elephants came. The message? That they came!

And so this event and its implications become the foreground of my life at this time.

***

Poem from Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems (Red Hen Press 2009)

MANDLOVU

Suddenly, I am of a single mind extended
Across an unknown geography,
and imprinted, as if by a river, on the moment…
A mind held in unison by a large gray tribe
meandering in reverent concert
among trees, feasting on leaves.
One great eye reflecting blue
from the turn inward
toward the hidden sky that, again,
like an underground stream
continuously nourishes
what will appear after the dawn
bleaches away the mystery in which we rock
through the endless green dark.

I am drawn forward by the lattice,
by a concordance of light and intelligence
constituted from the unceasing and consonant
hum of cows and the inaudible bellow of bulls,
a web thrumming and gliding
along the pathways we remember
miles later or ages past.

I am, we are,
who can distinguish us?
a gathering of souls, hulking and muddied,
large enough – if there is a purpose –
to carry the accumulated joy of centuries
walking thus within each other’s
particular knowing and delight.

This is our grace: To be a note
in the exact chord that animates creation,
the dissolve of all the rivers
that are both place and moment,
an ocean of mind moving
forward and back,
outside of any motion
contained within it.

This is particle and wave. How simple.
The merest conversation between us
becoming the essential drone
into which we gladly disappear.
A common music, a singular heavy tread,
ceaselessly carving a path,
for the waters tumbling invisibly
beneath.

I have always wanted to be with them, with you, so.
I have always wanted to be with them,
with you,
so.

***
Mandlovu is the word the Ndebele people of Zimbabwe use for female elephant, It is connected in resonance with Mambo Kadze the name for the deity that is both elephant, the Virgin Mary and the Great Mother.

***
Blessings,
Deena

THE WORK OF THE NEXT FIVE YEARS

The Work of the Next Five Years

A Letter from Deena Metzger   

Dear  Community:
 
If we want to change our mind, we have also to change the means through which the change occurs. In the process of real transformation, everything changes.

I moved to Topanga on April Fool’s Day, 1981. It is good to start one’s real life with a bit of humor.
 
Many visions and ways of knowing have been pioneered here related to writing, healing, council, peacebuilding, revisioning medicine and developing true and profound spirit-based relationships with the natural world, the ancestors and non-human beings.

In 1981, I was just beginning to understand the way the stories we live can reveal the ways to meet physical and spiritual illness, and beginning to conceive the forms that led in 1999 to establishing Daré – an improvisational healing community based upon dreams, council and alliance with the Spirits. Last week several of us acknowledged this site as a Village Sanctuary for the Future. Though I could not have imagined the point that we have come to, I have always known that we must search for the forms that invite and hold the visions we are given to carry. And also that these visions need to be on behalf of all beings and the future generations.
 
More than ever, I am looking for the right flexible and generous forms to hold the necessary work that calls to be done in the next few years. If we are fortunate, the essential work we are called to in the next five years will be realized. 
  
I have been devotedly following a dream since January 1, 2011.  In the dream, I am to be trained to live and work as an indigenous woman, according to the old, old wisdom traditions.  I am not to be trained in any particular way, but in the way that underlies all the old ways. 
 
The seeds of the dream lie far in the past, so far back I can’t identify the beginning.  But as everyone likes an origin story – (it’s like the Big Bang – all of life issues forth from it) – let’s say, the origin was 31 years ago when I first led a re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece, and verifiably experienced the real presence of spiritual energy and spiritual intent outside of liturgy but deeply connected to great respect and rigorous devotion. This continues into the present, and I have based my life upon it.  I carry two related and on-going question in the face of such continuous, unpredictable and radiant experiences:  “What is true nature of the world in which such events occur?  And how, accordingly, shall we live?”
 
The question of how we live is upon us as it has never been in the history of human beings.  We have never been asked to entirely change our culture within our lifetime – actually, to change even more quickly. There are no formulas and culture is so complex it must be not be defined or limited. This is an impossible task and we must pursue it.
 
The ultimate goal is the complex vibrant restoration of the natural world in all its beauty and intelligence with the human species in right relationship to all beings. The ultimate goal is that all life thrives.
 
In 2010, I developed 19 ways to the 5th World. You can read them here on this Blog.  They are an index to the work that I will be doing in the next years.  To work with me is to work in these realms in order to become adept.  To work with me is to pursue the unique and mysterious ways of Council and true alliance with non-humans and humans as a primary way of restoration. To work with me as a writer, is to work with the intention of imagining and participating in a Literature of Restoration. 
 
Emerging from a profound healing experience several weeks ago, I heard words in my mind answering a question I have been asking relentlessly:  “We cannot tell you how the times will change on behalf of the restoration of the natural world and the restoration of sanity for human beings.  These changes will emerge from myriad different, distinct, spontaneous activities on the part of so many human beings, they cannot possibly be predicted or articulated.  But your task is to recognize the validity of your experiences over the years and so hold to the knowledge that the change will come if all of you are devoted.”
 
I will be 75 on September 17th, 2011.  I mark the day by going to Botswana in the hope of meeting The Elephant Ambassador for the fourth time.  (Earlier Blog entries, “The Elephants are Calling Us Again”, and “Voices of the Elephants” will introduce you to him). I intend it as an act of reverence, deep respect and faith.  After such a life as I have had the privilege of living, I make the journey gladly — an offering to future. 
 
Whether The Ambassador comes or not, something will occur that will reveal the purpose of this journey and the hope it carries.  I am traveling with a friend who has also devoted her life to the animals and to consciousness.  Things will occur that we cannot possibly predict. We yield to what comes.  But she and I are thinking of ourselves, expectantly, as ambassadors to the future. 
 
My husband Michael Ortiz Hill and I just spent a week in Canyon de Chelly and were graced by the Presence once again.  A Story, as I have come to know Story in these years, manifested in such a way that I speak of it with the last lines of a poem I wrote at the Arctic Circle in Norway in 1996 when I was 60:
 
Rainbow as a covenant
God exists
And Beauty has won.
  
***

In the light of such events, aware of the preciousness of time, I am trying to determine – by deep listening – the exactness of my work as a thinker, teacher and writer for the next five years.
 
As a teacher my focus will be on training and mentoring. This will occur, for the most part, each month between Sunday Daré and the next Sunday’s Training for the 5th World. These nine days provide an opportunity for people to come to Topanga and engage intensely with me and with each other in the work of truly understanding, integrating and inhabiting the Ways to the 5th World.
 
These days will accommodate those who live in the area and work with me regularly and those who wish to come to Topanga for one or more short periods of time. It can include private work, classes, councils, solitude, and/or time on the land. We can meet in person and also by telephone and via Skype. There is a yurt that people can share, when appropriate, and there are hotels near by. Much of what you experience will come from your interactions with the members of the Daré community. I am looking for informal ways of meeting rather than creating inflexible structures. This flexibility allows us to meet the emerging work with the rigor and commitment required.
 
The Saturdays before Darés and before the Sunday Trainings will be designated for various focused councils and in-depth explorations in the hope of encouraging heartstorming and visionary, collaborative thinking by gathering those odd, unexpected and necessary companions to imagine and institute the future. There is an ancient symbol called the Flower of Life. It consists of a single form composed of 19 interlocking circles. I am hoping that the infinitely fertile communication possible from such interlocking councils will also be seeded here.
 
I will devote two weeks of each month to writing and some limited travel. That leaves a little time for improvisation and surprise.
 
I am trying to step out of a formal teaching or conference schedule into something more organic, compelling, profound, unexpected, conscious, and indigenous – as the dream directs.
 
When I first started living by council, I would speak of the tradition that so many, if not all peoples, had of gathering those necessary to meet a crisis. We are in extreme crisis. We have to gather, we have to learn, we have to transform. Such gatherings mimic, in the best ways, the dynamic complexities of ecotones and small niches of natural beauty. Let us bear with each other as we extract ourselves from and discard the limiting institutional ways and devotion to material things and violent solutions that have developed in the last years in order to find new forms for new lives.
 
We will be working in this manner beginning Dare’ week, Oct. 2, 2011. To make appointments, apply, to learn about the Sunday Trainings and other classes, or to explore possibilities that may not be articulated in this letter, please email or call Danelia Wild at 310-815-1060. (Different classes, circles, events are posted on my website www.deenametzger.com.) Please understand that we do not have a full-time staff person and are yet deeply committed to meeting what Spirit is asking of us, both individually and as a community.
 
Peace and Blessings
  
Deena
 
 

 

19 WAYS TO THE 5TH WORLD

This is one guide to how we change our minds sufficiently to live differently and act in ways that will preserve the future and protect the earth and all beings. When we incorporate these ways of thinking, we will no longer be people who do harm. But again, we have to change our minds as we won’t fully know what to do or how to do it until we respond instinctively with different minds, values and reflexes. These 19 Ways indicate the areas where transformation can occur.

The changes required are systemic and cellular. Too often these days, the very framing of the issues limit the possibilities. How will we survive? How will we thrive? How will we prosper? may no longer be the questions, if the WE refers only to humans. We have to free ourselves from the programming, at the least, of the last century. It is a huge task and it is possible. We have allies. They are not all human. The future is possible BUT we have to offer ourselves to it, unconditionally. When we do, guidance occurs. Spirit speaks to us when we open to it.

*********************************************************

The changes we are called to make so that the earth and all beings might survive are extensive and extreme. They require comprehensive and global shifts of consciousness and activity. No one is exempt from such a challenge. As extreme, at this time, as are the dangers to all, are the signs of possibility we witness and experience each day. These are 19 ways that have been communicated to me over the years. They are certainly not the only ways but it seems that each one is essential. They represent a significant change in consciousness from seeking development or vision for oneself to seeking out the precise offering one is being asked to make on behalf of the future. It could take a lifetime to apprentice oneself to even one such way of transformation. We are called to meet each one of them – and perhaps more. We are called to commit ourselves to recognizing and understanding the nature of each one of these, as best as we can, as quickly as is possible. Each day we have less time to enter these sacred ways. As indicated, these are Ways that can best be realized in community, that is with each other and also through a direct and true relationship with Spirit.  Basic to entering and securing a 5th World are alliances with all beings and following the teachings of Spirit.

19 Ways to the 5th World

1. SPIRIT EXISTS.  Spirit speaks to each of us in a particular and shared language.  Entering into a dialogue with the divine. Developing and living according to a spiritual practice that develops from a real relationship with spirit.

2. COMMUNITY. Recognizing and living aligned with community as an essential vessel and means of transformation.

3. COUNCIL.  Entering and trusting the ways of Council, Dare’ and Mandlovu mind.

4. STORY.  Story is a pattern of events and also a path. Learning to listen, to recognize, understand and attend the way of Story and the particular path of healing and transformation it reveals for each one.

5. THE PATHLESS PATH.  Recognizing the path that one has traveled and seeing where one has been taken and the dynamic path that emerges from the journey. Attuning to, developing and being faithful to a spiritual practice on the pathless path.

6. BEARING WITNESS. Bearing witness to the horror and corruption of our history and these times and scrutinizing our lives accordingly.

7. DISENGAGEMENT.  Consciously ceasing our involvement with those forms and values that we,  individually,  believe do harm to human and non-human beings, the earth and the future.  Entering the long and exacting practice of bringing our lives into alignment with our beliefs and understanding.

8. HEALING WAR, PEACEMAKING and THE NO ENEMY WAY.  Committing ourselves to healing war within us and in the world.  Understanding and incorporating the No Enemy Way into our daily private and public ways as best as we can.  Committing ourselves to our transformation from war-traumatized people to peacemakers and visionaries.

9. REVISIONING. Revisioning public institutions of thought and action.  Imagining and aligning ourselves with ReVisioned Medicine, Science, Law, Economic Social systems.  For example, a ReVisioned Medicine practices the No Enemy Way, does no harm and integrates the combined wisdom of medical people and medicine people.  Assuming the equal relevance of indigenous, earth centered, spirit centered wisdom in all reasoning and thinking processes.  Changing one’s mind.

10. INDIGENOUS WISDOM TRADITIONS.  Studying, respecting, honoring, preserving, supporting, allying with indigenous wisdom traditions.  Changing the activities and forms of our lives accordingly from respecting and honoring elders to living prayerfully.

11. DREAMS AND DIVINATION.  Living by Dream, Intuition and Divination.  Reading the signs and then following  other spirit centered ways of knowing.  Yielding to initiation and living accordingly.

12. HEALING.  Recognizing the presence of healing.  Learning the ways of healing.  Seeking out healing.  Becoming a healing presence.

13. MITAKYE OYASIN. Living according to All Our Relations.

14. THE WILD.  Protecting, preserving, sustaining, bringing healing to the wild, the earth and all beings.

15. THE OTHERS – NON HUMAN BEINGS.  Recognizing the intelligence and agency of non-human beings and living among them accordingly.

16. BEAUTY AND CEREMONY.  Living according to Beauty, Creativity, Intuition, Prayer, Ritual, Ceremony, Loving kindness and Compassion as essential forms.  Recognizing that Joy is Praise.

17. SILENCE.  Valuing and engaging in silence, solitude, formless forms and not knowing.

18. SANCTUARY.  Honoring, providing, becoming sanctuary for all beings by learning the way of the land.

19. ALLIANCES. Fostering dynamic relationships with other groups and organizations working in parallel heartways.

THEN COMMITMENT and stepping through the portal into a different field of understanding and assumptions. Living faithfully according to the laws of the 5th World that mandate serving Spirit and the on-going future.

RIFT VALLEY

RIFT VALLEY

Between one world and another,
Lies the rift and the increasing separation,
As the plates of one mind slip away
From the plates of another mind.
I do not question which way I am to go,
But call to my heart to act on the decision made
To follow the soul
Or I will be split apart too,
As so many are,
Between violence
And Beauty.
The violent demands of our everyday life
And the strange beauty of Spirit afar.
I must choose Beauty
No matter the cost in this life.
I must choose and leap
Across the widening valley;
We cannot rest between.
Leap!
Ah Beauty! Receive me in your open arms.

No Soy de Aqui, Ni Soy de Alla

I awaken to questions. That’s how writing begins – or ends. I awaken with the question that led to writing La< Negra y Blanca: Did I ever meet La Negra? Nine years later I am still puzzling the way a mysterious question, that enters one as if it were a scent, can manifest in a novel and call so much into being.

I awaken with the question of meeting La Negra still as vivid as it was when it first announced itself like a guest at the door who would never stop knocking. Then I learn that Facundo Cabral, the Argentinean singer, poet, guitarist was murdered in Guatemala and somehow the two become linked though I can not explain it, just that it is.

I’m trying to tell you about writing a novel and what it really means when I say that a novel is a little world. It is a life force. It is complete. It emerges out of a single image, sentence or idea, the way the world emerged from a point and all the wonders, that includes all life, materialized from the mystery of light becoming matter but not forgetting itself as light.

When I wrote Ferall, I resided in a sycamore and then a Brazilian pepper tree in my mind

When I wrote The Other Hand I had to learn astrophysics and I lived among the stars for ten years. The stars and the holocaust – infernos of beauty and rage. Writing and contemplating, I spoke a language I didn’t understand and yet it became the equivalent of my mamaloshen, my mother tongue. It became for me a language of creation. And even now, like a particle that was once linked to another particle and so experiences parallel changes even if over a vast distance, I find myself thrust again into that energy, that light, that field of knowing in which I was immersed for those years. One merely has to mention a name, Daniella Stonebrook Blue, Cardinal Lustiger, Peter Schmidt, or a place, Palomar or Auschwitz, and the world that was The Other Hand springs into being and I am in that country again. Not writing, therefore, is an unbearable exile for then I am living without a country under my feet.

Each novel is a universe and the writer becomes a citizen whether or not she or he has a public identity in the book. At least that is the way it has been for me. As a writer, I live in the book. Once the territory is established, and the flora and fauna take root and thrive on their own – even if I may be writing about the threat to their lives by the ways we are living – as soon as their indigenous nature is established, I can make my home there. No, it is more than that. I have no choice. I become of it as I write it. I am shaped by it. I am no longer myself – I am its progeny, a creature of its distinct field of being and knowing. Another species from another universe, though all the references are to planet earth and its terrain, the more specific, the better.

And for a time there is no other world except that one, although it may occur that it, like a whirling sun, may gather other energies, other fields, other suns to it, so that they all become one. Like the meeting between Facundo Cabral and La Negra.

They say that there are many parallel universes, or one may be tucked within another, we do not know, but each has a sealed boundary, Each has its own cosmic laws so that the substance of one cannot accord with the other – and they cannot cross the boundary without being destroyed or undergoing a complete transformation – the one becoming the other. And as each novel, like each world, wants to remain separate, that is, itself, then I am called to transform completely each time I enter one of those distinct spheres of being.

Do remember that I am speaking about La Negra y Blanca and I am trying to explain why the book is a field of energy, is a way of knowing, is its own domain. This concern is what awakened me and further reminded me of other questions I have been carrying about what I call the Literature of Restoration, a shamanic use of language to restore the world that we are murdering.

The novel began with a question: Did I ever meet La Negra? It or I was preoccupied with the question – but not the answer – for nine years. And here is the book wrapped in beautiful colors painted by the Chilean muralist, Francisco Letelier. We are making a weaving of the brilliant and desperate colors of the sun. The colors are all dipped in blood.

La Negra y Blanca begins in Mexico as Blanca is traveling to Cuba or to Chile. Francisco is the son of the assassinated diplomat Orlando Letelier. Letelier was killed by a car bomb explosion on September 21, 1976, in Washington DC along with his US assistant, Ronni Moffit. You remember, don’t you? Members of the Chilean secret police, the DINA, were implicated as was Augusto Pinochet who led the bloody coup against the democratically elected President, Salvador Allende. He was not called to stand trial for this murder. A few were convicted and others went free.

The novel includes a sojourn to Lake Atitlan with Morena Monteforte the daughter of a Tz’utujil woman, Doña Rosa Chavajay and the former Guatemalan Vice President and novelist, Mario Monteforte Toledo. Allende’s death is part of the novel. Mario Monteforte Toledo and Salavador Allende were friends in the way I was friends with Morena. We sat at the same table together. When you break bread together, your relationship is true.

The image of La Negra on the cover of the book is from Francisco’s mural in Whole Foods on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice, California. Blanca believed that if she could return to the moment of meeting La Negra, if La Negra could become real and enter the world in the manner that befits such a being or spirit then everything might change. That was one of the novel’s goals. We can put this in the realm of Restoration.

Then I found her portrait in Venice California, painted by a Chilean muralist who lives nearby. I remember well when his father died, but I didn’t know Francisco then. I remember meeting his mother in North Carolina years after Orlando Letelier’s murder; I think I met her there and then. I could have met the two of them in Chile in 1972. Maybe I did when we were all marching on behalf of the Unidad Popular or dancing in the mud on the stormy night of the Dieciocho, the Chilean Independence Day.

I never met Facundo Cabral though he is playing now from over there where the dead live. But I did hear Angel Parra play in Chile in 1972 before Allende was murdered. Angel and others. Then I brought home their music: Angel’s, Isabel’s, their mother, Violetta’s, the one who began Cancion Protesta – Gracias a La Vida. Inti-Illimani, Daniel Viglietti, Victor Jara. I knew Victor’s music before he was killed, before they broke his hands in the stadium, before…. And then afterward, Angel was in my house, and Viglietti, Inti-Illimani, I think, as well. I could be imagining this, – that is how a novelist is – but it actually happened. The real and the imagined, the known and the unknown, came together in the field that was Chile: With Poems and Guns, a film I worked on in 1973, the first film about the brutal golpe in Chile. Now I call this field La Negra y Blanca and it expands to something else with the addition of Facundo Cabral. The field becomes a sphere. It resonates with the music. How can we not believe in possibility?

So many of my novels have come out of music. They wouldn’t have existed if not for the sax, guitar or flute through which they were written. But the music of this book did not exist except for birdsong. Then last night, Facundo Cabral was assassinated and his music began to seep into the words as if the pages could have been a bandage to staunch the flow of blood.

Is it rhetorical to say that no matter how tortured these lands have been from the beginning of the Conquest and including the ongoing hemorrhage of pain and violence into the present, there is also a luminous plait of all the latitudes and longitudes of hope?

Let me weave another story into this world. I met a man who came from a war torn country in Southeast Asia. He had been adopted as a war orphan by an American military family and being well trained, they tortured him. He ran away many times. He couldn’t always escape. When he did, he made his way to an old Black woman who taught him how to play the guitar. The story goes the way such stories go. The guitar saved him again and again. The way another friend of mine, a Vietnam veteran was saved by deer; now he attends each road kill, each hunted deer corpse with the reverence one learns to bring to the holy.

I met the former orphan days ago and learned his guitar had been stolen. There was nothing to do but buy him a guitar. Don’t you think? And so, as I write these words, he is on the knoll at the edge of this land where we once planted an olive tree on behalf of vision. He is playing his heart out. I asked him to play on behalf of Facundo Cabral’s soul. Can you hear his notes?

As I contemplated La Negra and who she really might have been – whether I had really met her or not – whether anyone really knew who she was – what essence and future possibilities she carried – I understood that she was looking for a way into the world on behalf of Restoration. Oh how she loved the green loros, parrots, who came to her window each morning – no matter where she lived – to tell her their dreams!

If the world erupts from a point, and that point is the meeting with La Negra, then Restoration is possible because La Negra is the green wholeness of possibility. This is what Blanca began to understand and why she went back into the past to the time when she might have met La Negra and hunkered down in La Negra’s living room, behind the yellow chair where the Writer, Mario Monteforte Toledo, always sat, to observe La Negra long enough to be able to testify on behalf of the reality of La Negra’s life.

I woke up this morning as I often do, filled with fear and with hope. How can one not fear for the world when everyone is going mad and beauty is being systematically murdered? But I was thinking about La Negra and so I was in the field so carefully woven of the strands of color that streamed, as if from the sun, from Mexico to Guatemala to Chile and back.

The field of La Negra y Blanca is altered and amplified by the death of Facundo Cabral in Guatemala. It is another book altogether even if you never heard the music of Facundo Cabral and never will. Even if you will be unable to hear it when you turn the pages because it wasn’t there before the book was published, but it is there now.

I read about the assassination last night. Then Glenn Lopez, our dear friend, the MD who established health clinics on the banana plantations in Guatemala to treat the poorest of the poor, and now practices medicine in a mobile unit that he parks anywhere in the neighborhood he can, has come to gather up Michael to attend services at Agape. We haven’t seen each other for months. He enters singing “No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla.” I am listening now as I write so this essay, too, is in the rhythm of Facundo Cabral.

You can tell, can’t you, that I am on the edge of beginning another novel? That I am on the edge of stepping across a singularity into an infinite realm that I have never known? It seems that I am going to be learning about weather, about storm, cyclone and hurricane. These made an appearance in La Negra y Blanca but now they want their own text, as does the desert. It seems I am to learn about the Elementals, those great gods who occupy the four directions. I will have to find a language for them. Their own mamaloshen.

It is said there is a Fifth world waiting for us at the edge of where we are but we cannot enter it unless we are transformed according to its laws and it does not let in murderers. It does not let in those who take arms against the earth and its beings. But sometimes I think that those who have committed murder, and recognize what they have done, and change, are exactly those who can enter that new world. As I’ve written before, I met a man who said, he couldn’t go with me into that world because he had carried a gun. I didn’t know then what I know now about those who put down the gun to become true guardians of peace and the natural world. It isn’t easy, to say the least, but it is possible and actually we depend upon it happening.

I know nineteen ways to the Fifth world, and you have to manage all of them. There are probably more but I haven’t learned them yet. Kabbalists say there are fifty gates of understanding and they are all ways of exodus from slavery. We are enslaved by our own violence. We have to extract ourselves entirely from the culture and the ways we are living. Nineteen or fifty paths, it doesn’t matter. We have to manage them all. And whether we were murderers or not, we have to change down to our cores. Every cell must change. And we will sing and weep alongside each other as we try. I don’t know if the nineteen ways or the fifty paths are to be in the new book, but I do believe the book will be about Restoration or will be within the field of a Literature of Restoration. Why else would I write at this time in history and in this time of my life?

RECRUITING THE IMAGINATION TO UNDO OUR GLOBAL DEPENDENCY ON NUCLEAR ENERGY AND WEAPONRY

The imagination is a real place that can open the way. The imagination can be a way of prayer, activity and accomplishment. What begins to live in the imagination, can enter the daily life.
As we respond and live according to our assumptions, imagine common spiritual practices of undoing nuclear activity globally. IMAGINE, each day. Imagine this all day as we go about our lives.
Each day, imagine, steadily, carefully, exactly canceling all future nuclear plants, everywhere. Imagine dismantling all plants, older to newer, slowly and safely. Imagine safely storing and then neutralizing all nuclear fuels, rods, weapons. Imagine poorer nations providing safe sufficient energy for their people. Imagine each of us doing with far, far less.
Live and respond as if nuclear energy plants do not exist and so we will live without. Let us steadily and happily do without whatever comes to us now through nuclear power.
Let us not indulge disaster because of a failure of imagination.
Let us keep up such practices of the imagination and the necessary accompanying daily activities, responses and divestments, until the end of nuclear energy and weaponry is inevitable. Imagine this occurring in your lifetime, our lifetimes. Imagine we actively care more for the earth and the future than for our individual selves. Imagine.
Imagine all our new vital lives. Imagine the trees, animals, thriving. Imagine the earth, waters, winds relieved. Imagine the wild returning. Imagine co-existing happily with all beings. Imagine a viable future.

THE ELEPHANTS ARE CALLING US AGAIN

The Elephant Ambassador January 6, 1999, Chobe Botswana

It has becomes evident that the elephants and animals are truly calling us again in this time of such danger to the natural world. I take it personally, but I know I am not the only one to be called. Most importantly, I am not the only one to respond.

I started writing this to recount a series of events that confirm Spiritual agency and inter-species communication. I seem to be directed to review the ways that the elephants have come to me and the community in the last twelve years in order to understand what Spirit’s call might be now.

in 1999 I wanted to sit in Council with the Elephants. I went to Zimbabwe and from there we went to Chobe, Botswana, and that is how I met the Ambassador. He came to our meeting place at five p.m. at the Chapungu tree, at least three times in three different years. His appearance was incontrovertible. The last time and hour we were there in September 2006, he introduced us to his family and threw us a bone. These stories are told in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing and From Grief into Vision: A Council.

Some years ago, I was alerted to the concerns of elephants in Assam, India who had occupied an airstrip, not allowing military planes to take off or land. Also a standoff between villagers and elephants in India after the death of one of the elephants. Then there were other difficulties between humans and animals and a series of attacks on humans in India, and around the globe, that seemingly had to do with revenging earlier attacks on elephants, the interruption or prevention of mourning rituals, and loss of habitat. It seemed like a global organized activity on the part of the elephants, but it could also have been a sudden global human decision to notice, not the elephants’ plight, but their anger.

I was able to publish a letter or article in English in an Indian newspaper that suggested ways in which these situations might be remedied respectfully. It was translated and distributed in Hindi, and then the newspaper and my contacts disappeared. But the passage was open long enough time for my writing to reach readers in India though without my learning what impact, if any, it had.

However, it is clear to me that the elephants had put out a call, and several of us received it, were willing to ‘pick up the phone.” I am one of them.

Animal agency in initiating the contact and communicating the dilemma psychically is important here. At the same time of the instances of “elephant rebellion”, births and dreams of births of white elephants were noticed and regarded as were similar births of white buffalo in the United States. Spiritual agency and animal agency. Something beyond our understanding is afoot.

In 2006, the annual meeting of the peacebuilding NGO everyday gandhis, working in Liberia, founded by Cynthia Travis, and to which I am Senior Advisor, opened with Charles Seibert’s October 2006 N Y Times Magazine article, “An Elephant Crack Up?” There was much concern among us about events relating to the elephants including the news that the most revered elephant elder of Lofa Country, Liberia, had either died or been killed. Accordingly, there were many elephant dreams among the Liberians and the extended everyday gandhis network of West Africans and North Americans that guided us to remember how interconnected the elephant people and the human people had once been.

In a later annual meeting, the Superintendent of Lofa county, the Northern Liberian district where everyday gandhis is situated, expressed his desire to find ways for the villagers and the elephants returning from their war-long exile in Guinea, might co-exist. There were several dreams told in that meeting that called us to peacemaking on behalf of the seemingly conflicting needs of the two species.

The Siebert article introduced us to the work of G. A. (Gay) Bradshaw. The Spring journal issue, Minding the Animal Psyche, Volume 83, which Bradshaw edited arrived as I was writing this. It contains an essay, “The Art of Cultural Brokerage. Recreating Human- Elephant Relationship and Community” by Bradshaw and Carole Buckley (Founder of the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary).

I had already read Bradshaw’s essay, “We, Matata: Bicultural Living among Apes” (Minding the Animal Psyche, Spring Journal Volume 83, Spring 2010, P. 171.) about the common research performed by Susan Savage Rumbaugh and three bonobos. Matata, Kanzi and Nyota Wamba, (Pan paniscus) who live in a “mixed Pan/Homo community.” in Des Moines, Iowa. This seminal essay and the quartet’s seminal work confirm animal agency and intent.

The brilliant title “We, Matata,” refers to Matata Wamba’s thinking in terms of ‘we’ as she was “wild-born in 1970 and lived in bonobo society in Zaire until the age of five. She was then brought with four other bonobos to the Yerkes “field station” at Emory University. Kanzi was born to two bonobos …in captivity at Yerkes….” Matata is “his adaptive mother.” In contrast to “…Kanzi, who is a ‘second generation’ bicultural bonobo, and Matata who is wild born, Nyota, Matata’s grandson is a “third generation” bonobo reared in a bicultural environment. ” The two younger bonobos were influenced early on by modern, western culture and so have, as we have, “been honed by modernity’s dualist traditions and the split world St Augustine. When Matata speaks, she speaks of “we” reflecting a concept of self found in collective, interdependent societies like those in free-ranging bonobo groups in contrast to the individualistic, independent, “I” centered culture of modern, western humans”

Bradshaw’s work records and substantiates animal intelligence and agency. It requires us to rethink and re-imagine the world.

What is distinct about my meeting with the Ambassador and the communication from the Indian elephants, is that these events demonstrate animal agency and transmission. Transmission, that is, receiving wisdom or information through invisible, distant or spiritual agency, is not commonly acknowledged by humans even among themselves.

In 2008, a trip to Tanzania was organized for the peace building team of everyday gandhis including Christian Bethelson, Bill Saa, J.F. Sawo, William Jacobs, and seven young, “Future Guardians of Peace” – all traumatized by the brutal Liberian civil war and yet working together on a multi-tribal peace building team. One goal of the safari was to introduce the peacebuilding team to the wild as the Liberian forests and their creatures have been, and are still being, devastated by the civil war and its aftermath, hunger, in particular.

Arriving earlier, Cynthia Travis, members of her family, and I were met by the young elephant, Spirit Sister, in the Ruaha who orchestrated our meeting and ceremoniously invited and then introduced her brother to us.

When everyone joined us in the Selous, we met the bull elephant, Delegate, after ceremonially bidding the seemingly hidden elephants to be with us. Delegate, who had been obscured in the bush, emerged. He came deliberately to within an inch of our truck. The young people knew we had called him to us and they trusted the moment because they were longing for such a reverential connection with the animal world. It was a matter of deep yielding and trust. Every moment tests us. Trust, however, is no guarantee of safety. One takes ones chances and tries to be alert, respectful and not naïve. This encounter is written about in everyday gandhis’ book, Tanzania Safari and in my essay, therein, “Alliance in the Selous,” where you will also find a photo of Delegate.

From Tanzania, we went to Liberia where we met and interviewed an elephant dreamer who had been visited and protected by elephants for all the years of the war. There, we were, once again, informed that the elephants were eating the crops of the poor farmers, but also, that the elephants no longer had the corridors through which they had traveled for centuries. In recent conversations, Superintendent Kortemai has spoken of the difficulties of providing and protecting the corridors which are increasingly interrupted by modern roads, expanding human habitat and other obstacles.

in July 2010, Cynthia Travis returned from Africa, alarmed by the news that the government of Tanzania has approved a major commercial highway across the Serengeti National Park linking the Lake area Victoria with eastern Tanzania. This will entirely interrupt village culture, the migration of the zebra and wildebeest, and the movements of elephants. (http://www.savetheserengeti.org/issues/stop-the-serengeti-highway/#ixzz176Xez6JY)

In May 2010, listening to the news on the way to the airport, I understood the gravity of the recent hemorrhage in the Gulf. I spent the next four months in active concern about the fate of the oceans and the horrific wound to the EarthSea Mother – its extent is still unacknowledged. (Two co-incident events this first week of January 2011: the announcement that deep sea oil drilling will resume though restoration has not occurred and safeguards – if they can exist – have not been put into place while tar balls are, once again, washing up on gulf beaches.)

In Connecticut, I met Ray Hardy, of The Deer Alliance, a Vietnam veteran who attributes his healing to the presence of the deer. He now devotes his life to their protection. His history, and his life, support the everyday gandhis understanding that peacebuilding, environmental protection and restoration are essentially interconnected.

In 2010, I spent the summer attentive to the many on-going environmental tragedies that are the consequence of human activity. They ranged from various oil spills in the U.S. and Africa, the possibly on-going seepage of oil in the Gulf, to the effects of uranium mining on the Reservations and the danger from radiation released from the fires that surrounded Chernobyl.

We know not what we do. Intellectual, emotional and spiritual numbing has resulted from our being immersed globally, for the last hundred plus years, in violence, cruelty, torture, killing and war. We accommodate, permit and perpetuate what was unthinkable a few decades ago. Violence, whether official, as in war waged by governments, terrorist, or individual, breeds violence. ( As I edit these words, we are learning of the shooting of an Arizona congresswoman, a federal judge, a child, and others in Tucson.) A new psychology that is a pathology, is increasingly dominating the human species. Crippling alienation is passed on between generations as the traumatic mind reproduces itself through the cultural change that it generates. This understanding is exactly articulated by Roberto Bolaño in his masterpiece novel, 2666.

Trauma and PTSD, as experienced by veterans and all war traumatized people, are similarly experienced by elephants and others animals. We learned this from Charles Seibert’s article based upon Bradshaw’s thinking and as further articulated in her stunning book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity. The effects of trauma in their different manifestations are also passed between generations and between species

In July 2010, grieving, lost, not knowing what I might do or write, I put myself “on the hill” for two nights and three days of solitude. I was, as the Lakota word, hamblechya, implies, literally crying for vision.

Three essential communications came to me on the hill. I have been contemplating them since.

The first was a demand to us from the wounded EarthSea Mother: “Don’t just bear witness. Be with me! Feel everything I am feeling. Recognize the physical pain of such wounding as has been inflicted upon me. Share my great disappointment in the human species. “Don’t just bear witness. Be with me!”

The second is a call to be a medicine woman for the earth. I extend this call here to those with similar inclinations and devotion: Let us become medicine people for the earth.

The third communication revealed that a reliable, hidden passageway to the restoration of a viable world is a true alliance with all the animals and other beings.

Indigenous people have known how to live in such alliances but they are almost entirely hidden from the western, contemporary world.

“Truly learn the way of alliance. Yield to the intelligence and agency of the other species. Consider the future of the earth, rather than individual concerns, in addressing all dilemmas and issues. Let your work be to bring other two-leggeds into such alliances. Help such true alliances become accepted cultural forms.”

At the end of August, I went on a walkabout to Canyon de Chelly with my husband, Michael Ortiz Hill. On the first night there, praying as I do each day for the restoration of the earth, a rainbow appeared in the sky though there were no rain clouds. We knew it was a covenant, but I still didn’t know, pragmatically, how I was to proceed.

On October 31, I dreamed an ocean of stones without any water. I walked far out on the stone sea, climbing to the crest of a great stone wave. From that perspective, as I looked away from the shore to horizons, I saw only wave after wave after wave of stones. If I went any further, I would be lost without any hope of return. So I made my way back toward the shore. An elder questioned me: “Why did you go so far?”
“I had to see,” I said.” I had to see what it there.” Without approving, he understood.

Recently, I felt the call to travel to the stones to see what would be revealed about the dream. I prepared myself for this journey. I also prayed that I would be given specific directions for these last active years of my life regarding the paths i am to follow to fulfill the mandate.

I went into the studio to journey to the stones. But when I began, the Ambassador appeared and insisted I continue the journey with him. I began again and journeyed accordingly. We met at the Chapungu tree as we had in Chobe. I climbed into the open back of the truck as I had when we first met and showed him, as I had, that my hands were empty, that I had no weapons. He looked in my eyes the way he had, in the flesh, ten years ago.

He reminded me that I had been called to make alliances with the animals, other beings and the spirits, and I had, instead, become preoccupied and overwhelmed with human concerns, activities and forms. Preoccupied with stopping or healing our criminal behavior, I was not able to give attention to what truly matters.

He reminded that on my birthday, I had, once more, asked for a path to assist the future of the planet and I had been given a mandate to learn the way of alliance. I had been asked to defer to alliance in order to find the hidden passageways to the restoration of Creation. When I had asked, it was explained to me that alliance, by its intrinsic nature, was a vehicle of transformation. But I had, it seemed, disregarded this mandate by being consumed with the terrible and grievous crisis of these times: torture, rendition, Blackwater, private armies, mercenaries, child soldiers, rape and mutilation, drones, robots, the wars and violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza, and the on-going war against the land, the trees, the animals, the elementals; horror everywhere and without end. I was reminded of an understanding I had been given twenty years earlier when studying Kaballah and the Holy Letter Nun: “I had been serving Pharaoh when I thought I was serving God.”

Then the Ambassador took me back to the ocean of stones: “The stones are what the human race has become. You are no longer sentient creatures. You increasingly become the drones, the robots, the weapons that you have invented as you disconnect from, injure and attack the natural world and all its creatures. The only way to save Creation is to re-enter it.”

Then he turned, as he had the first time we had met, climbed the hill behind us and disappeared into the bush.

Within minutes, I received a note from a friend announcing the premiere of a film, “How I Became an Elephant,” that documents the horrific conditions of elephants in Thailand. Elephants used in the logging and other industries for years, no longer needed, unable to be return to the wild, constitute an abused, slave labor force performing in urban areas entirely alien to them.

I left the theater in a similar state of mind to the one that overtook me in 1989, when on a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of the holocaust.

This morning, a friend wrote that she had had a dream of an elephant in the woods. In any accompanying film by the same filmmaker, Coming Home, Lek, the elephant medicine woman of Thailand, brings several abused elephants home to the forest. She has rescued them from the horrific painful and inhuman treatment that elephants suffer in Thailand. She has convinced the local villagers to protect them, arguing that tourists will be far more attracted to their villages to see the animals as they are living in the wild than when the animals, in order to paint, play music, dance, do tricks and give rides, endure great pain and suffering.

After this email, another message from am acquaintance in South Africa included a photo of an elephant in Botswana.

Within another few minutes, Superintendent Kortemai and Christian Bethelson, a former General turned peacebuilder, called from Lofa County, increasingly worried about the elephants eating the farmers’ crops. I immediately told them about the film and the solution Lek is negotiating.

2011: The last few days have been filled with grave concern about global mass deaths of birds and sea creatures since December 31 2010:

Google introduced a map of 30 incidents of mass deaths.
Different newspapers cited:
Hundreds of confused birds plummeting to their deaths in multiple locations in the U.S.
8,000 turtle doves falling dead in Italy with strange blue stain on their beaks.
Two million dead fish found to have washed up on shores in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.
100,000 dead fish in the Arkansas River.
Dead birds in Sweden exhibited signs of ‘external blows.”
Other events in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Brazil, New Zealand and England.

On Epiphany, January 6th, the day I met the Elephant Ambassador in 1999, I journeyed to him again in response to these tragedies. He said:

“Live according to the Code of Benefits. Examine every action and behavior: Does it benefit the earth and all beings? Does each activity benefit elephants, wolves, whales, birds, trees, bees, etc,? If no clear benefit is visible, don’t do it!”
“Why should we follow such a stringent regime?” we ask.
“Because otherwise you, your descendants, everyone will die.”

Then he added:

“Think like an elephant, not like a human. 
Consider each being in your heart. Let your thoughts emerge to meet them. To hold all beings intimately in your heart, at each moment, can provide the understanding necessary to meet this moment.”

The elephants are calling us again. Even now, in the midst of events we do not understand, the call and presence of the animals is heartening.

How have they come to you? How are you meeting the Call?

Healing According to the Original Wisdom of This Land

In my kinship network, I have three women friends whose children are in the military. All the mothers are heartbroken. Each young person recognized that they had no other way to make a living, each one believes(d) they are protecting our country and all “good” people. All these mothers are of Native American descent.

At the end of September 2010, several of us introduced ReVisioning Medicine to Minnesota. The local man who offered himself as the subject of “Indigenous Grand Rounds” – where all present, medical people and medicine people, search out the story of the illness and the path of recovery for the individual and all beings – had been a soldier in Viet Nam. Within days of entering active service, he saw a huge Shell oil tank upriver when he was delivering arms and realized he had been betrayed by the US and the military. Thirty-five years later he is experiencing symptoms of Agent Orange poisoning, but he can’t get the medical help he needs. When he returned from Viet Nam, he learned the family secret – he is of Mohawk descent. At Indigenous Grand Rounds, the man’s stories of three trees became one Story: the dark corpses of trees in the defoliated jungles, the Sundance tree he slept under before he pierced, and a recent dream of a new relationship to a Tree of Life that described, or perhaps mandates, particular healing paths. It was as if the War was asking him to devote himself even further to the Red Path in order to heal War itself and also as a way of making amends for his participation in the war, though had been innocent, and had also been betrayed.

When flying back to Los Angeles, our airplane had been locked down for take-off, when a water leak was discovered in one of the bathrooms. Repair took just enough time for my seatmate to make his connection. Settling in, he looked at me hard and said, “You’re Native American. I can always tell. Me too,” he turned and smiled. “Look at my cheek bones.”
(I also smiled, but internally, marveling that spiritual connections and dream ancestry can appear to manifest in features and bone structure.)
“Supposedly all the Susquehanna Indians were murdered in the Lancaster massacre, but they were taken in by the Amish and the Mennonites as farm hands and their identity suppressed. So my history was a secret until recently. But all our family portraits show our true identity,” he said. “When I was in the marines in Vietnam, I could smell every being in the jungle. I had that extreme sensitivity to the land.” He paused, searched my face and took a chance, “The wars are entirely wrong,” he asserted. “Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.” For the duration of the plane ride, lamented DU and Agent Orange together.
“I stayed in the military to work from the inside,” he confided. “If you want to make a difference, you have to respect everyone’s culture and bring all the tribes together to work collaboratively.” We entered that rare and precious exchange that sometimes happens between strangers, though I believe I will see this man again at Daré or Fire/Water Circles to Heal War, in time.
On our return from Minnesota, we learned that another friend had been arrested for being ‘indigent’ by which the police officer really meant ‘indigenous’.

ReVisioning Medicine is collaborative medicine that takes the Hippocratic oath very seriously, so that healing does no harm to the patient, the community or the environment. Story expands the boundaries of what must be considered when offering medicine. It takes a while to be able to give a Story the same respect as a medical chart, or to consider a dream with the seriousness that symptoms and protocols demand. The Story that develops of and around the illness can direct us to the healing paths that will serve us and all our relations. Working together as peers, doctors, healers, physicians and shamans can develop a medicine practice that is simultaneously healing for the individual, the community, all beings and the earth.

Healing Stories ask us to seek out and make the connections. The medical doctors at ReVisioning Medicine did preliminary research on Agent Orange. It seems that an accidental and prohibited component of Agent Orange attacks the mitochondria that, in turn, becomes cancer-causing agents. The mitochondria provide energy for the cell. But though they are in every one of our cells, they are not of us. They are distinct. We might say they are old ancestors. Healing from Agent Orange, healing the effects of Agent Orange, call us to heal the ancestors, to engage in parallel healing processes to undo the damage that occurs when the ancestors are attacked. Medical people and medicine people have to partner for such a healing event to manifest fully.

We are being called to a non-linear healing standard – one that is inclusive, round, circular and global – a medicine wheel: Add to the criterion of “cause and effect” the axis of “All my relations” and “Unto the seventh generation.” Then true healing becomes possible.

***

Meeting the Deer Mother: A Letter to Laurie Markoff

Dear Laurie Markoff:

Your letter, (below,) raises the questions that have to be raised: What difference do consciousness and heart make? What is their pragmatic value to a world that is increasingly mired in brutality?
In Liberia, the elephants have been coming to the people in just the ways you describe, asking them to restore the contract or asking that the old ceremonies, sacrifices or offerings be restored. These were interrupted by the horrific civil war, though they were already yielding to more practical concerns and large scale land clearance on behalf of farming, manufacturing, mining and other human activities. It is hard to make offerings to the elephants with one hand, or to read them the Koran, while holding an AK 47 in the other. Each demands its own logic. The AK 47, designed to kill humans, certainly does not value elephants. Standing before the question of expanding territory, hunting meat, procuring ivory, the AK 47 mind wins. The AK47 exists in a field of ideas that include dominance, control, self-interest, entitlement, superiority, power.
Reading the Koran to the elephants, assumes the animal’s intelligence, understanding and sacred nature. The elephant whisperer that I met, who read the Koran and attributes his survival to this activity, also credited the elephant with protecting him and his family during the war, advising him when to flee and where, when to return, and where to farm. What the elephant couldn’t do, however, was protect the whisperer from peoples’ envy and their accusations of witchcraft.
Another distinction arises. The elephant whisperer and his family were not as hungry as the poachers were. Alliance with the animal world protected the whisperer, but would such alliances protect an entire village? Some think it would but only if there were enough land to grow food for each person AND enough land for the elephants. The elephants need a vast territory so the trees they tear down and eat this year will be fully grown by the time they return. A 200 year migration cycle is best but this does not suit the needs of corporate farms and plantations, landless people, expanding towns and cities. The people and the elephants are displaced from their land, separated from their rituals, deprived of their elders, and are without food and water.
Their common suffering pits them against each other. We have not learned how to relieve each other’s suffering through alliances. What would an elephant/human alliance around such issues look like?
We do not have the means to act on the basis of our heart alliances with non-human beings. The elephant asked you to fulfill your contract and you don’t know how to protect them from poachers or guarantee their territory.

But …

There was a time when people talked with the animals because they saw them as kin, peers or holy creatures. Understanding these relationships, they lived accordingly, honoring the animals and respecting the animals’ needs for territory and independence.
I don’t know the answer to your anguished question, but I do believe that engaging the non-humans in heartfelt interchange and speaking of this freely, creates another intellectual and spiritual environment that will influence our responses. When we think differently, when we carry different assumptions, we act differently.
When Linda Hogan, Brenda Peterson and I published the anthology, Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals, in 1999, almost no one recognized the extent of animals’ intelligence or their spiritual nature. At that time, Jane Goodall’s essay, “I Acknowledge Mine,” astounded us by documenting instances of chimpanzee compassion AND their great suffering. One essay after another asserted the reality of complex heartful intra and inter species relationships and the pain we subject them to. In ten years, so many more of us are aware that we torture the natural world and that the natural world is sentient. Just as we have become aware of our cruelty and obliviousness, our hearts and minds perceive the animals differently and our formerly thoughtless behavior becomes untenable. In 2010, we are living in an ever deepening, ever expanding field of respect and love for the animals. Because of the field, we respond differently. Your experiences and your willingness to speak of them, make an important contribution to this field.

So now we have the Deer Mother. Wasn’t she also an ambassador to you? Will people reading our correspondence invite her and her fawn into their consciousness so that, without remembering why, they might act to preserve the deer, or refuse rat poison, or leave the deer the woods it needs, discourage hunting, allow the deer to nibble their roses? Might it not become commonplace to speak about the Deer Mother and her family in the ways we speak of our own friends and family? Can we doubt that this will make an enormous difference to the Deer Mother’s life?
There is nothing I can or would do to ease your grief. Understanding our role in these tragic times is essential. And also, I will do everything to defend the reality and profundity of interchange between you and the Deer Mother. Also, this year, I am not the only one who thinks this way. There are many of us now, a mere ten years since this understanding burst into print.
Your heartbreak is an essential medicine for the violence of this time. It is not the only medicine we need, but it is a medicine. We are creating a field of co-existence, of ‘all my relations.” Thinking this way will have repercussions though we don’t know where we are being taken and how the world will reconfigure itself in the light of such alliances.
Thank you for writing, Laurie. Please tell the Deer Mother that I hold her and her little ones in my heart and prayers.
Mitake Oyasin,

Deena
(Letter from Laurie Markoff) “Dear Deena,
It is strange that you have been writing this letter to me, as I have been writing a letter to you in my head as well. I have been re-reading “Ghost River” (maybe this is the sixth time and each time it feels like a new book, but perhaps that is because I am different.) and this time it feels like it explains what is happening to me, how I am becoming undone and feel both strongly called to respond to these times and deeply unsure that I know what to do. It is not that I don’t see the signs, it is that I do not know what the signs are pointing me toward. I go and pray for forgiveness for my people at every body of water I encounter. I dreamt that Mandaza was pouring water over a bunch of miniature rose buds between my naked breasts and saying “This is medicine for your people” and so I found a miniature rosebush and we will make a flower essence in that manner. At the SpiritSong retreat, when I was singing, the elephants came and surrounded us, and when I finished singing they spoke to me and said ” If your people will restore the contract, we will do our part.” But how do I make that happen? What am I to do? When I took my daughter to college, early in the morning, as she slept, I hiked up in the woods that the college owns. I saw one or two young people hiking up there, and was thinking of how the woods and the farm there (where my daughter teaches children how food grows) are teaching and tending these young people, and I stopped and made an offering by a tree with roots like the feet of an elephant, thanking the land for tending these young people. Later, a deer stepped onto the trail 20 feet from me and made eye contact. I spoke to her in my mind, introduced myself and she nodded at me. And then I said “You look like a mother. I am a mother too, and I am here to thank all of you for tending my daughter while I am not here. And she nodded again, and her fawn stepped out of hiding and looked me in the eye as well. We stood like that for while, and then someone shouted in the distance and they bounded off. I could not stop crying. In my dream group, in all of my communities, many of us are all having encounters like this. As if the animals are coming to us to make alliances. I am grateful for the signs, I am listening as hard as I can, but I do not know what they are calling me to do, only that it is urgent. I am hoping somehow, Deena, that we will find the answers here. If nothing else, it makes me feel less alone with my questions. So thank you.

WHY AM I WRITING A BLOG?

I HAVE BEEN WRITING A LETTER TO YOU IN MY MIND, EVERY DAY. I began it on the computer, last month. But it wasn’t really a letter, and it wasn’t really a letter to you. It was an informal essay passing as a letter. But that is not my intent. I am hoping to write a real letter to you. Even though I don’t know you. Or I don’t know that I know you as I won’t know when you come to the site which will be for us the same as if you, at another time, picked up a sealed envelope and opened it, though it was not addressed, and reading it, realized it was intended for you.

Spirit works that way. It speaks to us through coincidences and strange, encounters, occurrences we could not have designed, possibilities far beyond us. A book falls off the shelf into our hands and our lives change. This happened to me. It took me to Latin America. My life took a 180 degree turn. Maybe something similar happened to you. In our circles, so many events happen so many connections that can’t be explained, so many inexplicable signs, leads and blessings, we continually ask:  “What is the true nature of the universe in which such things happen?”  Or, in another mood, we say, “You know, you can’t make this shit up.”

So you come across this letter and or the ones that will follow and or … who knows .. maybe it will save our lives.

Spirit says that there are hidden passageways that we can discover to take us toward the restoration of the earth and our real lives.

I spent the summer praying for such possibilities. I went into silence on the hill behind my house. I made a journey to Canyon de Chelly. I spent days in prayer asking for signs. I had other things planned for the summer, but this is what I did. I was given signs.

There are hidden passageways to restoring creation. We have to find them for ourselves and we cannot enter them without changing entirely so that we are aligned with the possibilities of a future and not the trajectory of the past and present.

I STARTED WRITING THIS BECAUSE I AM ANGUISHED ABOUT THE STATE OF THE WORLD AND SO ARE YOU. I cannot imagine coming to the end of my life and realizing that I didn’t do everything I could have done, that I was distracted or preoccupied and I didn’t become everything I could have become in order to help save the natural world, the environment, the earth, all life, Creation. You reading this feel the same way; so let us begin and proceed undaunted on behalf of Beauty.

Five in the afternoon, we see an owl in the old oak in the meadow. An hour ago, a deer and two giant bunnies grazing on the hill. Yesterday at the ocean, we were greeted by dolphins, and for a moment I saw the long body of a sea lion in the translucent, turquoise waters just by the shore. Pelicans in formation. Gulls; God’s hungry angels, I call them. And then, remarkably, entirely out of season, there in the distance, a whale spouting. But overhead, army helicopters. Just as they grind overhead at the moment of writing these words. The animals want to live and so we have to stop the wars we are engaged in everywhere against all things and all beings.

You are not asked to sacrifice your life or anyone else’s for Creation. Actually, you are asked if you will live your life fully on behalf of Creation. You are being asked if you will live fully on behalf of all our relations. What does that Lakota phrase, mitakye oyasin really mean? As you enter into its meanings, everything will change and become filled with light.

In a prior version of this blog, I listed many of the horrors. I will again because we have to face the whole picture together especially as life is killed off one being at a time. We are so divided trying to save this and then that, that we cannot save the whole. The changes we are called to are systemic.

I am reading One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton. At the beginning, we see that he couldn’t even save one inch. I don’t know what happens at the end, but I know that I have never been anyplace where there is complete silence, as he says, for fifteen minutes.

EVERY TIME I CONSULT AN AUGURY, THE DIVINATION SAYS I MUST DISENTANGLE FROM THIS CONTEMPORARY LIFE: LEAVE WESTERN CULTURE; IT IS MAD, VIOLENT, DERANGED AND DEBASED.

The deer looked me in the eye and I opened my heart to it. I must leave these ways if not on my own behalf, at least so that it can live. It can’t live alone on this planet, as we think we can; it needs everyone, the bunnies, coyotes, wolves, deer ticks, squirrels, bees,  grass, rain, sun, light and dark, birdsong and stillness. It needs the whole life for its whole life. It knows this so it is a holy creature.

I began this letter on August 8th, which is directly between Hiroshima Day on August 6th and Nagasaki Day on August 10th. On August 6th, we dropped an atom bomb and on August 10th we dropped another. That is, we, the citizens of the United States and our ancestors. In order to do this work of Restoration, we have to know we did this.

Today is September 11th. The day, in 1972, of the horrific golpe (coup) that, with covert US support, overthrew the first democratically elected socialist government in Chile headed by Salvador Allende and threw Latin America into a turmoil of torture and violence. Friends of mine were tortured. Imagine torture! We torture. We are torturing. At this moment. Please don’t look away.

On this day in 2001, a plane flew into the twin towers in NYC. They say there were two other planes but what happened to them, we don’t really know. We don’t really fully know what happened on September 11th 2001, how or why. I was in Africa at the time and wrote the following in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, which was published on September 11, 2002: “Two stories intersected in that moment: a story streaming toward destruction and a story streaming toward healing.”

I AM WRITING THIS BLOG SO THAT YOU WILL MEET ME IN A STORY STREAMING TOWARD HEALING. Spirit says it is possible. I do not write this to give you false hope or to discount your fears. Your fears are appropriate. The situation is dire. All of creation is threatened at this moment.

Still, Spirit says, there are hidden passageways to restore creation.  But … entering them asks everything of me and of you.

***

I AM WRITING TO YOU BECAUSE I HAVE THE STRANGE BELIEF THAT SOMETHING UNEXPECTED, AND EVEN HOPEFUL, MIGHT OCCUR IF WE LOOKED AT THE WHOLE, the entirety of what we are facing and heartstormed together. I am writing because I can’t look at the whole of it alone. I am writing this letter and those that will follow because Spirit says there are ways, hidden passageways, to save Creation.

Here is a short list of some of the unbearable events of the last few months. One leads to another, relentlessly.  Let’s locate ourselves so we can reverse the order.  Iraq. Afghanistan. Thousands and thousands of civilian deaths. Agony.  Depleted uranium in our weapons leaving radioactive fields. Unprecedented suffering and horror, madness, violence, suicide experienced by our soldiers and veterans, men and women, largely unacknowledged, untreated, untreatable at the moment – the shorthand is PTSD. Leukemia, cancers, other terrible diseases in the areas around uranium mines, Native American reservations in particular.  Water, earth, air poisoned. The Gulf hemorrhage, its hidden oil plumes under the sea, the incalculable effects also of the dispersants, the death and suffering of the fish,birds, animals, humans  and more ‘spills’ than we know, everywhere. Incalculable effects on all life. Global extinctions proceeding at lightning speed. Hate bubbling up in Arizona and other states against the poor, the desperate, the non-white. Economic turmoil.  Poverty. Walls going up at the Mexican border, at Gaza. We are imprisoning ourselves everywhere. Global loss of control over our food – genetic modification, cloned animals. Increasing numbers of autistic children born. Increasing numbers of people suffering mental illness, depression, despair. Radiation and chemotherapy have become normalized procedures as if everyone living should look forward to such treatment. Plagues of cancers, auto-immune diseases, other horrors. Wolves and elephants hunted and culled from airplanes. Six northern white rhinos remaining. How many tigers? Women raped, mutilated, brutalized, enslaved in the Congo and everywhere. Human trafficking. Child soldiers. Domestic violence and physical abuse.  Parents, priests, ministers, religious leaders, medical people, educators committing sexual abuse of children. No safety. Global warming, flooding, drought, famine, earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, glaciers melting, ice shelves falling into the sea, fires, the radioactive forests surrounding Chernobyl burning.

THE EARTHSEA MOTHER SAID:  “DON’T JUST BEAR WITNESS.  BE WITH ME.”

In the face of all of this and more, Spirit says, There are hidden passageways to end the horror and restore creation.  (The owl living in the meadow is calling out.)

When people suffer life-threatening illnesses and want to heal and live, they often recognize they must change their lives entirely. They make the extreme offerings. Sometimes they live long lives. At the least their lives are extended. Meeting death, if that is the ultimate fate at that moment, they can meet it at peace with themselves and the world. They know they have made an offering to the community and the future in their living and in their dying.

A man in my kinship-net who was gravely ill, got up from a coma and completely changed his life, did what he wished he had had the courage to do forty years earlier. Mysterious. Then he followed equally mysterious and challenging instructions that came in dreams. This connected him with Spirit in ways he had not imagined. This gave him time and his soul. It gave everyone around him new life and the courage to live it. The vital two months he received changed everything for everyone. It was a miracle.

The changes we are called to are radical and ethical beyond anything we have ever imagined.  We have been thinking of what to do for a long time, and we can’t stop thinking, but our thinking is paltry before this crises. We have to find the visionary ways to the visionary ways. And the courage to live them without compromise.

Engage in this thought experiment with me: Imagine that you have been born at this time so that your life will make a significant difference on behalf of the future of all life. What are you called to be, do given the alarming state of every aspect of our lives and your heartbroken desire and intention to be a remedy and a healing for this time?

From the beginning, I mean from the time I was three, I assumed I was here for a purpose on behalf of the world and each day of my life has deepened my belief and commitment. I am writing to you because you feel the same and always have, whether or not you are willing to admit it to your family and friends, or the public, to me or … to yourself.

I mean, why would you have been born in such a time if not to – if I put it crudely – be part of those who are going to … fix it, heal it, rejuvenate, revive, restore all life? Would anyone sign up for this nightmare if they didn’t have such a purpose in mind and a sense that they could accomplish something whether or not they got the credit a lot of people want more than the change?

I was born in 1936, the year of the Spanish Civil War and the Hitler-Stalin Pact. A few years later, when my father learned about the death camps, the gas chambers, the Holocaust, he had a breakdown. What mind could incorporate the realities of 1939 to 1945?  After 1945, the Holocaust was the constant subject in our household. 65 years later, the Holocaust and so many other holocausts and genocides, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki remain in the air like radioactive poisoning. As a species we no longer exercise restraint on the horror we are willing to inflict on each other, on animals, on trees, on beauty, on the earth.

But still …. Here we are. In as much as the trajectory that we are on, which is leading to the death of nature and the extreme violation of heart and beauty, is unacceptable, what are you, I, we going to become and, how will we live accordingly?

THERE ARE SECRET PASSAGEWAYS TO ANOTHER VITAL LIFE FOR THIS PLANET.  You have to find yours and burrow through. You have a unique way waiting for you that belongs to you. It is the exact fulfillment of your life, experience, understanding, suffering and heart. As I have mine. Each of ours is distinct, but aligned and harmonious with each other’s. Restoring Creation is what we will do together.

My husband, Michael Ortiz Hill and I were at one of the overlooks at Canyon de Chelly on August 27 2010, praying for the earth, asking for guidance, and a sign. At sunset, we looked across the canyon at some small clouds in the distance. We were beneath a rainbow but there was no reason for a rainbow. A rainbow is a covenant. A covenant has two parties. It was a sign from Spirit. Let us meet it.

***

This is the beginning of this blog. I don’t know how it will continue. Other letters.  Poems. Comments. Notes and dreams.  Some of you will write letters back. I will post some or excerpts. Answer others. Idiosyncratic,irregular co-respondence. This beginning.

Thank you. Bless you. May your dreams show us the ways.

Deena

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