RUIN AND BEAUTY

DEENA METZGER'S BLOG

Category Archives: THE FIFTH WORLD

A Brief History of a Feminist Mind

This is the text of a talk I gave for the WCLA Women Writers Series in alliance with the Feminist Majority Foundation /Ms.Magazine February 27, 2014.

When I was invited to this event by Ms Magazine and the Feminist Majority Foundation, I couldn’t simply read from a new book. The invitation from Simone Wallace, who with her sister Adele, founded Sisterhood Bookstore, one of the most important cultural institutions of Los Angeles, required another response. So receiving the invitation, I saw the necessity to acknowledge the trajectory I had been on since teaching at California Institute for the Arts, Founding and Directing the Writing program at the Feminist Studio Workshop the first feminist institute for the arts and social change outside of a university, being part of the leadership of the Woman’s Building where Sisterhood had a store and gathering a small committee to organize and host the first Woman’s Writing Conference – Woman’s Words, since a Conference by the same name in Chicago 1893.

My intention tonight is to trace what I was writing and what preoccupied me then, and what I am writing and preoccupied with now. Literature has taught me the value of a body of work, of the slow, deliberate, heartfull development of form and idea so that one’s work and labor might contribute to the community and the future. This is particularly important as we are living in a culture that commodifies art and literature and has no consciousness of history or the necessity to honor and preserve ethical and cultural values – concerns that were core to the second wave of feminism.

The woman’s movement intended to change the world. It was not that we wanted equal participation in a destructive system but that we wanted to shift the means and values so that they incorporated what we believed were benevolent women’s ways, ancient and contemporary, of living in family, community and the world.

Feminism had a great range from protesting war, economic, political and racial inequality, fighting violence against women, opposing nuclear weapons, to recognizing an intrinsic woman’s culture and seeking interactive, collaborative, intimate, nurturing, non-violent, non-hierarchical, inclusive, earth centered, spiritually aligned, respectful social and creative forms. Not everyone held to all the values and interests, but there was enough agreement, complexity and cooperation for the movement to be effective then. Art, politics, eros, activism, spirituality all blended so that feminism became a true movement determined to achieve social and political change that would benefit all. Women were not seeking dominance. We, each in our own way, were seeking sanity, beauty, peace, security and health for all.

Friend, colleague and neighbor, Maija Gimbutas’ archeological work laid the foundation for non-violent cooperative, life giving matriarchal goddess cultures. Marija came to her conclusions reluctantly. She didn’t start out trying to prove that Neolithic goddess cultures were peaceful. She was unable to refute the evidence. When she joined theater director, Steven Kent and me in Greece at our re-enactment of the Eleusinian Mysteries for the first time in 1500 years, she praised our work, saying we had managed to restore the spiritual integrity of the ancient Demeter ritual. Fifteen years later, we regretted that she wasn’t with us when we found an ancient icon of Persephone in Eleusis, approximately 2500 years old, in the place where the Goddess was said to have made her appearance during the Mysteries.

In my own life, I continue to be taken by two streams from Feminism. Political analysis insisted that one bear witness to the world’s atrocities and women’s spirituality is fundamental to my growing experience of the presence of the spirits. Conventional politics and traditional religion diminished as present day events and my personal experience called me, increasingly, to a different life and commitment to community and healing.

One important artistic focus was on form. It was clear that the personal is political and that form is content. Consciousness raising was intrinsic to the discovery of our own lives and stories. It occurred in circles. The shift from a straight line to a circle was an essential radical accomplishment.

Forty five years later, the circle is even more important than we knew. An indigenous community form, it gained strength from feminism and is entering the main stream as conscious people seek peership and equality instead of hierarchy and dominance. I am increasingly unable, or unwilling, to use what seems like a simplistic linear way. Even here, I seek the energy that comes from following the original associative form that called me to woman’s literature and the rest of my life.

From A Traveling Jewish Theater:

Stories move in circle. They don’t move in straight lines. So it helps if you listen in circles. There are stories inside stories and stories between stories and finding your way through them is as easy and as hard as finding your way home. And part of the finding is the getting lost. And when you’re lost you start to look around and to listen.

This talk is also going in circles and spirals, moving forward, circling back. The first image imprinted on my heart from literature is still vibrant and active in my life and thinking: Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse is written in the form of a lighthouse. The shapes of our lives are not straight line, but circles, passing into light, falling into darkness, illuminated and shadowed, again and again.

Marxist self-criticism practiced in progressive organizations yielded in the woman’s movement to the positive forms of consciousness raising. My experience with non-Western and indigenous cultures created a deep respect for the wisdom that emerges in a council form. I began to practice Council in my own life as a way of inquiry and problem solving. At Daré, the healing community which gathers at my house, and which my ex and I introduced from Africa, has Council at the core. Council, story circles, dream circles, healing circles all cohere community. Whenever possible teaching occurs in a circle and outdoors, and around a fire in the old ways.

And so, stories are themselves circles, each with a magnetic center that draws what is necessary to its beautiful and radiant interior.

And so, my writing. My first published book, Skin: Shadows/Silence is a resonance of voices. Later, still not knowing what I was doing but seeking new and coherent forms, I called The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them, a novel in the form of a play. I had not consciously envisioned the infrastructure of the circle or spiral as I would later in Entering the Ghost River: Meditations on the Theory and Practice of Healing, then more fully in From Grief into Vision: A Council, and differently, but as determinedly in La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary. In many of my works, beginning perhaps with the play, Dreams Against the State in 1981, and then in The Other Hand, in Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, in La Negra y Blanca, the endings are codas that reveal and unite the themes and voices together as in musical compositions, chorals and choruses.

As I was writing this, I saw that while patriarchal culture became progressively mechanical and technological, woman’s culture became musical – the writer’s voice, the rhythm of the language, its emotional communication increasingly important. Gertrude Stein, Virginia Woolf, Marguerite Duras were concerned with the sound of their prose because that carries meaning.

At California Institute for the Arts, I taught a class on 20th Century Women’s Literature — it may have been a first in such an institution — and the first Journal Writing class. As Sheila de Bretteville, one of the three who founded the Woman’s Building, and I explored the possibility that woman’s culture still existed, I heard its resonance in contemporary women’s literature and this gave me permission to follow my own instincts in my own writing.

Soon, women adopted the journal and there, again, explored voice as well as prohibited stories. The Journal writing class was inspired by then recent scholarship revealing the hidden practice of journal writing pursued by pioneer women who had no company on their new homesteads and were quietly going mad. The journals often hidden among the linens helped. The other source was my dear friend, Anaïs Nin, who introduced the journal to contemporary life and to me. Now we scarcely imagine our lives without our journals. In 1970, they were almost non-existent. When I compared my writing to contemporary American fiction and poetry, I was out of the mainstream and had no interest in joining. What needed to be said, what needed to be revealed required its own form. African American literature, Native American literature discovered its own music. To create a culture of one’s own that is also resonant with other non-dominating cultures in the world changes the way of life.

In retrospect as we are facing the slow apocalypse of human designed climate change and the genocide of the beings of the natural world, I see that feminism allying with Native American beliefs gives us the essential understanding that may yet shift our consciousness enough for the earth to survive. Goddess spirituality also held “The earth is our mother.” Feminist theory understood that misogyny paralleled abuse of the earth and the environment.

Domination of women and nature co-existed. Violence against women and violence against the earth – the same. War everywhere. Over time I came to know that being against was being in battle. I began to seek forms in my life and in my writing that offered change. Increasingly I and my characters stepped away from conventional forms and values and created different lives.The Woman Who, What Dinah Thought, The Other Hand, Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, Feral, La Negra y Blanca feature women protagonists who find the means to step into another world – in the last years, learning from Native American spirituality – I recognize it as the 5th World. The books I write depict that struggle to disentangle from western imperialist culture, from patriarchy, from their assumptions, habits, securities and desires in order to live with integrity.

My current teaching is based on what felt like a transmission: 19 Ways to the Fifth World. You can see how they are sourced in Feminism:

1. COMMUNITY. Recognizing and living aligned with community as an essential vessel and means of transformation.
2. COUNCIL. Entering and trusting the ways of Council, Dare’ and Mandlovu mind.
3. STORY. Story is an event and 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.
4. SPIRIT EXISTS. Spirit speaks to each of us in a 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.
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 AND DISINGAGEMENT. Bearing witness to the horror and corruption of these times, scrutinizing our lives, and consciously ceasing our involvement.
7. HEALING WAR AND PEACMAKING. Committing ourselves to healing war within us and in the world. Committing ourselves to our transformation from war-traumatized people to peacemakers and visionaries. Walking in peace. Responding peacefully.
8. THE NO ENEMY WAY. Understanding and incorporating the No Enemy Way into our daily private and public ways. Walking the No Enemy Way in the world as best we can.
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.
11. DREAM. 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.
17. SILENCE. Valuing and engaging in silence, solitude, formless forms and not knowing.
18. SANCTUARY. Honoring, providing, become 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 recognizing that one’s mind has changed, one is living in a different field of understanding and assumptions. Stepping through the portal to live faithfully according to the laws of the 5th World that mandate serving Spirit and the on-going future.

Even as a young woman, as The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them was written in 1978, I was exploring healing and peacemaking, trying to understand what I would call in later years, The No Enemy Way.

From The Woman Who: P. 11

A woman whose name is Ada walks down the street of an occupied village from the cemetery passing her own house, to the General’s house which she enters without a word to lie down unashamed on his bed. She does this –

– With the full cognizance that she is coming a political act.

***
From The Woman Who: P. 21

The woman who lived in an occupied village went to the General. She knocked at his door with the pretext of selling him eggs.

In the morning, she washed herself and in the shower as water fell on her she asked:

May I be like water. May I bend over rocks. May I not break. May I flow. May I endure.

If I die, may I go up and come down again, may I not be gone forever. May I find a secret hiding place under the earth. May I be a well. May I move under the feet and over the houses. May I be strong. May I be white. May I be pure.

And the water fell on her in great hot sheets ad she soaped her long dark hair and piled it whitely on top of her head The soap curled under her arm, her groin, on all the covered places of her sex and then was rinsed away. And she went to the house of the General and knocked at his door.

***

Sometimes I think feminism failed. The struggle for economic and political equality overshadowed our passion for transforming our lives and undermining patriarchal agendas. Two women Secretaries of State – yes. Hillary Clinton probably running for President. But business as usual in Washington DC. The wars continue as does domination and imperialism. We had hoped it would be different.

Today is my son’s Marc’s birthday. I remember my early involvement with the anti-war movement. In 1960 a photo in the L.A. Times was captioned, Marc Metzger at 3 months of age, kicks up his heels against war.

At that time, I was also worried about milk. Testing had revealed that Strontium 89 with a half life of 50 days and strontium 90 with a half life of 28.9 years appeared in breast milk in 1961 when I was nursing my son, Greg. And it was also in the formula Marc was drinking. The highest concentration of strontium 90 in milk occurred in 1963.

My sons were three and two years old. I was frantic, looking for powdered milk dated before the various above ground tests of the early 60s. In 1961, Women’s Strike for Peace organized thousands of women against nuclear weapons.

I have a cousin who died of leukemia because as a soldier he was put in the front lines – without warning or permission, at the Nevada testing grounds.

This week, as a healer, I am working with a Vietnam veteran in constant excruciating pain from numerous cancers and surgeries all of which are being treated independent of the root cause of his extreme suffering. When I met him, I couldn’t restrain myself from saying, “Agent orange.”
“Yes.”
He had testified for Senate hearings, but that didn’t help him get that diagnosis into his medical chart. From Grief into Vision: A Council, deals with Los Alamos and Chernobyl.

The novel I am currently writing, A Rain of Night Birds, is set, in part, on the Four Corners Reservation where the yellow dust from uranium tailings still blows across the land and pollutes the waters. The protagonist is a climatologist. Not my idea of a novel. Spirit sent it. War, the Bomb and the destruction and poisoning of the earth were then and continue to be primary fields of inquiry and deep concern. It always feels that I am called to these concerns, called to write the books I write. That I have no choice. Spirit insists – and that insistence from Spirit, its Presence gives me hope that we might find ways not to avoid the path to total destruction.

***

From Doors: A Fiction for Jazz Horn, which I had the privilege of writing with the renowned Argentinean writer, Julio Cortázar, 20 years after his death in 1984. P.43.

Rio ultimately acknowledged that he had a toothache. He had been to the dentist who had treated him without, it seemed, providing instant relief. And Iris did not know if it was permitted to reach out and stroke the somewhat puffy cheek in order to sooth his pain; it was a skill she had but was not something she announced publicly. She could put her fingers on his skin and extract the pain. It would happen so quickly everyone would assume the morphine had done it and would look at her transgression with polite disapproval.

In the cellar at that moment, someone was slowly and methodically extracting a friend’s teeth one by one. Iris had not learned to heal across a timeline or a space barrier. When Iris looked at Rio she saw that he knew what was occurring. This was no naïve display of sympathy. The two events were unrelated co-incidence. Rio did not think he was sharing his friend’s torture. He didn’t claim to be suffering someone else’s pain. Nevertheless, the two events co-existed. Rio’s tooth had been removed and he was suffering real and phantom pain that he had no desire to ease before he studied it soberly to learn its qualities. Iris was relived not to understand any of the languages in which they were now discussing what was broadly referred to as politics, for it allowed her to settle steadily into the pain that flared out into the room as from an infection of lilies. No one has the power to ease pain who will not feel it in her own body

***

In 1989, I made a pilgrimage to the Death Camps of Europe. When I returned, I began writing The Other Hand and addressed it as a letter to Cardinal Lustiger of Paris whose Jewish mother had died in Auschwitz. The protagonist is an astronomer who is inhabited by a Nazi and she attempts to see the holocaust also through his eyes. The novel is an extended koan on light and darkness.

*** The Other Hand p.3

November 17, 1989
Dear Cardinal Lustiger, Your Eminence:

My name is Daniella Stonebrook Blue I am—or was—by profession an astronomer. We are strangers to each other. Your name was given to me by a woman on a bus as we were traveling across New Mexico. Because of her insistence, I am writing to you about this dark period of my life. I need to speak to you about the matter of light. Light is the alphabet of God. I knew this when I was born and then I forgot. This is the first time I have understood it as an adult woman. Even as I prepared to write these words, I didn’t know what they implied until they appeared on the page.

***

The Other Hand
page 105,

Rosa had gotten up from the piano and walked into the kitchen as if she were going to prepare a meal and then just as suddenly she laid the pan down on the counter and returned to the piano, improvising on Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star. We were spellbound.
Twinkle, twinkle little star. How I wonder what you are? Up above the earth so high …” It took a long time to get to the fourth line but when Rosa was there, I had chimed in as I had always done as a child, “Like a skymond in the die.”

“What’s a star, Dani? ” Rosa had asked without stopping. “What’s a star, Dani?.” She hit an insistent dissonant chord in the middle of a scale and then returned to her variations on the simple melody again.

Without waiting for my answer, “A star, Dani, is a time bomb. Do you know what I mean?” A few bars of music. “What’s a bomb, Dani? Again, without waiting for an answer: “A bomb, Dani, is a container with a star inside it, ready to go off, taking the whole world with it.”

That plaintive singing. I could still hear it clearly. My mother’s terrible, even demented, singing: “Twinkle, twinkle little star…”

***

The Other Hand page 166

Babylon was a beginning, Cardinal, where the magi, those Chaldeans, those astronomer- astrologers that the Old Testament rails against, had watched the stars with unprecedented devotion, seeing light everywhere, seeing gods in the constellations and the spirit of light passing down into them as destiny.

Babylon is where it had begun. The Babylonians had not distinguished between knowing the stars and their configurations, measuring the orbits of the planets, discovering the cycles of Venus, calculating the lunar and planetary ephemeredes years into the future, regulating the calendar, studying equinoxes, solstices and eclipses, and discerning the influence of these stellar bodies. And by some grace, I had found myself in this silent blue oasis in the middle of darkness. A brief blue interlude within the fetid industrial air of the poisoned city of East Berlin.

These had been the people of the stars. I was of their lineage even though they had conquered the Jews and brought them to Babylon, including someone whose name I bear. Daniel, the great magician, who had visions and understood dreams, had been here. He had been a captive and lived his life of exile here. Both slave and minister, he had walked down this very processional. He had looked at the stars from this place. He had touched this wall. He had survived the lions’ den and he had touched this lion. His hand on my hand through the fold of years. The same Daniel directed the Magi to follow the star that rose over Bethlehem indicating new light.

I had come through the arch of the blue gate, blue as the sky, with its gods, with its dragons and bulls of gold and white and was walking along the blue processional wall with its lions, gold and white as stars. There was no one else in this vast room that was, unlike the others, gleaming with the colors of light: gold of marigolds, white of lilies, blue of approaching light, blue of twilight and dusk.

Babylon was a point. A moment of light. Its rays like roads from the temple of the astronomer priests glanced off in different directions of space time: astronomy, astrology, cuneiform, writing, mathematics, diasporas, captivity, slavery, Talmud, Daniel, the Christ Child, Berlin and the Bomb. ….

Let’s meet in Babylon, Cardinal. Let’s go there together and watch the astronomer-priest climb the stairs to the summit so he can study the stars. He was the most honored one. After him came the ones who did the calculations and after them, the scribes who wrote it all down. Let us be with him there because shortly after this moment, he divided in two and the astronomer went his way and the priest went the other way and we see where that has led.

***

In 2005, I was honored to deliver the keynote to the American Academy on Environmental Medicine. A few days later, I went to the land around Los Alamos to do ceremony for restoration. My cousin, Alexis Lavine, then a geologist at the Laboratories, was my guide and companion.

From Grief into Vision: A Council: P. 93-94.

I went with Alexis to the suffering land where nuclear waste and other chemicals from experiments at Los Alamos had been dumped into the canyons and carried by the waters. Lat year, the spirits led Alexis, then a geologist at Los Alamos, to find a cave on land that originally was a sacred home to the Tewa people.

(An identified sacred cave [see photo in book] at Los Alamos has been closed with steel mesh and bars and is inaccessible even to the native people.)

This cave is a sipapu, a portal to the spirit world. We came in under a heavy cloud cover that arose suddenly. We had been required to change the time of our visit so many times, we had to accept that were being called to this place at this exact moment. Though the sky had been clear, I had had the premonition that we would encounter weather and soon we were accompanied by the rumble of thunder.

Alexis stopped, advising me that the cave was around the bend and it was time for us to take off our shoes. As we did, lightning flashed closer and closer and then it thundered again and hail fell furiously. We huddle momentarily under a tree that didn’t protect us and then made our way barefoot over mounds of hail to another cave from which we watched the display of lightning and of hail dancing.

Thunder continued to astonish us with its force and proximity. It was as if we in it and we blessed the Thunder Beings for gifting us with their presence. Water was streaming through the adjoining cave, a small flash flood that didn’t enter where were despite the hole at the level bottom of the common stone wall. After the storm, we made our way to the cave we were seeking. The only standing body of water we saw was at a small rock in front of the cave. Everything around us was renewed, vibrant and alive from the gift of the abundant water as if we were given a sign about the possibilities of restoration.

***

To return to the beginning. The title for The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them came to me in a dream. Finding the icon at Eleusis when the archeologist at first dismissed our claim because they had scoured the area for twenty years and were sure there were no artifacts left, was a miracle. Collaborating on a book with a dead man was a gift from spirit. I was introduced to Cortázar work when a book, New Writing in Latin America, fell off a shelf into my hands and introduced me to Latin American culture and politics which have engaged me ever since. There are miracles every day and they determine our lives. Often the miracles appear as afflictions.

I had breast cancer in 1977. I had been writing a novel, The Book of Hags, about women who had cancer:

From Tree: Essays and Pieces P. 31.

For years the women had been dying. One by one. Stricken in their youth or middle-age just as things were beginning. An unknown assassin. Just at the moment when everything was possible. Education. Power. Consciousness. Self They sickened and died. That is not true. They did not die of their own accord. Something sickened them and they died. They were murdered. Stricken. Poisoned. Assassinated. Suddenly. The doctors call it cancer. It is. But of what nature? And why now? And why so many? And why so young?

When I finished the book, I discovered I had cancer. I was 40. I didn’t know I was a very young woman to have cancer. It was hell. My children were very young. My ex had a heart attack a week later. I was afraid my children would be orphaned. I had to find the life force for all our sakes. One conclusion in the Book of Hags is that cancer is imposed silence. So I took a typewriter to the hospital.Tree, a journal, was the result.

I had a mastectomy. I did not have chemo or radiation. Ultimately, Hella Hammid took a photograph of my tattooed chest and we published the Warrior Poster, designed by Sheila de Bretteville. Having traveled around the world, becoming even a book cover in Japan, the Poster has, I know, saved countless women’s lives, those who might have suffered, might still suffer from silicone poisoning or complications when pursuing reconstruction and or breast enhancement.

This is the text on the poster: From Tree: Essays and Pieces. P. 91

I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon the one who shoots arrows. There is a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered, but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart. Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears. What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing. When he finished his work, the tattooist drank a glass of wine with me. I have relinquished some of the scars. I have designed my chest with the care given to an illuminated manuscript. I am no longer ashamed to make love. In the night, a hand caressed my chest and once again I came to life. Love is a battle I can win. I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound. On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

Cancer changed my life. I became a healer. I train healers. I am a medicine woman. I have gathered physicians and medicine people to create a medicine that does no harm to humans or to the earth. We call it ReVisioning Medicine. That is how I met the veteran who is toxic like the earth is poisoned. Seeking to bring healing to him, we are seeking also to bring healing to the earth.

On 9/11 I was in Zimbabwe. Entering the Ghost River opens with these words:

Entering the Ghost River P. 5

What is your medicine? I was asked.
Story. Story is my medicine, I answered.

Cancer taught me to ask: What is the message, the Story the affliction is carrying? What is the healing Story?

In The Woman Who, Ada goes to the General to heal him of war.

In 2007, I met the General. I was working with a grassroots peacebuilding organization in Liberia when we met a rebel general who, because the war was over, was going to become a mercenary in another West African country. Instead he became the youth director of everyday gandhis. We did not become lovers as in The Woman Who, but he calls me Mama Deena.

Peacebuilding and healing one gesture. One thing we learned in Africa is that you can’t have peace unless you heal the land. Our bodies, our communities, the earth require simultaneous healing. Healing depends on seeing the other. The great blessed other is the natural world. The other person. The other animal.

From Feral P. 9

The moment it first occurred to the woman that she would bring the girl home was when the girl had climbed to a sturdy branch half way up the sycamore and ensconced herself there, first removing, then dropping, her yellow leather work boots and then her socks, stretched out like lilies at their tops, fluorescent lime green no less. The girl wrapped what looked like prehensile toes around some of the finer twigs so that it appeared that she had grown into the tree or it into her.

When the woman was trying to discern the nature of the being she was examining, first she thought feral, then thinking feral, she thought wolf. But wolves don’t climb trees, both the girl and the woman knew that Confronted by the girl’s feet, she was compelled to say simian, ape, primate, mono, monkey, but stopped there as no one would identify a species by its feet alone.

Then as the woman teetered between one identification and another without knowing if the confusion or complexity was in the girl or in herself, the girl raised her mouth to the sky and opened it into a fluted goblet as if to catch rain. The sadness the child exuded was so like a perfume that one could not bear taking it in or being without it. Grief eased out into the air extending itself in mineral colors like oil on water, the thinnest of diaphanous films until it found its destination and wrapped itself about the living body, a sculpture in opal and mother of pearl. So many days, the woman admitted, she had been curious about grief while most willing to avoid the textures of its mysteries.

From “Coming Home,” Intimate Nature p. 363

It has taken a long time to be properly humbled by the irrefutable evidence that I have been living much of my life in the presence and territory of other distinct, awesome, might intelligences without having any but the most rudimentary understanding of the meaning of their individual and species lives which I have nevertheless so deeply violated. This cultural and historic obliviousness, which sometimes overwhelms even those traditions that hold otherwise, has now brought all of us to the brink of destruction. So even if I weren’t personally compelled on this quest of alliance, making amends and restoration, even if I hadn’t opened up worlds of beauty and interest, even if I weren’t motivated by irrepressible passions and curiosity, it would behoove me to ask the animals: Who are you? – and to continue to adjust my life according to what I hope will be an increasing ability to understand their answers.

But nothing prepared me for meeting the wild Elephant Ambassador, four times, four separate years.

I met the Elephant Ambassador in the wild in Chobe Wild Animal Park in Botswana. He had walked to the open back of our truck with clear determination and intention. I had had the strange and inexplicable desire to sit in council with elephants, and now he was standing before me looking me in the eye.

From Entering the Ghost River P. 183

In my mind, I said the following to him:

I know who you are and what kind of beings your people are. I have some sense of the extent and depth of your intelligence and development. And I know that you are a holocausted people I know something of this means because I also come from a holocausted people and I have studied other holocausts and the planet in this century. I apologize to you for my species and what we are doing to you. I cannot tell you the extent of my shame and grief. If there is any way for you to imprint me with your wisdom so that we can form an alliance, so that we can, together, accomplish something on behalf of the earth, I am here and I am not afraid.

Alliance with the animals and alliance, also, with the elementals. All the beings of the natural world. The EarthSea Mother is profoundly injured in so many ways including the gulf spill and Fukushima.

La Negra y Blanca was written in the flames of fire storms. La Negra is a woman and/or a spirit or the rain itself.

From La Negra y Blanca 252

The setting sun is very red. Twenty miles away, rugged canyons have been burning for more than a month, columns of smoke, higher than the mountains mount the sky. It will be many more weeks before the fire is contained. It is hard to breathe because of the dense smoke. It is very quiet here as the sun sets; the fire has stilled everything. There is only the hum of a few bees, as of a depleted swarm searching out a site for a new hive to establish a new life. Or there are only a few because the bees are disappearing. A friend says the weather is perfect where he lives; though the plants are full and hearty, they are not yielding crops. There are flowers, he says, but no fruit. Some flowers are pollinated by the wind, I reassure myself, alarmed as he is.

A year later, the fires are transforming the colors of the sky again. This time the smoke turns the sky yellow brown, a sallow color and the trees cower in the wind. Everything is turning brown. I can smell deer flesh roasting in the fire hell of the burning wilderness.

It is August and the smoke from the wilderness fire twenty-five miles away blows over the setting sun, turning the sky brown yellow and the sun blood red. The fire will rage for weeks, even after it is contained, drawing closer and closer to the molten center. There was a drought before the Conquest. The Maya had been taken, as Blanca’s people are being taken, by the follies of empire. The Maya also cut down the trees. Drought followed and then increased warfare. Devastation everywhere. Fire is replacing rain. The trees are dying, the forests are aflame, the poles are melting, animals are going extinct; even the bees are threatened with annihilation. Where drought isn’t, there are floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, cyclones and hurricanes.

Blanca takes a rain stick and goes up to the circle of trees above her house. She has placed a sculpture of three frogs in a crude clay basin of water. The drought has reached extreme proportions, calling us back to the old ways of reverence for the earth, to different lives, to prayer and offerings. When there is no rain, the wars increase and the earth increasingly suffers our violence. May rains come bringing an end to the untenable wars we are waging.

***
From La Negra y Blanca 253, 254

The terrible drought of 1989 finally broke in Yaxumá, Yucatán, only a few days after the village shaman, Don Pablo, had conducted a three-day long ritual called a Cha-Chac ceremony to summon the storm gods who would bring rain to the parched lands. Having participated in the earlier ceremony, an astounded David Friedel stood in his archaeological field camp watching the rains Don Pablo had called sweep in from the northeast over the pyramids of the ancient city next to the village. With his triumph written across his face in a huge grin, Don Pablo came running over the crest of a nearby hill, clutching his hat in the gusting winds as he fled inches ahead of a gray wall of rain. A great rainbow arched over him in the brilliant orange light of the setting sun in a magnificent display that affirmed the success of his performance as shaman.

The old knowledge of relationship comes with the rain. When we are oblivious to relationship, drought is inevitable. The shaman running before the rain is literally attached to the rain spirits, to Chac, to the thunder beings through the bright banner of his ritual work and prayers for the earth.

The sky is clouded over and the winds are fierce each morning and evening as if a storm is imminent although it has not rained for months except the intense moment when Blanca had been typing these words about Don Pablo, the Shaman of Yaxumá, Yucatán and the sky darkened with storm and emptied, rain and hail. May the rains come now.

The sky has turned dark and when Blanca gets up and goes to the door, there it is, a crash of thunder and rain pours down.

As I speak to you in Los Angeles on February 27th 2014, it is raining. It has been the first real rain in Topanga in about eighteen months. It is not enough to last us the next year, but perhaps it will restore the dying sage and the trees. The deer will eat the new grass and be sustained for a short time. In the last months we have put out water for the wild creatures and even alfalfa for the deer. The squirrels in the area share the bird seed with the birds and we try to provide for the wild on the land we have taken from them in ways that might be somewhat equal to how we provide for ourselves. In the last weeks we have seen bobcat, skunk, raccoon and eagle in addition to all our familiar neighbors, coyote, cougar, rabbits and squirrels. These days, everything I do is, I hope, a prayer for rain, the wild and a generous future for all beings.

From Ruin and Beauty: New and Selected Poems P. 292

RUIN AND BEAUTY THE END

A last poem on behalf of ruin and beauty. A last poem hovering somewhere near, alongside everything that needs to be said now, in this time. The last poem for a book may be the last poem for a lifetime. What offering can be made with yet another last word?

Each time I write, I pray the last word will be a beginning. Even I pray for this, I, who love sunset, more than I love dawn, for its abandon to fire as embers turn to coal and then to diamonds that emerge from the heavy night. These are not the diamonds of the field; they do not rip the life out of the earth or the life from the hands of those who must carry the shovels that will dig into their hearts. These are not lights that need to remain buried in the dark.

I am remembering myself now because like everyone else I have spent a life forgetting. I recognize the child who loved trees as well as the woman who fell so passionately in love with light; she would follow it to its birthplace in the distant stars if she were able. When she was younger, she announced her willingness to burn to ash for the sake of blazing, and today she is an aging woman pausing before the bare elm, as skeleton now as the woman soon will be. It will dim before it blazes and so will she.

Who knows but the two, tree and woman, may fall at the same time, the way the acacia fell the night of the funeral, the way the great pine went over, bent over prostrate, along the threshold, the night the wind rose to take everyone down. We cut the pine into round steps; they decay, they fall apart, they ease into the earth or become the kindling we burn in the bright winter fire. The wisteria went down with the pine, but has risen again. It is winding a future of delicate purple blossoms through the eucalyptus trees. It will be fire next time before the fall.

It is not envy, it is not my own death that moves me. I am not wistful before the resurrecting wisteria displaying nubs, hard pressed, like a young girl’s nipples toward the sky. Rather I shade my eyes before the certainty of God, an invisible shimmering bird, perched in the elm’s silver nest, dull bark turning platinum with the Presence.

Soon the ravens will come, the hawks, vultures and owls to take possession of that naked perch, claw to claw, searching for prey and rain in the great round of life that still remains to them despite the airplanes that bruise the surfaces of clouds, poisons dripping from metal tail feathers.

I have written of this all my life. Each time I try to get it right so that life will continue. Not my life, you understand, but life itself. The magic formula constantly eluding all magis. I let each day fall out of my hand, another petal on the patio stones, or on the metal table, splashes of color turning brown, becoming soil again, melting into the future. The earth deserves a long life that will never end, constructed entirely of the sweet and rightful deaths of all the creatures who feed here on the various honeys of creation.

Of course, I am lying when I say my death isn’t a big deal. A poet’s rhetoric. It will seem that the world is dying when I will be dying. I will be leaving but it will seem that the world will be dimming and falling away. A physicist’s relativity.

“How do we serve the dying?” the exhausted woman asked from her mother’s bedside. Could she assure the dying woman, she had the courage and fortitude to pull away from us and enter the last adventure on her own. Easier said. But every one of us will be in that bed, wondering how to triumph at the end of the taffy pull. We will wonder about how to do it, while someone who hasn’t met that challenge yet will kindly reassure us with what she cannot know. If she is skilled, we will believe her, and we will speed away at sufficient velocity from all that we have until this moment loved more than life, have assumed is life, the whole of it.

This is where we part from the earth that until now we called our mother and so presumed she would precede us in all things. We pull away toward the solitude that is finally, irrevocably ours. We can report to no one from the dark cave that may or may not be a tunnel with a light at the end. Whatever it is for us, no one will ever know. We have been practicing a lifetime to learn to be, finally, on our own.

Earth is not so fortunate. She has made the essential bodhisattva sacrifice. She remains here until all beings are enlightened. Oh how bitter! She is unable to escape us. Even light gets to fly away.

***

In a clay bowl filled with white milk, we washed the dark feet of a soldier who had eaten human hearts. Another woman came and then another, washing, washing. Such forgiveness, acts of utter hopelessness and impossible hope. Forgiveness required that we sharpen knives until nothing could resist us, so we could sever the past from the future, for him and for us. He slashed and we slashed. The milk roiled in the earthen pot. Milk so white, pressed out of a living creature, milk I know because I nursed my sons, swirling about my burning hands. I searched to find all the love within me though the general had devoured the source of love so many times. He had assumed love would disappear from our planet forever; how else could he survive? When we were finished, the milk was so white it could have blinded us. Some deaths cannot be redeemed without acts of utter desperation.

Ruin, you see, is not the end of life despite museums of crumbling cornices and corner stones. Ruin is unremitting beauty flinging us to the ground. Ruin is a supernova exploding, an old one turning in on itself and becoming, in that moment, as much light as will blaze from the sun in the next ten billion years. Ruin is that gamma moment pouring out into the universe now.

Ruin and beauty:
Despair not,
There will be a future;
There will be a future before
Or after we die.

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

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

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