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Saturday, February 11, 2017, Topanga California

At the very end of December 2016, I returned to Africa with Cynthia Travis and Matt Meyer to meet with the Elephant People who teach us so much by who they are individually and as a species. Understanding the connection they and I have forged over seventeen years comes slowly, if at all, like light approaching from a distant galaxy, from the furthest end, which means the beginning, of the universe. The personal and the cosmic appear to be one: we have been blown apart from what we once knew.
Today, three weeks after our return, I am beginning to grasp something: the very nature of the Elephant herd may be a template for what is being transmitted. It is as if we, humans and Elephants, fell together into David Bohm’s implicate order, a field of being where past and present, dreaming and the manifest, the living and the dead, human and non-human are in dynamic co-existence. This is the real world and we were invited into it.

Friday, January 6th, 2017, Chobe National Park, Botswana

Epiphany: A sudden manifestation or revelation of the divine. There are two aspects to epiphany: first, the revelation of the sacred and, second, being mysteriously drawn to such a vision over time and space. Epiphany implies a spirit-based field of consciousness, a kind of visionary plasma, in which distinct beings with precise histories, join with awareness in acts of creation.

A group of us experienced Epiphany in this way on January 6th 2000 when the Ambassador Elephant first appeared to us at the place we call the Chapungu (fisher eagle) Tree in Chobe National Park, Botswana. That meeting is central to us as we are travel together once again in Southern Africa.
In 2000, I had had an inchoate hope of sitting in Council with Elephants, though I had no idea what that might possibly mean. Now, I title this essay, Beginning Awareness: Approaching the Elephant People. This is the sixth time I have returned to Chobe as on a pilgrimage. To what purpose? How might another meeting and its consistently unpredictable nature serve the natural world and the future?

After the original meeting there were others in 2001, 2005, 2011, 2016, each distinct, each astonishing. My return is always prompted by urgency though afterwards it seems that an essential insight is eluding me at the edges of experience. The Elephants have always come to us in Chobe at the same place at the same time at the last hour of the last day. Each time, we have been met by them in ways that both challenge credulity and assert the awesome beauty of true exchange. In 2008 and 2016, Cyndie and I traveled to other reserves to see if our initial connections, non-locally inspired, might occur in places other than Chobe. And we were met in Tanzania at the beginning of one trip and in Damaraland, Namibia on the last hour of the last day of another.

This afternoon, we are joyous with the new beauty that has arisen in response to the generous and continuing rains. It has been raining in California after so many years of drought, and the weather there is mirrored by the weather here.

Image 2-19-17 at 6.01 PM.jpg

There is an abundance of water and green. When we arrived, we took a boat ride just before a storm drenched us and came upon a massive herd of several hundred Elephants. Then coming to the Chapungu tree two days later, we passed another monumental gathering. Despite poaching, increasing loss of habitat, drought, the plains and savannahs of southern Africa, resplendent with the abundance of birds and game, have intermittently looked like paradise. This time, I am thinking, “Restoration.”

Aware that today is Epiphany, I am trying to temper my hope that Mystery may unfold again and we might find ourselves gathered once more into an inexplicable connection with the Elephants. There is nothing we can do to further this possibility or determine anything about its nature, but we can appear at the appointed place at the appointed time and wait.
We park the truck at the tree as we have in the past, happy to have returned and to spend a few hours in silence watching. We are graced with an unimpeded view of the extended river plain, which has in my memory never been so green, so lush with blessed waters.

There are animals in the distance, antelope and hippo, a few Elephants oblivious to us, who remain far away and my hope begins to waiver as I continuously remind myself not to sully the moment with expectation and longing. It is five o’clock. We will have to leave at six as has been necessary in the past.

But … the two distant young bulls who have been exuberantly scuffling with each other seem to be approaching. Oh this moment – joy and terror! It is fearsome when Spirit makes itself known. The sound of a young Elephant trumpeting penetrates us as a small herd gambols down the closest path from the ridge. They seem not to notice us as they come down but by being here at this exact time, they make it clear that they know we have returned and are offering their respects. They engage with the river and each other.


The two young bulls stop near our truck, the young ones who came down from the ridge play excitedly, the older Elephants refresh themselves and drink from the water. All in all, there must be twelve or more Elephants congregating here from several directions – and nowhere else that we can see. All arrived at approximately five o’clock and then by 6, they are gone. It is so ordinary on the one hand.

However, the view of a great bull, an old Elephant walking down a path at six pm is a sight both unsettling and confirming.


So unremarkable a scene for Chobe– a few Elephants at the river. But for us, yes, nothing remarkable but that they appeared, materialized, at the last hour of the anniversary of the day we met the Ambassador. And when the hour was over, they disappeared. This is not an ordinary event.

Did the Ambassador (herd) come?
And so…?
We are in a field of consciousness that we cohabit. A field that changes us even as we co-create it.
Anything else?
Like two particles, once connected, are affected by each other, irreversibly into the future we, the humans, and these Elephants, relating eternally, have become kin.

Friday, January 6th, 2017, Chobe National Park, Botswana

For the first time in our coming to meet the Elephants, we began elsewhere. We have come here from Thula Thula where another story unfolded. Here, we were also met by the Elephants or we were all immersed with each other in mystery and while this confounds me, it supports me: the irrefutable Presence of Spirit sustains me in dark times. And these are the darkest times.

Cyndie and I are all too aware that we will return to the United States while Donald Trump is being inaugurated. Yes, I was young during World War II, and yes, I became aware of the Holocaust, and yes, I made a pilgrimage to the Death Camps in 1989, but I have not been concerned about the government and the future as I fear them now.
In November 2016, Cyndie and I, and others, went to stand with the Water Protectors at Standing Rock. Native Americans have known the fist and the gun, have known systemic violence, genocide, for five hundred years as have African Americans and other people in this country. And now such brutality is being installed in the White House. Being in Africa, we know the entire world is alarmed, as are we. And yet, the Presence is here. How do we carry this seeming contradiction or explain it?

Saturday January 7, 2017, Chobe National Park, Botswana.

A day later. See if you can create the image that I was not able to photograph, the distances being too great. We have arrived here at the end of a drought and it has been and continues raining today and so it is unlikely that the Elephants will come down to the river. We are at the Chapungu tree again. A narrow band of marshland, with some birds, a hippo and an alligator, is between us and the river. Directly across the waters is a bull Elephant who arrived just after we did and stayed until we had to leave. At the edge of the marsh, are the skull and rib bone of an Elephant who died last year in the drought. The Elephants have a profound relationship with their dead so this is a holy site and here we have an alignment.
We watch the lightning descend everywhere around us, hear the thunder and know that rain is coming. It might be daunting. But I must stay here, no matter the conditions. Such an appointment is a sacred trust.

We are being enfolded into a story that is happening now, outside of linear time though including it, through a remarkable alignment of human and Elephant, living and dead. It is also a story of the five other such meetings, of a journey that brought me to Chobe in 2000, of our original encounter with the Elephant Ambassador, of the third meeting when we, Cynthia Travis and myself and others were thrown a thigh bone of an Elephant ancestor – the most precious and unlikely gift an Elephant might offer – of a unmistakable dramatic narrative through which the Elephants tested Krystyna Jurzykowski and myself, of a dream of a Radical Elephant Movement which calls us to save the natural world, of the unmistakable meetings that have taken place when Cynthia Travis and I have traveled to other places to meet these Elephant People, a Story that will include and integrate each encounter we have and may still have in these three weeks in four game parks in three different countries. The future, including but beyond the next two weeks in Africa, is already here in this still moment of time as is the spirit of this ancestor and the bird who walks so easily alongside the dead one.
It is one living Story composed of so many particulars in alliance, like a herd itself, a single humming mind incorporating thousands of beings, living and dead, in a song as piercing as the Elephant’s trumpet and as still as the great animals tread on the holy earth.

Saturday February 11, 2017, Topanga, California

Over the years, we have been met by the Elephants. We have interacted. We have gazed into each other’s eyes! At the core of each event is indisputable connection; we have been drawn together over great distances of time, space, geography and history, notwithstanding the equally great differences between species. Each day, Cyndie and I wonder why this is occurring, why we are being called to the Elephants in these most difficult and tragic times in world history. We pray that we might discover new ways to protect the lives and wisdom of these People of another species. And being desperate and sometimes despairing regarding the US political debacle, we wonder whether these beings reaching toward us might reveal ways for humans, whose fate they unfortunately share, to emerge from the thrall of death and violence that characterizes these days.

At this moment as I ask these questions in Topanga, California, a platinum light breaks through the clouds after days of blessed rain following five years of drought, and everything is starkly illuminated; once more, I cannot doubt the Presence.

Do these meetings have to be connected to world events, must they have purpose? There is no imperative, but we are being shown that interconnection over time and space is the absolute nature of the universe. We are in a hologram and so connection is implicit.

Events gain meaning within a field of consciousness. We may experience them as autonomous, think they exist independently of each other and that they can be understood individually, but this is an illusion. Events gain their true meanings in relationship to each other, to history, personal and global, also to the future. Events assumed to be unchanging and fixed because they have already occurred are also dynamic systems, transfiguring as their contexts alter through interaction with other events. There are no borders between events, no walls as, in fact, there are no borders between time, space, or individuals “but thinking makes it so.”

Sunday, January 8, 2017, Chobe, Botswana

Computers allow us the ease to move back and forth in time and space while writing. Before we returned to Chobe, Cyndie, our guide, Matt Meyer and I visited Thula Thula, a nature reserve established by Lawrence Anthony, author of Elephant Whisperer, Babylon’s Ark and The Last Rhino. I wanted to visit this reserve as Anthony had a profound relationship with a herd of Elephants to whom he had offered sanctuary. I wondered whether their liaison was intrinsic to who they were, or whether over time, they had created a field of consciousness and whether others could enter it. If we, if others, could partake of their rare association, what assumptions, orientation, qualities would be necessary?

In order to put the events in perspective, I have to begin this section with an excerpt from “Becoming Kin – Becoming Elephant”, (Dark Matter: Women Witnessing, Issue #4, September 2016) about meeting the Ambassador and his herd once more in 2016:

We are left with the original unfathomable events. How do the Ambassador and his people know we are coming to Chobe? It may be that Elephants, who are most probably more intelligent than we are through their capacity for unparalleled empathy, can read the heart across vast distances, unimpeded by species barriers and send out subliminal communications which I / we receive and respond to by coming to meet them.
I was reading The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony when flying home from my 2011 visit to Chobe. Anthony had had a remarkable relationship with Elephants based on intimacy and proximity. One might even say the Elephants engineered their transfer to his reserve in order to create this relationship. I wanted very much to meet him but he died suddenly before I returned to Africa. Then stories emerged of the Elephants coming to his Lodge when he died and then every year, for three years, on the anniversary of his death. How is this possible? What does it mean? What do the Elephants want us to know?
In the last years, we have been allowed to be very close to the Elephants. But this connection has not yielded answers to the essential questions: How and why are they communicating with us? What do they want? How can we meet their call? Perhaps in Thula Thula, we will be able to immerse ourselves in the herd. Perhaps they will speak to us. Perhaps we will understand more than before. I am praying that the Elephants will take us across another barrier.

The following words ended the essay “Becoming Kin” written before this pilgrimage to Southern Africa and the Elephants 2017. In November before we left, we went to support the Native American Water Protectors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock, North Dakota. If this journey reveals anything, it is that everything is, indeed, related to everything else. Easy to write these words – difficult to understand if one is not born into a herd or an Indigenous tribe. And yet, this is the essential understanding given to us for these times.

On Tuesday the 27th I will return to Africa for almost a month to be with the Elephant People. Until November 8th, I thought I knew why I was going. But since then, I am uncertain, except to be in alliance and heartbreak with the Elephant people who know the dire consequences and agony of Imperial and Colonial mind.
I hoped to be able to spend time within the Elephant herd, to be among them, to be of them. But now I believe my purpose as an Ambassador from humans to the Elephant people and the other animal people, is to say, “I am so sorry.”
…We have elected as President, the father of a family of big game hunters. We may soon all literally know what it is to be hunted for profit and greed. Perhaps this knowledge will help us be more determined in our activity to protect the wild and all living beings.
I am going to Africa to stand with the Elephant People in ceremony and prayer. I want to apologize for us and then to find ways to say, sincerely, “I have, we have, your backs.

As I didn’t know what it might mean to sit in Council with Elephants in 2000, I don’t think I really knew what it meant to speak of the Elephant People when I wrote those words above. I am certain that I don’t fully understand. I have made this journey six times wondering if the Ambassador would come to meet us. This question no longer serves. New questions might be: Were there appearances or connections that reveal the nature of a common field of relationship? Do these manifestations have intent or is intention implicit in the new perspective?

Did we meet the Elephant people? We did.
Did we apologize? We did.
Were we immersed in the herd? We were.
Was there Epiphany? I believe there was.

Thursday, January 26, 2017, Topanga California.

When I travel to the animals, I try to stay empty, without expectations that might shape or distort the possible experiences. Certain mysteries persist – the Elephants meet me/us in entirely unpredictable and persistently enigmatic ways. We do not understand the Elephants any more than we understand the true nature of the world. But these meetings are seemingly outside of animal nature or beyond human-animal interactions, and yet, they occur with enough frequency to suggest that they might be within animal nature. If so, then the nature of universe is essentially enigmatic and yet, given the times, the need to try to fathom it is urgent.
Let me be honest here, with myself, and with you, to whom I am writing. There is nothing personal here – something is being communicated and we happen to be the recipients. The Elephants who engage in the dramatic narrative that cannot be dismissed, do not enhance themselves. They participate in a decipherable theater piece but are simultaneously simply being Elephants. The rapid shift or conversion from one state to another and back and again, is dizzying and unnerving. Perhaps human disorientation is necessary so that all certainties and assumptions fall away and we more capable of discerning the shape or intent of the mystery.
I have been accompanied each time I have traveled to the Elephants with new questions. The questions have been my ground even though there have not been any definitive answers. Still each question constellates a field of possible understanding so that I can proceed to hold the next questions.

Sunday, January 8th, 2017, Chobe, Botswana

Traveling to Thula Thula, keeping an appointment I did not know I had made, I found myself saying publicly “I am going to the Elephant People.” Pondering the need to be so forthright, I began to feel another question formulating when I entered this new territory, one I had not fully considered before: If Elephants are people, are a People, and if I am approaching a new people, what are the rituals and protocols that need to be observed?

The question opened a door. The day after meeting the herd at Thula Thula, I asked our guide, Andrew Murgatroyd, if we could, without intruding, place ourselves in closer proximity to the two Matriarchs so that I could offer respect, speak to them of my/our intentions, and ask permission to be with them, perhaps to be within the herd. Nana, the older matriarch, fifty-four and tiring, has been giving over her responsibilities to Frankie who is ten years younger, the two creating a model for the benevolent transfer of power while retaining deference, respect and honor for the elder for the full length of her life. Both had been present when the oldest bull, Mabala came to the truck the first day, singling out our guide, Matt, exploring his camera case with his tusk and suctioning Matt’s foot with his trunk. An anomalous event or deliberate activity? We didn’t know. Mabala couldn’t have chosen a better subject for his investigations – couldn’t have found someone more comfortable with such an approach.


The next morning, we came upon the Elephants at a muddy pan. Both Nana and Frankie came in late and left before all the others, the young bulls remaining to cavort and tussle with each other in what mud was left. It was exciting to be alongside them, witnessing their group frolic, but our relationship to Elephants had changed over the years and now we were visiting another People not observing animals. This shift in awareness required a different approach. We were also cognizant that there was little water for their sport or to drink.
We had detected tensions at Thula Thula that took a while to fathom. At lunch, we learned that a water truck had been hijacked on its way to Lodge. The government had promised water to the people in the surrounding settlement. Water and the infrastructures to receive, distribute and protect it. But that promise, like so many other ruling party promises, had not been kept.
Before we had left California, we had read that rains were expected in southern Africa. We were prepared for thunder showers but at the time of our arrival, little of the promised rain had fallen and everyone was tense, including the animals.

So it was when we went out that afternoon that I asked Andrew, our local guide, if we could stay with the Matriarchs for a short period of time so I might contact them. What would he think of such an opening request:
“Can you imagine that the Elephants are a People?” I dared being considered foolish or mad.
He answered, “Oh yes,” without hesitation. “They are a People of individuals, each with their own character and personality.”
“If this is so, then they have social structures with their own hierarchies, laws, protocols,” I added quickly. I was aware that we would soon have to tell Andrew the story of the Ambassador so that he could support our hopes and intentions.

The telling of the story of the Ambassador to a new group of people is always complex for it requires the listener to consider animals in relationship to spiritual agency. It undermines human hegemony. Guides and rangers spend their lives in the bush, practicing exact and skilled observation of the animals, sometimes knowing individuals from birth or through particular encounters or incidents. Though the term ‘whisperer’ – one who communicates with animals – is making itself known, it is not generally acknowledged. Few imagine, or admit, that they, themselves, might have such a gift, or that the gift might be common in the ways it once was for Indigenous people. The breach between humans and animals, or humans and the natural world, grows increasingly larger as humans inhabit a manufactured world, living progressively within the artifice of corporate intelligence and cyberspace. To accept the possibility of intelligent, responsive relations between humans and animals, requires humans to step away from the elite conceptions of mind that assert human dominance, superiority and privilege.
While a general audience might be thrilled by stories of human/animal relationships, guides and rangers are less likely to be impressed or convinced. Yet, as our latest itineraries depended upon guides, we had to have their collaboration. Telling the stories did not guarantee such; ultimately everything depended on sharing experiences. Matt had experienced the connections in 2016 and now it seemed Andrew was open to our hope that another kind of interaction between Peoples was possible.

We spent the afternoon looking for the herd. Because of the little rain, the waterholes they frequented regularly, while muddy for cooling off, were without sufficient water to drink. The Elephants had some remaining sources, deep in the forested valley and up on the ridge, places we couldn’t reach. Cyndie and I entered our quiet and persistent rituals of prayers, offerings and gratitude … and hope. It was late in the day that Andrew and Matt spotted the herd moving and we drove to a plateau where Andrew guessed they might appear. We parked the vehicle and waited. If we chased them, we would not catch up to them. Waiting was the only alternative and it is also our desired practice to find a herd and position ourselves so that the Elephants could choose if and how to interact with us.
In a short time, the younger Elephants were coming toward us, as they continued to do from them on, fearlessly and with curiosity, as if our prayers had already been received. Soon Nana appeared some distance away with the very little ones following her and then Frankie with her son Brandon, as always, in tow. We stayed still and I offered my respects as I would have done to any Chief or Tribal elder, asking permission to observe them, be among them for their sakes, I hoped, for the sake of the Elephant people everywhere though I did not know what might result from our connection. “Still,” I added, “I believe I /we have been called here and if that is true, and if common Spirits inhabit a potentially common field of interaction, might we not be called to make ourselves known to each other? The habit of human domination through will and violence is legion; my hope and intention is to yield to Sprit and to you as best as I am able.”
I don’t recall if I spoke directly in my mind of wishing to be within the herd, but it was in my mind that it would be most possible at Thula Thula with its one herd that was particularly familiar with human beings.

The three goals I had articulated before I came were also present:
To be immersed in a herd so as to gain the wisdom they might want to impart,
To apologize for human behavior that was threatening their lives, all lives, the earth,
To find ways to stand with them.
To find ways to stand behind them would mean to support their understanding and actions however transmitted to us. Needless to say, Standing Rock was in my consciousness as the Sioux had designated themselves as Water Protectors. And here we were seeking water.

Were our offerings and requests received? Or were the Elephants following a thread of their own, when Nana and Frankie and then the others veered suddenly toward us, leaving the path they had been following?


They walked past us in their slow and majestic manner though the narrow corridor in the brush was no wider than their bodies, and the field beyond us was fully open. Our proximity to each other was deliberately negotiated; we were in the force field of their presence, as we would be for the days that followed.
Prayers were heard and received and reality reconstituted itself. The Elephants had responded to us. We were contained in a field of conscious co-existence. For the days we were at Thula Thula, the Elephants greeted us and played with us whenever we met them.

We had had lunch that day with Francoise Anthony who, determined to run Thula Thula after her husband’s death, alluded through a variety of stories to the metaphysical nature of the herd. Francoise was not explicit in her interpretations of the events she shared, but Cyndie, Matt and I understood as if we were conversing in a secret code. Not only did she confirm the Elephants coming to the Lodge on three separate occasions on the anniversary of Lawrence Anthony’s death, but described other events. For example, Nana had, most deliberately, with her trunk, undone all the latches on a boma (enclosure) where captive antelopes were being held prior to being relocated for breeding purposes, while the capture team watched aghast.

The next day, we went out with a new confidence. All of us, including Andrew were involved. At the same time, we were watching the few pools of water become mud and the mud pans thicken and become dangerous. On New Years Eve, an Inyala (antelope) who had fallen into a mud pan was rescued by a group returning from a game drive. The guide and guests had gone into the pan themselves, covered the antelope’s eyes to help him relax and had pushed him to stable ground.

Anthony, our guide, could never be certain where we might find the Elephants as they were desperately seeking water. On our third day, the pool of water in which they had frolicked so jubilantly was entirely dry.

I was filled with anxiety and dread as I feared what might happen if there were no water at all for the animals. I could determine the Elephant’s concerns by the response of those in the settlements. The people who had hijacked the water tanker had closed all the roads and were rioting. They had made barriers of burning tires so no one could pass. It was a strange variation on the road closing by the DAPL police to isolate the protestors and prevent supplies from reaching them despite the fierce snow blizzards that were dropping temperatures to well below zero.
Still, on our fourth day, we found the herd delighting in the sweetness and abundance of just ripened figs in a grove of sycamores. When we arrived, we were surrounded. It was an answer to my prayer that I might be immersed in the herd.


After half an hour, Frankie who had been alongside us, alternately grazing and investigating us and the vehicle.


was leading the herd away, but stopped and looked at us with what Andrew deemed a belligerent expression. “She is like that,” he asserted.


But I heard something different. She asked me, quite clearly and deliberately, “Do you understand how hard it is to be the Matriarch when I cannot find water? Do you know what it means when the younger ones in your charge have no water to drink? Do you know what will happen to us if there is no water?” That said, she turned and walked away.

Immediately, I knew that she understood, despite having been given refuge on this reserve, that we, the humans, are responsible for her plight and that of her people.What had seemed like a blessed enfolding into the tribe of Elephant people in pursuit of sweetness with a very young bull, toddler age, suctioning the hood of the vehicle with his trunk and the others, young and old eating grass alongside us though Andrew remarked that there was plenty of grass around and their proximity was, therefore, by choice, had suddenly become a briefing on the perversity and danger of human beings.

I reached for my water bottle and then Matt’s and offered what water we had to the earth in prayer. “In the pursuit of water in limited supply,” Matt said later, “it is always the people who win, though we are quickly coming to understand that this is a very short sighted view.” Especially limited activity by the people in power, I thought, thinking of Standing Rock. The fate of people, the earth, the animals, the same.

The next morning we could not find the Elephants, except briefly, when a tiny bull snorted at the waters of a drying pool and went off disgruntled and thirsty. To dig another bore hole would take months and could well endanger the aquifer even more and threaten the careful natural balance of earth, stone and fluid. As we were driving back to the Camp, we heard that the Elephants were coming down as well. It was feared that desperately thirsty, they might break, as they had at another time, the main water pipes to the Lodge, which cannot be buried. This time they didn’t, but they stood silently by Matt’s tent as, perhaps, they had stood silently at the Lodge to honor Lawrence Anthony.

Predicted thunderstorms brought sprinkles that night but didn’t alter the situation. Maybe water would have to be trucked in. The thirst and need of the Elephants is enormous. An adult Elephant can drink 50 gallons of water a day. There are 30 members of this herd and countless other animals. The reserve is fenced to protect the surrounding villagers. The animals are imprisoned; they have no way to find water elsewhere. We were witness to a crisis of great proportion.

In 2009, I had seen photos from CNN and Save the Elephants of villagers confronting mud-covered bodies of desert Elephants who were dying of thirst.

“Reaching desperately for drops of water, they had lowered their trunks, toppled in, remained trapped and died in Mali’s scorching heat.
“The “last desert Elephants in West Africa “have adapted to survive in the harsh conditions” they face, Save the Elephants said Monday. But now, the group says, conditions have gone from bad to worse, and they are living “on the margin of what is ecologically viable.”


Anguished, again, eight years later, I remembered a journal entry based on a dream on May 25, 2009.


I pray for a dream to show us a path out of the horror we have created. I pray for a dream to show the way to restoration. I pray for a dream though I have never received a dream in answer to such a request.

I have put out a call to gather those who carry sacred and magical powers. Women are coming together in a rectangular room that will allow each of us enough space to sit in a circle together. Spread out on cloths, kangas, lappas, prayer rugs with ritual items around us, we prepare to do ceremony. I have some trepidation about my ability to communicate the beautiful importance of this gathering. Indeed, we are failing to gather in the way that meets the call. We are losing the energy of what we might accomplish, finding new ways of meeting the current danger. I had imagined we would form ourselves into a sacred community, devoting ourselves to supporting public activities on behalf of healing the earth, peacebuilding and restoration. We are being called into alliance. Combining political, spiritual and ritual activities offers the best chance of success. This is a call for on-going ritual and ceremonial work in support of pragmatic social, political and environmental activities. Our situation is dire: Many are being driven to violence, brutality and cruelty. The animals are being victimized. We are deeply concerned with the plight of Elephants, polar bears, wolves. The earth, air and waters are highly polluted. Global warming is real and is having disastrous consequences.
I try to begin again, but everyone is distracted and I don’t know how to gather them together. A young, dark skinned woman with long black hair lying on a low couch raises herself on her forearms, as in a cobra yoga pose, and begins chanting in a foreign language. The young woman’s voice is deep and resonant and the song gathers us to attention and creates the field in which our mandate, for it is a mandate, can be accomplished.

Writing the dream, I accept that I have received spiritual instruction that can help accomplish our deepest hopes for the future if we make these activities the very core of our daily lives. This is the labor that calls to each of us even as it entirely transforms and refocuses our definition of work. It is not only that we are called to do this work together in a group but that we are each, in the way we are trained, called to it as our primary activity. Each of us, devoted and alongside each other. The very definition of work and making a living is altered by the requirement to put ritual activity and prayer first before our work, before our personal concerns and lives.

At Standing Rock, the Elders said, the way to effectively protect the waters is through Prayer and Ceremony.

On the last day at Thula Thula, the rains come. The long lucent call of Burchell’s Coucal, the rain bird, has been realized. Wearing rain ponchos, we seek the Elephants and see them on a distant ridge we cannot reach. Then we cannot make our way up the wet road and slip and slide until our open vehicle is stuck in the deep mud. There is no other vehicle which has the capacity to help us and we are many miles from our camp. Stuck in the mud in a similar way in Liberia with everyday gandhis, Cyndie and I met the rebel, General Leopard, who then gave up his intention to become a mercenary and joined our NGO. It takes a long time and much effort to reverse our direction, go to the bottom of the steep hill, reverse, and with as much speed and power as can be mustered, make our way over the rim and back to camp. Covered with mud ourselves, we are exuberant.
That night we sleep and wake to the rhythm of thunder, lightning and rain. It is our last morning. Because of the mud and rain, we not know if we will see the Elephants. We pass ponds filling with water and I am relieved. Andrew says there is enough for a few days. He continues driving, taciturn, as is his nature. We climb a road that our little group hasn’t traveled before. At each juncture, we fail to see the Elephants. Coming to a turn on a precarious road, Andrew announces that we have come to the very end as there is no other turn-around.

But … “Look,” says Andrew. On the far ridge, in silhouette, Frankie and Brandon and a few of the others are grazing. We watch them until they disappear on the other side of the hill to join the rest of the herd.


Had we come a few minutes later, we would not have seen them. This is, as it has been and continues to be at Chobe, the last hour of the last day of our pilgrimage.


After our return, Francoise Anthony communicated to us that the rains continued at Thula Thula and the streams and pans were filling: “We have had beautiful rain after your departure and nature has come alive! miracles do happen. I am getting a geologist to come and check our land for water so that we can be prepared for the future.”

Thursday, January 26, 2017 Thula Thula photo by Vusi Gumede
Sunday, February 11, 2017, Topanga California

We are in a Story. I have been in this ongoing Story since I determined to be in Council with the Elephants. Who or what was orchestrating this moment and the other moments over the last seventeen years when I had, inconceivably, yielded to and followed a call for connection with another species for their sake, may always remain entirely mysterious. Still, I pray that our strange and unpredictable connections might influence the restoration of the natural world and the vital future of these People who are keystone to us all.
My notes to the dream of 2009, said: “Such collaboration between Native American elders, medicine people and younger Native American activists has recently turned years of failure of achieving goals into success.” These words written in 2009 are the current perspective of the community of Water Protestors at Standing Rock. They have not moved from this position though Trump has extended permission for the Dakota Access pipeline and Energy Transfer Partners to dig under the sacred lake. Perhaps they are the words we all need to meet our global crisis. What are the Elephant People teaching us? What do we learn from being gathered together in this Story?

There is a Story told here through Elephant language of activity and visitation, a story of relationship, connectivity, spiritual awareness and ethical considerations.
There is a Story told here of the Elephant People who have spiritual agency and with whom we can collaborate.
This is a Story about the possibilities offered through dream, ritual and prayer.
This is one Story and many stories. The Stories themselves are visitations. They teach us how to live. We are living these stories and they, in turn, are alive in us.
A field of consciousness gathers us into itself. Events arise out of the field’s essential nature. We are of that field and enfolded back into it.
This Story is told in a universal language. This Story is an act of creation.
If we let ourselves fully enter this world, the future is possible.
Let us meet in this field of wonder:

A NOTE FROM DEENA METZGER AT THE END OF THE YEAR About Going to Standing Rock, About Going to be with the Elephant People, About Meeting These Times,

img_0845Today is the winter solstice, 2016.  On this day in 1996, I was in Norway at the Arctic Circle.  I had gone to Lofoten Island for ten days of silence and dark, hoping, without success, to see the Northern lights.  This was the penultimate day.  I spent it in ceremony.  Suddenly, the night sky turned red and I went out onto deep snow as a great black bird, larger than any I had ever seen, flew through the aurora borealis.  I remember this so I will not doubt the Presence of Spirit even in such disturbing times.  I have been fortunate as events which I can, logically, only attribute to Spirit, are with me often.  But sometimes circumstances overwhelm my deepest knowing, sometimes overwhelm the faith I have based on experience not liturgy, faith that is the same, for me, as hope. Then I remember the on-going Presence of Spirit and I go on.  I go on not knowing, but I go on.

I began writing these words, and the surprising rain which has been falling, unexpectedly, the last days, suddenly changed from a gentle female rain to a downpour such I have not heard in four years of drought.  Music on the chimney and skylights pervades the house.  The rain comes, after four years of drought, and my heart is eased.  How can it be otherwise?
A few weeks ago, as some of you know, several of us went to Standing Rock.  We went for different reasons but essentially to stand with the Water Protectors, to have, as best as we were able, their backs.
For those of you generously contributed to Standing Rock through us, we thank you.  I was able to put a sealed unmarked envelope directly into the hands of LaDonna Brave Bull Allard who started Sacred Stone Camp and is still there fighting DAPL now, and then another similar envelope with checks made out to the Indigenous Environmental Network into the hands of one of the directors. Deliberately, I did not count the cash nor did I total the checks, nor did I identify the source.  To give without attachment, to return what truly belongs to the Native Americans, was my goal.
“We truly appreciate your generous donation to the Oceti Sakowin Camp. We are determined to stop DAPL, protect Native Sacred Land, the water for everyone, and sovereign treaty rights. To accomplish these goals, many resources will be required.  In addition to our efforts for winterizing the camp, keeping everyone safe, healthy and warm, your kind donation will allow us to continue the struggle. North Dakota winters are cold as well as challenging.”
We arrived with the first blizzard and it cut short our ever so brief time there.  But we were there long enough to marvel at the courage, fortitude, skill and devotion of the Native people who were, at the time we arrived, providing for over 9,000 people.  The Sioux elders said,

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

The first thing we learned were The Seven Lakota Values:
Prayer. Respect. Compassion. Honesty. Generosity. Humility. Wisdom

For a discussion of the values see:

Before we arrived, we received the following instructions about how to deport ourselves at the Camp.  Whether one goes to Standing Rock or not they are essential documents, worth studying alone and in community so that we can learn how to walk in the world in good ways.
Whether you go to Standing Rock or wish to support the Water Protectors at Standing Rock or at all the other sites and actions that are beginning or continuing in order to stop the Black Snake, please read the following so you will learn how to live:
We awakened at 5 am each morning so we could make our way to Oceti Sakowin Camp in time for the morning prayers at 6:30.  The temperature fell to the low 20s and the wind was blowing.  We gathered in the dark, in an ever enlarging circle around the sacred fire that had been burning since the Camp was organized to stop DAPL.  Snow had fallen on the tents, teepees, yurts, domes, straw bale improvised dwellings that were housing the thousands of protectors of the Water Protectors.  Wisps of smoke from wood stoves blended into the icy air.  To the north, on the ridge of the hill, which is a Sioux sacred burial site, DAPL search lights interrupted the slow beauty of the transition from dawn to day.
Still, there was a sacred fire.  Still, we listened to the elder sing the morning prayers.  Still we heard the women sing the sacred songs to bless the water and we walked with them to the river, where each woman was assisted hand by hand by men lining the slippery walkway, so that we might, individually, go to the water, offer tobacco, and pray.
Dawn came.  Daylight came. The Camp came to life.  Food was prepared, propane and fuel delivered.  People started building more shelters for the coming visitors.  A village the size of a small city was being constituted before our eyes through hard work, cooperation, devotion, ceremony and prayer.
We left Standing Rock as the first of 2000 veterans were arriving.  Chris Turley, a member of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma who had served in the U.S. Army for nine years arrived after walking 240 miles before he received a ride.  He said, “I’ve come here because of the vow I made when I entered the armed services, which was to protect our country from both foreign and domestic threat/terrorism.”

His words could have been spoken by any of those who made the arduous journey to stand with the Sioux Water Protectors in below freezing weather.  On Tuesday December 6th, the Veterans gathered before elders including Leonard Crow Dog, Arvol Looking Horse, Phyllis Young, and Faith Speckled Owl, to offer the following words on bended knees:

“We came here to be the conscience of the nation. And within that conscience, we must first confess our sins to you, because many of us, me in particular, are from the units that have hurt you over the many years. We came. We fought you. We took your land. We signed treaties that we broke. We stole minerals from your sacred hills. We blasted the faces of our presidents onto your sacred mountain. When we took still more land, and then we took your children, then we tried to take your language, and we tried to eliminate your language that God gave you and that the Creator gave you. We didn’t respect you. We polluted your earth. We’ve hurt you in so many ways, but we’ve come to say that we are sorry, we are at your service, and we beg for your forgiveness.”

This is the solstice, this is the turning toward the light in what many of us fear will be the darkest time we and our country has ever known.  Many of us are still reeling over the results of the election.  In our communities, we are asking how we are to proceed, what we are to do, how we are to stand, how do we resist?

I believe Standing Rock has answers for everyone.  When I ask Native friends how we will survive Trump’s government as individuals and as a nation, they often say, “Trump?  We’ve been living with the violence and greed of colonization for over five hundred years.”
In other words, Native Americans in both hemispheres, and Indigenous people everywhere have been living with violence, greed, lies, distortion and danger  for five hundred years AND they have kept their values, ceremonies and beliefs, their love of and respect for the land. Now when the Earth and all beings are so viciously threatened, when all life is at stake, they are standing in prayer and ceremony on behalf of the future.

In order to meet these times, we can stand with them and behind them if we learn the ways.

At Standing Rock, as non-Native people, we have to face ourselves.  “You are Settler-Colonists,” the Native people say.  The label is a clear mirror into which we can look in order for all life to survive.
How shall we meet these dark times?  How shall we stop DAPL and the Black Snake?  How shall we meet the Trump presidency?  How shall we save the Earth and all life?
If we study the instructions above from Standing Rock, we will know something of how to stand.
On this Solstice night there are four words in my heart:
Remember Spirit, the old, old ways, the wisdom ways, Indigenous knowledge, beauty, heart. Remember what sustained us as children and in right relationships, and what sustains life and all beings.  Engage in the practice of remembering.  Ceremony and prayer.
Restore the Earth, the wild, all generous and loving ways of life. Restore sanctuary. Restore spirit centered, earth based wise cultures.  Restore ethics and generosity, and live according to all our relations, mitakuye oyasin. Ceremony and prayer.
Resist the death culture and imperial mind.  Resist any and all attempts to coerce us into living and acting against our principles, values, neighbors, and deepest held beliefs.  Fiercely protect everything and everyone one you love. Ceremony and prayer.

ReVision, not only medicine but all institutions, our culture, and our lives so that all beings flourish.  Ceremony and prayer.


On Tuesday the 27th I will return to Africa for almost a month to be with the Elephant People.  Until November 8th, I thought I knew why I was going.  But since then, I am uncertain, except to be in alliance and heartbreak with the Elephant people who know the dire consequences and agony of Imperial and Colonial mind.

I hoped to be able to spend time within the elephant herd, to be among them, to be of them.  But now I believe my purpose as an Ambassador from us to the Elephant people and the other animal people, is to say, “I am so sorry.”

You can read my essay on the last journey I took and my reasons for going again at Becoming Elephant, Becoming Kin, as published in Dark Matter: Women Witnessing.
I will be traveling again with Cynthia Travis and you can read her essay in Dark Matter. Listen With Your Feet.
We have elected as President, the father of a family of big game hunters.  We may soon all literally know what it is to be hunted for profit and greed.  Perhaps this knowledge will help us be more determined in our activity to protect the wild and all living beings.

I am going to Africa to stand with the Elephant People in ceremony and prayer.  I want to apologize for us and then to find ways to say, sincerely, “I have, we have, your backs.”elephant-calf-checks-us-out

Meeting the Times November 9 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In our circle last night, simple ways repeated themselves:

Invite spirit.  Listen deeply.

Move with heart and prayer.

Bear witness.

Create, confirm and sustain community.

Stand in communion and community with each other, with all others. Stand in the community of all beings. The 19 Ways became increasingly relevant:

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


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

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

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

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

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

Mitakye oyasin, all our relations.


Returning to Africa and the Elephant Ambassador

I am refering you to the posting this again because it is the reason I am going to Africa with Cynthia Travis of Everyday Gandhis. Not for my / our own sakes, but because we are so heartbroken about the world. As you, who are reading this are, as well. While I am alive, I will not accept that we cannot save all life from the current trajectory of global destruction. Certain realities have not made enough of a difference in our behavior: that the climate is changing drastically, that we are responsible, that our disregard for the earth is criminal, and that modern warfare is a primary culprit. And so I return as a humble seeker to see if something unexpected and, perhaps unprecedented, might emerge from a soul and mind alliance with another most intelligent and similarly heartbroken species, unable, as we are, to change current non-indigenous human activity and violence. Some synergy on behalf of all species.
My first journeys, as chronicled below, confirmed elephant (animal) intelligence and agency, incontrovertibly. Understand that the elephants in the wild met me/us four times on four separate occasions, over twelve years, but at the same time in the same place! At a certain tree, in Chobe Wild Animal Park,between 5 and 6 in the afternoon in Botswana. Cynthia Travis, Valerie Wolf, Michael Ortiz Hill and I were together in Botswana on one of those occasions when the Elephant Ambassador met us directly and threw us the most precious gift possible, a bone of one of his ancestors.
Elephant culture speaks loudly of heart and relationship. We humans are not the experts in the realm of the heart. The encounters with the elephants speak to their spiritual and psychic awareness and skill. But now, what feels like an urgent journey, is on behalf of the possibility of a spiritual and pragmatic alliance between members of different species so that we, who the Kogi call, and rightly so, the younger brothers, might somehow shift all our ways.
I am /we are praying that the elephants will appear, that the Ambassador will come again, and that this meeting will, in ways I cannot predict or imagine, actually serve to align our human species’ heart, to re-tune, entrain us, that it will …. I do not know what, but that some way will appear that will serve all life, all our relations. I am going to this other species as a supplicant.
We will be in the Wild in Africa from January 4th to the 19th. Please keep the elephants in your hearts and prayers and open yourselves to whatever may be asked of us on behalf of all life. I had a dream some months ago in which I was recruited by the Radical Elephant Movement to participate in actions on behalf of the earth that were far beyond any ideas I had of how we might proceed at this time. This journey arises from that dream. And from our belief that such dreams are sent by the spirits and so we are deeply called to listen.
In hope and prayer, Deena.
(Feel free to share this if you think it might have value beyond ourselves.)

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of bodies on…


[See below for events before or during sabbatical.]

SOME months ago, I knew I needed time off to write.  In my early years, children and family, teaching, activism and holding community formed an essential unit and still I managed to write in the between times. My first published book, Skin: Shadows/Silence: A Love Letter in the Form of a Novel is composed of short entries that could be written between taking my sons to school and picking them up, or during naps, or their visits to friends. Many of my books were written that way. Several times I rented an office. Wherever we lived had enough physical space – a writer needs little – but rarely had enough mental or spiritual space. When my sons were teenagers, I rented a trailer in Valyermo, CA, a desert area two hours away from my home where I went, when I could, for weekends alone to write. When my children were grown, I could do healing work and teach and write at the same time. I was able to take time off, to go into silence. The books appeared. But over the last years, teaching, healing, community building, activism filled the spaces that should have been occupied by creative work, walking the land, speaking with the spirits, family and companionship. Pondering this, it would be easy to blame age, an inevitable slowing down, but I find myself working longer and harder with equal energy. I think the difficulty is with the times in which we live. A deadly combination of increasing administrative nonsense and extreme need caused by the global and national descent into violence, brutishness and environmental destruction demands our constant attention, willingness to bear witness and to grieve.

Yesterday an interviewer asked me how I had been affected by and what am I thinking since making the pilgrimage to the Death Camps in 1989, which I wrote about in The Other Hand, the novel that wrestled with the two koans of the 20th century – the Holocaust and the Atom Bomb. My answer surprised me.

I remembered how we wondered about the Germans who didn’t respond to the Concentration Camps. We wondered how they allowed the Holocaust – not directed only at Jews – to exist and continue. But now, we live with Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, rendition and waterboarding. We are involved with secret prisons, houses of torture and global scrutiny. We know and yet these unconscionable activities continue. Also DU, white phosphorous, Agent Orange, GMOs, Round Up, Fracking, Keystone Pipeline. Yes, we know …. and yet! The mind of WWII continues; it seems we have ingested it and become what we claimed to have gone to war to oppose.

The Holocaust itself has morphed into Ecocide. Genocide, still existant on the planet, has developed into the murder of the Earth and all Life. Attending such times with heart and compassion takes every moment of every day.

I started a novel three years ago. It has a certain necessity to it.  I am determined to follow this new urgency. I am taking a sabbatical to write this and another book, and to be with Spirit in order to gain, if I can, some wisdom and perspective with which to meet these times.

My sabbatical begins July 1st. It will go at least until December 31st. A few events are still scheduled between now and then and I am listing them here. I may or may not post anything on this Blog. I make no other commitments except to Spirit and where I am called as I listen as deeply as I can. My hope is that you will accompany me with deep listening and prayer. Restoration, sanity and beauty depend on our doing the work and changing our lives. We have to do this together.

Writer’s Intensive May 24-30, 2014 Topanga CA’ Intensive –

Writing Workshop: Finding the Stories of Our Lives. June 6-8, 2014

Rowe Conference Center, Rowe MA More info: 

Healers’ Intensive – June 21-27, 2014 Topanga CA

Healing Stories – Sept. 5 – 7, 2014.
Sacred Wisdom Centre, Guelph, ON, Canada
 Contact: Barbara Booth

ReVisioning Medicine Council and Clinic, September !3-15 2014 , Minneapolis MN  Contact Michele Rae <>

HOW TO START A DREAM THEATER from Dream Network Journal, Spring 2014 [with dream from Ayelet Berman Cohen

Theater director, Steven Kent, and I had not expected to be working together again on a creative project related to dreams at this time in our lives. In advance of producing Dreams Against the State in 1981, he and I had recreated the Eleusinian Mysteries in Greece in 1980 for the first time in 1500 years. I had written the play and Steve was the dramaturge and director. The first production of the play was performed in fifty different venues: private homes, community centers, churches, etc. This deliberate variation on performance space was designed to emphasize the real life danger to dreams and dreaming in our culture and the need for individuals and communities to provide sanctuary for dreams.

 Thirty-two years later, in January 2014, we were co-teaching a class on How to Start a Dream Theater at La Verne University where Steven is a faculty member of the Theater Arts Department. This project is, perhaps, the closed parenthesis of a creative partnership devoted to theater, ritual, transformation and the inner life.

 The creative premise of the class was that the students comprise a theater troupe that visits communities to perform their dreams, and at the same time, are themselves a community whose dreams are explored and reflected upon, theatrically, by the theater troupe. We were imaging being called into a community to enact the dreams in order to help resolve conflicts or disagreements in creative ways.

 Because this class, as conceived, is a unique exploration and a first for Steven and myself, we have been surprised and gratified by the unanticipated directions it has taken. During our first meeting, I was startled to realize what fifty years of working with dreams had not revealed before: the essential connection between dream and theater. Dreams come to us as complete theater events, remarkably scripted, directed, enacted and staged. However, in recalling and communicating our dreams, though we may access meaning, we rarely, if ever, can transmit the quality and intensity of the dream experience itself. Enter theater.

How to Start a Dream Theater met four times a week for four hours during the January Interterm at La Verne University, La Verne California. Ancient Greek Aesclepian medicine considered the union of dreaming and theater as essential to the healing process. Steven and I have visited the ruins of the Aesclepian healing sanctuaries in Greece, but the living theater is long gone; and though the transformational aspect of the Mysteries was preserved in our work, we did not recreate our dreams theatrically when relating them to each other every day. So, in this class we found ourselves exploring a new form with remarkably ancient antecedents.

 Surprisingly, the limitations of working in a classroom with essentially inexperienced students created the impetus for discovery. We had to begin at the beginning regarding dreams, theater and healing. I had expected to be teaching Theater Department seniors but only some of the students in the class were theater majors; the rest were liberal arts majors fulfilling their humanities requirement. The students ranged from freshman to seniors and came from many different multi-cultural backgrounds.

As Steven Kent does with every class he teaches at the University, we opened each session with a check-in, where we often asked the students to share a dream image. We ended with a check-out that consisted of a question or a statement about dreaming or the content of the class. With this simple device we came to know each other intimately, which is rare in a college classroom. Steven’s theater games further relaxed everyone and released energy and tension, thus reinforcing the possibility of bonding. Dream telling each day involved us deeply in the exploration of our inner lives.

 Early on, we made a strategic decision in the interest of efficiency that was critical to the success of the class. We divided the fifteen students into three troupes. Though we heard many of the students’ dreams in the full circle, the troupes worked on their own dreams together when bringing them into form. Because the students now belonged to the dreamers and to the theater troupe, they bonded as a community despite the university setting that generally results in isolation and competitiveness. The students quickly realized they had to be respectful of each other’s inner lives and the necessity of being trustworthy.

Community work happens to be one of Steve’s areas of engagement and expertise, and we were privileged to hear some of his stories about working with gay people in a radical anti-gay state, also with small farmers, with women with AIDs and with other groups in the development of performance pieces. His theater experience with communities, and my experience with individual and community dreaming, together with our life long involvement in the creative process, and more years of teaching between us than either of us wish to tally, were the basis of what we brought to the class.

 When considering the actual creation of a performing dream theater group, we both understood that the performance of the dreams would be the ultimate means through which the community could reflect on itself, provide social cohesion and lessen conflict. However, I didn’t realize that the very act of soliciting the dreams in a collective setting would begin the process through which the conflict might resolve. That meant that if the troupe were also willing to present their own dreams in the process of soliciting dreams from the community, the artificial barrier between troupe and community would dissolve. Finally, enactment could take the community members to yet another level of healing of the original discord.

The most significant understanding came to us when all three troupes independently decided to disregard advice I had given them about enactment. Each troupe met to listen to one another’s dreams and select images/events that reverberated for all of them, which would then be developed theatrically and enacted for the group as a whole. I advised them to avoid “being fair.” Rather than including something from everyone’s dreams, I suggested they focus on one or two images/events they found compelling and performable. However, before beginning the work of scripting and developing, each group chose instead to consider each one’s dreams in order to find a common theme. The for Ruin and Beaurty initial themes were loneliness and separation, explosive emotions, and unacknowledged fear.

At the end of the third week, the three troupes sat in individual story circles, outdoors on the college lawn, imagining darkness and a fire at their center, and spoke of the ways they had experienced these themes in their lives. Though each group exercised confidentiality regarding the details of the stories, when they reported back to the larger group, it was apparent that they had entered the process deeply. They had embraced the experience of loneliness or fear in ‘the other’ as their own, yet recognizing differences as well as commonalities in the origin of such emotions. They had acquired the essential means to understanding and relating back to each other the meaning and implication of their dreams – Empathy.

One student commented that the class had become a group of distinct individuals whom she felt she knew well. Building community had not been one of our stated goals for the class but it became our finest one.

We had found a way, even in a classroom, for the students to experience the exactness and profundity of dream communication. This allowed them to recognize what mattered to them as a community, to refine their intent to communicate this to an audience, to develop language and image to hold their experience, then to embody the experience and finally to perform it for the larger group. The result was that they could bring the dreams back to their original vivid life. Each step in the process eliminated the formal differences between dreamer and actor, between one person and another. Without setting such a heady intention, we were entering into an exquisite balance between our unique experiences, dream language, and the particularity of the dreams themselves, and the trusting and supportive community forming in this setting.

 We were working in a multi-cultural setting and outside of conventional psychological dream analysis. The work is predicated on indigenous wisdom dreaming traditions that assume that dreams are a dialogue between the spirit world and the particular tribe, culture or in this case, troupe and university class. This focus allowed for a creative dynamic between particularity and unity and was of great value and solace to the individual class members. No one was left out of the exchange. Everyone was seen as valuable. The class became a sanctuary for the essential beauty and intelligence of each individual within the safety of the circle formed by the participation of each equally. Which is not to say that there were no difficult moments among us. There were. But as far as I know, these issues were acknowledged and resolved. Increasingly, day by day, the value of the group, the bond between the students was recognized.

 The class process was informed by the presence of Ayelet Berman Cohen, a contemporary dreamer in the old ways. She could not have predicted when she was a prominent photographer in Israel that dreams would become her life. Each night, for twenty years, profound theme-based dreams, as precise and lyrical as any theater or work of literature, have been landing on her, followed by teachings from the ancestors. For many years, she has been dreaming about war, often but not always referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and easily translated into any contemporary struggle between peoples. Many of her war dreams are succeeded by healing dreams, or dreams that ßthe antidote to war. In one of the sessions, she spoke of how theater allowed the war to be viewed and understood within the very magic of theater itself. The wound and the medicine together in one venue.

 She gifted us with a packet of six dreams that gave the students original dream images to work with. Independently, the troupes each chose one or two of the same images to dramatize and explore, so we understood that the conflict between victim and victimizer spoke deeply to them. This initial work with her dreams, which were so fully formed and precise in their theatrical intelligence, prepared the students to look at their own dreams and excerpt the wisdom from them.

 Three student dreams at the threshold of the project set the tone for the work to come. One student told a recurring dream that began when she and her family were immigrating to the United States, having already fled civil violence in their native country. In the dream that first came when she was a child, she observed the on-going tension between freedom and imprisonment. The dream had revealed, even to the young child, the fundamental torment that her family and culture were experiencing.

   In relating a dream to his father, another student discovered that the family had psychic gifts that had not been spoken about but were passed on through the patriarchal line.

   Aware of a repeating image in her recent dreams, a young woman decided to call her indigenous grandmother, only to discover that the dreams were warnings that her proposed very generous action would violate her people’s tradition and she would have to wait for the right ritual moment to perform it.

   The final days of How to Start a Dream Theater were spent developing the small theatrical presentations. Within a remarkably short time, each troupe went from acting out various dream episodes to identifying the common emotional elements, finding dream sequences to hold them, and then discarding these images and events for more vital and appropriate images that communicated the fullness of the conditions and emotions to the observers. Informed by Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process, the students were then able to revise their pieces once again, bringing each to a new level of reflection and communication, perhaps even more powerful than might arise in a class on improvisation because the images developed from the deep personal dream life of each student.

   The students had not known that dreaming had already and would continue to affect and influence their lives. Repeatedly in the check-ins or check-outs, the students expressed their surprise and gratitude for these ways of knowing that they had previously thought entirely unimportant.

Elenna Rubin Goodman, a community builder, had come to the class from Oakland California. The class served her deep desire “ tobring together community, sacred space and the ritual embodiment of dreams/dream theater.” And we were grateful that we could serve both the students and others seeking new ways of serving community that include validating inner life experience.

 Three texts informed the class: Black Elk Speaks, by John Neihardt, Healing Dreams: Exploring the Dreams That Can Transform Your Life by Marc Ian Barasch, and The Practice of Dream Healing: Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine by Edward Tick and Stephen Larsen. Each text speaks to the ways dream inform and heal culture as well as bringing wisdom and insight to individuals for their lives. So many of the dreams that the students brought into our circle were unexpectedly revealed to be vehicles for connection, community and cultural restoration. Entering and living within a dreaming culture is an essential antidote to totalitarian and fundamentalist thought. This is iterated by Paco Mitchell in the Winter Solstice 2013 issue of Dream Network Journal, an essay that we shared in class: “…dreams are such bastions of freedom.”

The class was not about creating a dream theater; rather, our intention was to facsimilate the experience of dream theater troupes and dreaming communities. We had started out suggesting that the students imagine that they were a dream troupe or a dreaming community; within days the imagined manifested. We learned swiftly that understanding self through exploring and performing dreams is also a means to establishing communal identity while emphasizing the wild freedom and uniqueness at the core of the creative process. Some of the students may go on to use dreams in their creative work. All of them, I am certain—whether as physicians or private-eyes, (two examples of the students’ present vocational goals)—will use dreams as part of their future work in the world.

Considering in retrospect my unheeded advice to the dream troupes and their intelligent insistence on following their own wisdom, I am grateful to have been reminded of the sensitivity necessary in approaching another community — in this case, the community of students. We must always fully respect the other culture and what the community itself knows. Fortunately, I didn’t insist, didn’t impose my own understanding. Fortunately, they chose to discern and honor common themes and experience, and to create communities of respect and relationship among themselves. Fortunately, we all honored the dream.

Each student presented a seven-minute excerpt from the journal they kept for the duration of the class that included dreams, the new understanding of their power and importance, reflections on the class process, and selected passages from the assigned texts. Most spoke their deepest truths to each other, though we had been strangers to each other only a month before. Everyone now understood that he or she has an inner life and all were excited about tending it for the rest of their lives. No one doubted the value, meaning, experience or and beauty of dreaming. The possibility of an on-going dream group was gratefully received.

The final gift from Ayelet Berman Cohen was a dream, which summarized her dream spirits’ understanding of the process that was destined to engage us all.

January 23, 2014

Ayelet Berman-Cohen

(dedicated to the students of the Dream Theater Workshop)



A group of students
meet on behalf of their inner lives.
They speak to each other,
and to their astonishment,
discover that the night before,
they all have had the exact same dream.


In their dream
a python lives underneath their house.
There is a group of people shackled to a tree.
And there is another side to the tree.  
A woman who lost her mother is there.
And a shark who looks deeply into the eyes of a boy.
There is fear, laughter, movement and confusion,
each image and emotion
matches perfectly in all of their dreams.

The student body has had one common dream.  
In their dream they see
a woman carrying a suitcase.
She says it is filled with dreams.
She tells them how the Spirits come to her every night
and dictate to her a dream.  
The woman says she has been touched.  
When the students wake up
they know that their inner lives
are no longer the same.

Did the Spirits come to them too?  
How do the Spirits move?  
Who are the Spirits?  
Have they been touched?
They wondered.

The silence had been broken.




A Gift to You for Earth Day


I’ve let the orchard go feral.

We offer it nothing but water

And take nothing,

But leave it to the bees

Who sing among the blossoms,

And to the squirrels who gather

The oranges and grapefruits

That fall and scatter.

The lemons and oranges

Have mated on their own

And maybe they will remain coupled

Or maybe they will sort themselves out

To their own original natures.


This time the old elm is dying.

A very few branches have leaves.

There will be none next year

Except for the sapling that is streaking

Toward the sky.  I thought I might die

With the elm, and wonder if its progeny

Means a new birth for me.  It is, after all,

From the old root.


Everything must have its way.

The oak that planted itself

Created its own field of being,

So the others accommodate

To its shady dominance.

The creatures eat

But they do not slaughter.

The old, old ways insist

That the animals can teach us.

The difference between their natural order

And our domination.


The plumbago expands between

The eucalyptus that plant themselves,

Increasingly at the border, providing

Shelter for the squirrels and a thrasher,

Occasional quail and a flock of brown birds

Who prefer to remain anonymous.

We are advised not to plant these trees

As they will burn hot and fast

When the great fires comes. But

It is their will to abide here,

And who am I to deny them their home?

They are no more immigrant than I

And also, at this time, they are

Calling the cools winds to them,

The heat of the neighboring meadow

Entirely dispelled by their fluttering arms.

And, you must understand that

We are in a conversation about

What it will take for them

To call down the rain –

But only for the frogs

And the non-human creatures –

From this desert blue sky.

— Deena Metzger April 20, 2013



To Consider 2012


A new Blog:

Late 14c., from O.Fr. considerer (13c.) “reflect on, consider, study.” From L. considerare “to look at closely, observe,” perhaps lit. “to observe the stars,” from com- “with” (see com-) + sidus (gen. sideris) “constellation.” (see sidereal). Perhaps a metaphor from navigation, but more likely reflecting Roman interest in divination by astrology.

To Consider and to be Considerate:  To study and reflect and then align oneself with the stars, with the beauty and heart of the heavens (the essential goal of astrology), with the radiant will of Sprit and the Divine.


I awaken just as the sun rises over the hill to the east and a light ray illuminates a leaf of the bougainvillea that was until now in shadow, and so, momentarily, there is a single golden disc among the branches in silhouette.

It is July 30th, Day 143 before 12/20/2012. I am thinking of posting an on-going record of how I am trying to meet 2012.

Hubris, perhaps, to attempt a series of personal but public letters to assert the possibility that we may, as planet dwellers, have a future. You may call this a Blog. I call it a Letter.

The letter form, including writing an epistolary novel, (The Other Hand, Red Hen Press) has been with me since as a young woman, I first took myself seriously as a writer. A letter is intimate and, at its most authentic, is honest and true. I will try to speak from the heart about this difficult time and share my grief and my hope….

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Our Exile. A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation

I met Ariel Dorfman in Santiago Chile in September 1972. I and my then partner, David Kunzle, had to prove that we were trustworthy and not working for the CIA. There were already indications that a coup, supported by the U.S. was brewing to overthrow the first democratically elected socialist government in the hemisphere. We didn’t know how brutal it would be. We didn’t know it would direct and change the course of our lives. We didn’t know how profoundly it would affect world history and conscience.

Very reluctantly, Ariel went into exile after the coup. Feeding on Dreams is his most extraordinary memoir of those terrible years. It is a story of exile itself. And so it is our exile. Not only his, and Chile’s and mine, but yours, and so ours. Our exile. The circumstances and powers that led to that terrible coup were not confined to Chile or to the 20th century but continue to thrust all our souls into exile and to insist that we live in profound disconnection from land, values, community, from all that matters.

In 1972, Ariel didn’t know that we would see each other again. We didn’t know we would become brother and sister. And I couldn’t have predicted that 40 years later, I would have the deep honor of writing this essay in response to one of the finest memoirs of our time, written by one of our finest writers, a man of great heart and wisdom even in the face of terrors.

“The twentieth century of exile and displacement bleeds into the twenty-first century. Great waves of despair, huge surges of people fleeing toward uncertain safety accompany innumerable individual losses of land, country, language, and culture. Increasingly, we are a world of displaced persons, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants, immigrants, and exiles. Alongside us, invisible animals, birds, and other creatures seek habitat and food as they are equally crowded out, hunted down, unable to adapt to the sudden and increasing changes in their environment. The very nature of their lives, and so their nature itself, is distorted—no differently than the lives of human beings. There are increasing numbers of citizens of nowhere and no place, and such diasporas add to our forgetting that land and place, country and territory, are essential to the stability and sanity of human beings.

Ariel Dorfman is one of our era’s many citizens of nowhere, and Feeding on Dreams is the story of his exile from Chile. It is the story of the recreation of a self under the pressures of dire loss and ongoing efforts to support, maintain, and protect those left behind. It is also the story and examination of exile itself in a time when such a state of disconnection and dissociation is commonplace….” Our Exile: A Chilean Memoir of Dislocation



For Heidi Hutner who inspired this scrutiny.

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

This is the second day of 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is so simple.

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

Nothing else is required.

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

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

Spirit speaks. Spirit speaks when we open to it.

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

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

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

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

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

Spirit speaks. Because we have opened to it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spirit exists and is entirely benevolent.

Beauty and Heart are one and interchangeable in the Presence.

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

Nothing else is required.

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

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

This is what the Dine call the Beauty way.

Another Meeting With the Elephants

The Gathering of the Elephants at the End of the Story

Friday, September 30, 2011


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

i arrived in Africa on September 15th.

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

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

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

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

The Delegates Meet Us Eye to Eye

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

The elephants came. The message? That they came!

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Work of the Next Five Years

A Letter from Deena Metzger   

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

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

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

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



Deena Metzger speaks with Joanna Harcourt Smith about the characters of her latest book “La Negra y Blanca”, grounded visions, the coming shift, making alliances and restoring a right relationship with the Earth and all beings, “the conquest never ended”, the helping guide of the ancestors, the process of peace-making, “the way of story”…


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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