These are writings about Nature and Spirit, the more-than-human-world, and meditations on relationship.
This Writing Mind
You need a voice to write, I’ve heard. Inside me, silvered waters ceaselessly pour teeth and claws through growling clefts where gorgons and dragons rest, guarding treasures of a psyche. Inside pours a mineral flooded river the color of chocolate, and the river flows on forever as the words line up inside to leave me.
You need a voice to write and I have a voice, but it’s a sparkly splintered sundog, a wave-train river run, glare on the tracks, too untidy, loose and windy, laced with frets, drops, and here comes another list. Blessed goddamn list-poems. In addition to bi-polar mood disorder, and dyslexia, I have something called ADD/ADHD mind. Alphabet-minded-diagnoses that means I can’t sit still, can’t focus or organize much, am plagued and lit-up by impulsivity.
In Jewish myth, there are 72 names of god, and 72 kinds of wisdom. I’m not a good Jew, more Jew-ish—a JewWitch—but under all my doubts and sometimes full-on fury at god, I am worshipful of Creation. Both the creation that surrounds me and that pouring from me are sacred because I know, with a religious faith, that I’m the creation that I’m the creator of.
Being a writer with ADHD is tricky. ADHD is going through your life in tap shoes. It’s a dance between less-compelling impulsivities. It’s all about the tap shoes, baby. Hummingbird-lifestyle-days, hitting walls for hours till I fall into the thesaurus and stay awhile, totally satisfied. “Leisure” is set in opposition to “endeavor” in the thesaurus, but I am full of endeavors in my leisure.
Sifting the granularities of my daily life—which might be shit and might be diamonds—standing ear-deep in it and continuing pushing this pen, coaxing the keyboard as it all rises higher till the rose of sky opens, and sniffing towards that blossom, I lift my tool, shove through the lid of limit and self-doubt. I am here, mixed metaphors and all.
Most times, when I think I’m done, it’s just the edge of the beginning. So many edges—confronted by beginnings, i circle above my body—it’s too scary to be touching down. Like in a plane when that fucking moment arrives for bouncing down on something real, a solid surface after all that soaring. Finally land to face that first-edit full of terror—better to error in thinking I’m done.
I am a womin in a forest made of glass and filled with light. All the world drips like honey down the sides of my jar. Calling you, Nature, in voice of sunlight to come inside, penetrate my sparkle blood, soothe this wrinkled breath. Calling you, Culture, with knives and a whet stone, to critique the life-hating/woman-hating/Nature-hating human world. There’s the familiar shuffling between urgency and strategy, and then, the moment to begin. Nature never begins, never ends, but I’m just a human, on the verge of breaking through the vertical and vivid vastness of my culture’s complex silence. There’s bloating emptiness, excitement, and a volcano erupting.
Friends say I’m so smart, but I’m not. What I am is fast. My brain is so much faster than most other peoples’, faster than it should be in ratio to my meaning-making processes, and so I can come up with witticisms, jokes, smart-assery, I skim all social surfaces like a pelican but that’s not “smart”. Smart is solving problems. Smart is organizing my shit. Smart is understanding the world, or just editing this one page. I go round and round, bound to chaos on a spiral ride and what I am now is more confused than ever, but confused on a higher level. That’s evolution I guess.
I’m a Hedonist with ADD and excesses of time, space, energy. Been labelled lazy, in a life arranged around analysis, research and subversive imagination instead of a sequence of stepping stone goals towards some destination called grown-up. Called success, or wealth. At this life-long refusal of submission I am rich, wise, and oh-so successful. Well-to-do as anyone, thank you very much.
I shun consumption but I dig accumulation. I’m acquisitive as a crow. Stuff just comes to me. Friends give me objects because I make very little actual money, and i’m physically smaller than most and they’ve outgrown their clothes. Also, experiences, friends, lovers, adventures, come to me, and i hoard them like jewels, complex gorgeous beads I string into necklaces. Lovers come, add their juice to the stew, move on or revolve endless, as beloved exes. Commitment to fabulous fantasies of romance or travel wax and wane. It’s a catch and release situation.
I live inside of Yashi, the straw bale palace I built with my pals, the greatest recycled home for a hedonist in all the production-obsessed world. I sit, idle spider in the center in the sunshine in the beauty, blessed and waiting for it, because free people recline, motherfucker—it’s in the bible! I sit just above the center, bouncing gently on this iridescent web, wanting every sparkle, knowing it’s a flowing tribute that lasts as long as I last and just to be sure, I don’t plan to last too long. I have plans for my exit—I got a strategy.
I’ve leaned left for a lifetime, as dropped out of patriarchy as a post-modern, pre-apocalypse human can be in this world. Refusing to work for the man is a privilege, shunning wage slavery and ambition is a gift. I know how to get what I need without money, and I know how to need less.
I know that golden aspen leaves look best back-lit by late-day sun, and I can impersonate crows, magpies, and decent folk if I have to. I know how to whistle through a grass-blade, how to grow pot and apple trees from seeds, and make most anybody laugh, even cops. I don’t know how to change a baby’s diaper, but I know how to change a demented geriatric persons’. I’m anxious around technology and credit cards, but not spooked of mountain lions, wolves or bears. I don’t know how to use Venmo, but I know how to build a fire and can tell you all the moon’s cycles. I can’t do math, but I can read a room, an astrology chart, and animal tracks in the snow. I don’t know how to sell myself but I can seduce anyone. I don’t have the patience for rush hour traffic but I can make a poem out of any ol’ day. I can’t identify with with capitalism, perfectionists, or republicans, but I can identify patterns of most trees, flowers, bird flight, and mental illnesses.
Look at this writer’s life—it’s fucking beautiful! Wide and sheltered and deep in bits where I went, teaspoon in hand to quest and question, conquer and be flayed open-hearted by the grief and the beauty I find. Kindness covers it all in flowers, fury lashes storms from the heated center to every leafy green edge. These steps aren’t GPS googled directions, more an improvisational dance, a blossoming haiku banging out grace in tap shoes.
It’s this mind, goddess, like a smoking censor, this swinging chain through the fog that rules my days, exhausts me trying to track it, or to just keep up. Meditation helps, and so does watching the leaves in the river, or melting ice, surrendering to seasonal strobes that don’t stop, and never taking all this too seriously. It’s always mythic in here, always a metaphor—asking daily, what’s this meta-for?
Writing with my metabolism, hummingbird, I just go on my nerve. I’m a grammatical terrorist. I want to take you to the edge, sort of safely, where you can reach out a bit from the edge and maybe touch into this other stuff, but really, it’s this other stuff that interests me.This laboratory of vocabulary. The way words work. The way words fuck on the page. Writing as sex, a way to locate and milk the energies. Some sort of flintstone striking.
And sometimes I carry a long, gently curved stick while I wander in the woods in the velvet air, and I hold it up in my two hands over my one head, and in this way I’m constantly framing archways into other worlds. I am the threshold that I cross. This feels like deep magic, the long, curving magic of a human life. Ever-arriving through portals, windows, and the privilege of beauty. And the privilege of grief.
I’ve unhitched my deeds from the quaint plow of necessity, but not from the stars I long to join. Like the Incredible Shrinking Man, I long to, am ready to pass on. It’s cosmic—I can see how easy it would be to melt like ice in the river, to step across that line, the final fuck-you to my kind, the un-speakable unwinding of evolution. The buck stopping here, I could just die.
These days, my Mama is dying, and I have tasks—call her doctor, her lawyer, call her insurance company —these are dull words that yoke my days, pierced with dark bundles of chemicals, bundles of kindling, bundles of nerve fibers. Bundles of words I’ve written—stacks of books bundled in heaps of twice-used papers—language packages always ready to stretch out, or to burn. Ever reaching towards the finished version. The someday-me, watching open-mouthed from my perch on tilting bundles of pages, that avalanche of words loose in gravity as I race back and forth through endless loops of jewel necklaced, reckless days, tidying backhoe buckets full of sentences.
One honeyed stem feeds the hole yearning to be whole, the aching emptiness, the emotional wilderness, the great swings of middle age—egoic, biochemical, astrological—till time is meaningless and there’s nothing to recall except a thrillion words on a zillion pages, a longing that one match can cure, forever. My heart’s avalanche—a freight train coming off the mountain, fast and hard, taking whole treed slopes, families, communities with it.
If I have to come back when I die, let me come as a bird or a cloud to rain for ten thousand years on the land, on birds and trees. The stories of trees, the hinges of seasons, the revelation of mycellia and animal tracks keep me sort of sane. I gain identity and entry to doors and gateways. The story of blizzard and sunshine, the feel of tires on a mountain road, the silence of the earth beneath my pillow when I practice listening for Life’s stories. The stories of the world embrace me as presence.
But what are these stories anyway? Just the bare science of observation cloaked in imagination, which itself is the shining input of another realm really. Attention, presence, awareness, precision, being here now—the yearning to connect, and with minds more than human. What can save us? I save my own self, again and again, by my muscular, corpuscular ability to create, to tell a different story, this mind the sacred ladder I climb each day, grammar lassoing limbs in the jungle, language weaving green alphabet bridges over mute dripping gorges, the gorgeous alchemical ingredient that shifts simple awareness to poetry.
The first story was to escape the world. The next story was to confront the world. The last story is to engage the world. For two years, I’ve worked to gather my life into an over-flowing website. I hold the pen like riding a wild horse fast through a dense forest. Leaning in and lying flat as truth whips past.
Desire carries me, harries me, marries and crucifies me. I wrestle with the great work of making meaning. I write to tame shadow and light, to restore shape and texture to the orphaned feelings, to drizzle the world onto the page, stained with the dazzle of the inner gaze, and flying off like a comet to connect with the underworld and the cosmos.
To Connect. The act of writing tames my loneliness and my terror of coercion. I wrote through the persistent isolation of my urban childhood. Writing taught me to reach out and to share. These words bring me into the company of others, thinking thoughts like hands and arms that can touch in space, in time. Language offers a heart-mirror, proof that I exist, that someone maybe is listening. You—thoughts, pen, page—you make me exist.
I write while I hike. I write while I drive. Dangerous. Here, writing at the edge of my river—armored, blasted and bent—an eternity of water stair-steps. A tawny stripe, a golden flowing rococo channel. You, ruffled shout, tempered ruffian. You, eternal child, delirious accumulation. You, beauty I honor who owes me nothing. Always you’re yessing and never the same. For you, I‘ve claimed the right to a Voice and to Imagination—those great tools of witness. From you I learn ease and flow, and I try not to be attached, while I long all the same to be attached.
It's memoir that i write, poetical, political, stream of consciousness nature- worshipping memoir. There’s the life in the body—the medical sojourns, the flood, the parents dying slowly, faster and faster, Life in extremis. There’s political tragedy, poetical comedy. Singularity I’ve always been, living radical and thundering down into the racing waters of myself. This adventure—writing all the time.
Here, where I talk to my soul, to this world that doesn't email or phone, but calls me in song voice. To the thousands of trees that watch me all day long, an inscription to the wind that rocks me, the sun and stars that glitter in my bloodstream. Love poems to the world is what I write. What I seek is a bio-socket for my plug. Swinging my cord all day long, in search of any port. Any storm.
I’ve been a victim, a symptom, a risky contradiction. The animal cry on the edge of the human voice. The wind screams past the panes of winter between my inner sanctum’s scarlet geranium flowers and the pines out there. The late January sun sets. I stop and place myself there, in the way of the Beauty, and let that sun shine on my forehead, honeyed warmth delivers me home into this waiting body.
That I wrote it all down makes me happy. So what if the climate-change methane bubble is gonna burst and kill all human life before I can publish my five or sixty books full of toldnesses? I’ve tried my best. I have this Life and it’s perfect. I follow the pen that guides and supports me towards this mostly-painless birth that never stops. This alone is the full proof and texture of myself, and so I savor and keep walking, folding loose paper, shoving pens into all my pockets, holy witness grazing on eye feasts and mind tripping over the radiance. I’m the tour guide and the crowd, the pointer floating before my own senses, showing the way. There! There! There!
back to list
The Final She
Today I’m sixty six ferocious years deep
and no one ever put blue cornmeal on my tongue,
or passed me, swaddled, around the circle in the arms of tribe.
Who asked for the baby-god’s blessing?
Who bent to whisper dreams into my new fuzzy ear?
Nobody there on the shore of the river, forest, ocean, desert
to drape that mantle of future worlds, or
to imagine the magic that hovered then, shooting out of my spiky head
like a fireworks fountain, like a spinner of fortune
and still the sparks shoot out and flame up
a Catherine Wheel
waiting for the Others to know me
to see me with their eyes of trees, clouds, magpies
and still i shout out from the autumn meadows
acrosss that golden threshhold of October.
today i ran into little Edie, so bright, so confident
musta been that cornmeal
and i know that i DO want to stick around
watch us all grow up in this little town
the babies unfurling like these dahlias
massive, heavy and soft that i hold in my hands
one after another like a calm, relaxed birds
snd i ask for their blessing.
keep sprinkling your version of blue cornmeal
from spirit worlds and
i will baby-bird catch it on my old-child’s tongue
mouth to the sky
—it’s my birthday, again
pour that mana inside me— it’s never too late
i can stay right here and wait
and surrounded by the mystery of you.
Here then is a prayer for YES to the imagined ancestors, who’s photos I found in my mother’s things.
A prayer to Russian/Ukranian/Moldovan kin, fixed eternal in sepia. We’ve never met, but can you feel your DNA spiral unwinding in my mortal chest? Oh, give me your Yes, nod your spirit heads. Grace me with applause like in a darkened theater when i bow and the lights are in my eyes but i hear you out there breathing, I’m so open to your sending, love and energy bending the air, lift me, praise me like that. Tell me I am good, that you are pleased, this is my prayer. I’m here to ask, to burn the karma of my family in this, the only cauldron of my life—this exhausted body.
With my laser sword of mercy and justice i stand in my mind, not alone, but surrounded and here for a purpose: not procreation or replication, no multiplication of this animal code. i wanna crack the code and lay it shattered to rest, compost to feed the forest that will grow from our heads when I’m buried, the last one standing, buried feet first, naked, with a tree planted on my head. Root through my thought-less skull, feel my relief, ladder my spine like a vine as what I was disintegrates slow, like the waves of a huge bronze gong struck by a brown-robed monk. Melt me. Nothing to fix or to be done. For the multitudes of generations, I’ll gather a forest, a garden, a waving bouquet of hydra heads, this one journey of struggle dispersing at last. This great ungathering. Just a voice saying YES to clouds and peaks and to this pen, this lonely only journey.
Follow me today, the dark sunken eyes, the babushkas and black coats, the lives i never knew who spat me out here, emerged from all your denied desire, those frozen dreams, that holiness foreclosed.
I do not come from a people who say Yes easily. Say it—YES— to me, today.
Anti-traditional woman, un-martyred, impolite, fighter for rights you never dreamed of. To Me —stuttering effort at freedom and joy, guilt ridden doubter, here yelling louder, anarcha-parachute catching the light, glittering here in the oldest sun any of us has ever known. It’s Me —your possible glory, a story machine, Me— elderly animal, student of herstory, glory of history, yes to me who no ancestors imagined, not ever. You who never dreamed of me.
Or did you? Was there one, once, long ago in Russia, in whatever was before Russia, one who thought beyond the pale, some Jewish ancestor on some move down a trail of an endless winter I’ll never suffer, buffering babies, your life packed up on your bony half starved back, schlepping, trekking away from millennia of nightmares, did You dream of Me?
‘Cos I’m the last one standing. The final Chezar in the Land of the Lost Chezars — General Oak leading a clown troupe, being a lasso, a cosmic tour guide, wrangling my parents, demented, in diapers, in their black wheelchairs, barely conscious, to their next to last home. Not counting the cost and how I’m lost. Just navigating in a blindfold this story that rarely says Yes. Will you say yes now? To me?
We swam through the fire; I stand in the fire —this body as fire, burning in here, born to be claimed by a race of the deeply un-sure. The too-big brains combing too closely all the hairs on the head of this life. Leave some of those tangled.
The tangled knot of string massed round my head to be wound at some future time gently into a smooth ball at the center of my mind and there to find one singing yes. I am here to burn karma, to burn through all this negativity and doubt, and be born perfectly into this finally spacious, ringing sky. I am the fire that surrounds us all. And then, like you, I will be Space.
Oh, ancestors, buzzing like flies trapped inside an amber of extreme negativity. All the no's circling like the umbilicus was around my throat, like ropes choking off every single yes in The Old Testament, in Russia, in Israel, in The Bronx. Keeping me grasping and far from contentment. Branded with this challenge, i come. Me, watched by dark eyes shining out of mountain peaks, out of clouds, out of language. Me, edge-walker, big talker, map-less quester, sky god bester, dreaming my Being into life.
As I shed, strip, shred karma with this laser sword, imaginary, as you are, but present today, as you are, everyday, watching from inside shadows and pine tree needles, your eyes fill the clouds, you know me.
Me, the final She —quitter of lineage. She— deliberate terminus, exit from this glass circle cage; She— rager, on the road with her sword drawn, She—the last chance, final dance, endpoint of all these stuttering efforts. She — the milk-pod seed glittering in autumn’s light, guilt ridden last call in the night, one more breath to get it right. She wandering, wondering about the meaning of life, silken warrior, worrier on a spiral journey, passing those dark eyes again and again, feeling life opening on perfect seams to a greater view. From the nowness, a split, a tear and the dark eyes everywhere saying Yes, saying, well done, saying at last a way thorough, chanting Peace.
And know that when I get that yes, peace will descend like the milk I never gave anyone. The vague peasant crowd will shuffle forward, drop their eternal burdens to drink, to rest, at last, to pass, to pass away from here, to lay the suffering down. I call the future forests to come rise up as we lay it all down, all our hearts leaves in the shining fresh morning, the new dawning. So I’m waiting. Send it into my fire mind, my mortal chest, I pray across time for that yes, send it now.
back to list
A back-bend over the vault of years, hurtling backwards through an arch—the concrete arch of a city zoo. A detour, re-tour, an arrow sent back to the first bowstring that held me in utter fascination. Suffused in the blur of early childhood memories, I recall the habitual pilgrimage, almost religious, those daily visits to The Bronx Zoo. It was just 6 blocks from my family’s apartment, and my mother took me there, in a regular rhythm, through the magical portal of the early years of my life, because it kept my attention and she didn’t know what else to do with me. Years and years of formative experience in captivity and dependency.
I learned about reflection there at the zoo, and about distortion, projection and punishment, wordless communication from a heartless world of incarceration, and the magnificence and longing received through osmosis, gathered in my hot closed fists. Captured there for a lifetime, burrowed silent inside me for decades, I open my hands and it all comes back.
The powerful smell of the elephants. The dusty darkness of the monkey house cages. The muted roars of the big cats. Massive birds and huge snakes behind bars. Captivate means to delight. But there, de-light meant to take the light away. In the stink of their excrement, their numbed souls scorched inside restless, thwarted bodies, reaching for some memory of freedom in vain behind the steel enclosures, I tasted the misery and insanity of my culture. Not for the first time.
Dilapidated souls, abraided spirits. I saw myself through the fluttering lights dying in their eyes, and their vivid shadows played in my dreams. I was taught by professionals to call this entertainment, or education, or an ark, and back at the apartment where I was caged in my own monkey house with my mother, there were bars on all the windows behind where we waited for my father to come home and feed us something. To clang through all those steel locks on the door. We were his possessions, his ark and his castle; he’d planted his flag and left us there in our occupied, intangible lands. But we all three languished in our cages, violated shadows of our possible freedom, the secret stories of our chop-shop modifications, and how we were made to be this deformed.
And I didn’t see the hunts, the mass-murder expeditions, where professional men captured—first, the babies—killing every adult in the herd, pack, pride that would stop them from their exotic zoo prizes. Didn’t rise up in witness of the mortality that followed, the sacrifice of older zoo animals to make room for the more valued babies. The vivisection labs, private hunting ranches, circuses that took the aged ones on to complete the torture till at last their suffering ended. Now I know there are cycles like this that never end, far from our eyes and consciences, as we gaze through the bars at the spectacle of our superiority. I was a child, pressed by forces, exotic and domestic. I was a sponge with no power, then.
I learned paradox early on because I loved the zoo; thrilled to be in the presence of real wild animals. And I hated the zoo because I saw these beloveds up close day after day, and I felt the intensity of their suffering. And so I learned as a child to slide greased through my confusion into denial, numbness, selfish pleasures, while my instincts and empathy bled away into my excitement at an elephant ride. And I struggle to find my way back through that hypnotic swaying, the familiar-as-my-childhood room, to the mazes of cages, the flies and the stink to some living image of our original perfection. I was a lonely-only child in that barred room before I had you. I will forever-more refuse that bloody lie of an ark and the darkness that surrounds us now, separated as we are from all the cosmos. I never went to another zoo again.
And that bottomless loneliness still lives inside my grown-up hide—rides me down as I pace all sped-up by the television, sugar, personality disorders and other madnesses that formed me, deformed me to fit inside the tight boxes and caged minds of my kind. Expected to take refuge in abstraction, I can no longer pretend. Bad food and concrete cages. Good food and concrete canyons can never substitute for freedom or relationship.
This morning I send prayers out to the souls of all my old friends there, on the inside—surely all dead by now and moved on. I send effigy traces into spaces where they once were led astray, eroding far away, disintegrating before the human gaze, like I was. Oh my friends, how I loved you! How I dreamed of your salvation, and my own.
In memory of all this, I want to say You are indelible in me. You who saved my young life so very long ago. I remember You.
Five years old at The Bronx Zoo.
back to list
Clarified, from a distance, the massive ponderosa watches me approach. Calmly she stands, focused on the love-song I sing into her giant open heart. She’s a massive pier connected to a seed in the earths’ center, and she guards the solitude of a meadow where a young aspen grove reaches upward, connected as grass is downward. My sentinel lover, bark of my flesh, roots singing in my dreams, holding the circle in an endless enmeshed and romantic resonance.
My pockets filled with heart rocks keep me anchored to earth. I arrive to touch her, say my tree name. I breathe into her sun-warmed trunk and press my body into her body. My breasts part like wings, and I offer her my heart, extend and deepen my breathing. I lower my head, eventually, and touch her rough skin with my forehead, grateful to be dented. Feeling her great presence, the temple between my temples, I stand touching her like this, gently vibrating. Yes, I’m in love with her—she is my teacher.
The teacher is wounded, multiply. Barbed wire pierces her, wrapped round where she has enfolded it over time. Sovereign. Once, five big spikes were driven into her; she wears them like proud jewelry piercings. Exalted. An axe once bashed a shelf-like wedge at man-height, or what once was man height, for she’s grown on and he is dead and forgotten elsewhere. Transcendent. My teacher, wounded, offers lessons of forgiveness and indomitability.
Yesterday I licked her bark, let her taste me. I rub sweat from my armpits into her golden, sap-coated shelf, mark her with my small gift of recognition. I honor her for her quiet work of perseverance, of beauty, that inspires my own. I shelter her spirit, as she shelters mine.
The climb up here is slow and glorious. I am growing old beneath her shade and shelter. It’s 50 degrees in January. The early stages of global warming, I tell folks, are so lovely. he seductive, easy allure of sun and a warm wind. Even the word, “warming”, such a soothing word. They should call it “wake the fuck up! change or die!,” something more honest and urgent. I heard that this year the bears never even went into hibernation.
My boots massage the sparkling trail, sending, in stepping-language, the message—I come. I come. Treaded soles leaning into the brilliant enamel blue skybowl, climbing higher through moraines and meadows of aspens and willows, I follow the trickling creek below. The earth invites my next step, unrolls before me like it’s been waiting to welcome this hairless upright body striding with 4 bounding dogs. Breaking through space like a paddle in water, the skin of perfect peace permits my sliding through.
Leaning back against a cone of light, into her patient waiting arms, denim against bark, warm blood against still wood, enfolded by roots and my own intention, she holds my bony shoulders and I let go of the first forward edge of separation. It’s a practice, spiritual and political. It’s a way to be intimate, submissive, present, and copulate with nature. Coupling, nesting inside the world, I listen to the wisdom of more-than-human voices. I dream of how easy it might have been for us once, before the great disconnection convinced us we were better than our ancestors who loved the earth without thoughts of hierarchy or exploitation. Consorting with trees who were gods and they knew us by our real names and we were blessed to be known this way.
I sing her my day’s walking song, and my thin voice grows to flow over wheat colored meadows, under jet trails, through shining evergreens, braiding with softest banners of birdsong. This is the best part of my day. Last night, I walked up my mountain in starlight and stopped, facing her, feeling the specific placement of roots and trunk, two mountain valleys away. Faced her image in my heart and felt myself connecting like a thunk into flesh by some spirit-arrow. Like this, sending and receiving love.
How to be human-being and not human-doing? It’s impossible to be reciprocal with something as great as the world. How to be unstained by this consciousness of my unslakable hunger for resources, the heat of my need to understand the transcendence? Practice just holding the form I write poetry about, and not the terrible weight of this longing and this guilt. I try to just Be with her, not to be human following human thoughts off the cliff edge. Try not to follow associations as pulse follows breath. Maybe, she says to me, you can stop trying to deny that you’re human. Because that would be like me denying being tree. And that would be a shame I think in my human head.
In the woods, going home, there are robins winging from tree to tree. Robins in January! Surely the end of the world. Stop thinking! I stand in my melting tracks, trying, until a Western Red Flicker blesses me, and then I move down the trail, fire and coal feathers blazing just behind my eyes. At the first heavy steel gate I push through rusty hinges built to last centuries in defense of private property’s immortality. Intent on dissolution, I’m still impressed with the arrogant weight and certainty of steel. Humanity marks the forest. The forest waits for time’s eraser. In the big meadow, the gang of ravens flies thru the sky, a black robe tossed over the sun. Their wings beat the air like an inky carpet snapped out a window. They call in hoarse hollars to each other, changing shapes overhead as one full-voiced raucous star field. Pearl runs full tilt up and down, hunting, while the wolf dogs stay closer, wagging and grinning.
Observations and thoughts plan me, pinch me all the way down as I try and lose them for pure awareness of the now. Step. Arrive. Step. Feel the wind touching me, and then try to lose that thought too. Just arrive, like they tried to teach me at the Buddhist University down the mountain.Three years of that, and I’m still dodging student loans like bullets after 12 years of the rest of my life. Two masters degrees follow me up the hill, judging my counter-productivity in solemn monotones. Paper trails of words tighten round my ankles, pulling me down. On the run, I’m on the run, in hot pursuit of dissolution. I want to disappear and reappear on the other side, the animal side of higher education and other human habits.
“Spaciousness! Spaciousness!” I call to spirits of air. “Open up and let me in!” Chasing such desires is a mockery, and it’s my life. To let go of control is hard work and of course, it’s all about control. The irony follows me on the inside of my ears, shouts laughter into my bootprints, melting nothing. Two masters’ degrees. The print on my cards says M.A.M.A., it’s like a PhD and a half but who fucking cares? My mind is bent in the ways of the destroyers, and I can’t stop taking notes. Maybe that’s the best part. It’s all mythic. What I want now is the utter disintegration of subject and object, that’s something they don’t teach in schools in my country. Want to ablate the coupling, to burn it all off, to follow the sheer cliff calling me to fly away from nouns, to soar free of all the names. Want a purely metaphoric language, psychic and psychedelic, the language of trees and birds and river, that will free me to stand like a ponderosa in a high desert watershed landcape. To step into that tapestry and hold the form and never write another word.
“I’ll pray for you”—I told the ponderosa goddess, teacher, queen—early on in our romance. “Pray TO me”, she whispered, and so I do. Up there, at my beloveds’ feet, I stuff love notes into lichen-lined letter-slots, fill the holes in with spruce cones and heart rocks, and collapse from the effort of being moved this deeply.
West-Bound Road-trip Journal
Rockefeller Grove is ten thousand acres of unlogged Goddess trees. The largest contiguous trail of old growth redwoods on the planet. And the catedral of Holy Holy Mothersong.
We walk on duff and decaying ancestors, spirit arms raised like the sword-ferns in salutations to the canopy way up there. These trees—embodiments of earth’s longing for sky—climb to rocket upward towards clouds where fog lingers, called here and held here by their slow breathing. There is no ground, no bottom to the earth, said the woman in the hot tub last night, There are only fallen redwood trees.
Under the duff, more duff. Happy graveyards of crumbling bodies nurse the living, reaching giants. Descendants nourished by ancestors—the font and template of our deepest human longings. Fill our emptiness with this feast, our questions with this surety. All the discontinuous points of pain, all the gaps we stagger across or stare across leaking blood and vapor uselessly. Heal us. Here is integrity and peace that could mend a world shattered by human greed and separation. Here is the massive antidote to our tremendous terror.
We slide through nine miles, effortless l, and think of the Sinkyone Tribe who lived here for thousands of years without destroying anything. Salmon and tan oak acorns and berries were their food; beauty and sacred metaphor was enough. Light pours through us, over deer and owl cry, and the trees creaking high in winds, rubbing, moaning in the light. I lie on my back. Redwoods bloom above me like luminous, sun-drenched flowers. Illuminated by a green spell of grace draped like hanging moss over our human heads. Anointed by light, vast and intimate, blown out of celestial trumpets, the sun like love raining down and through us, nourishing our roots. This light is warm honey, minted green—time is green, life is green, and forgiveness like honey drizzles down the giant stems of the flower trees.
There’s a calm that pulses a circuit from the heartwood of these enormous trees, standing here like this since before Christianity was born. Ten million ancient trees filled with angels, holding hands underground, chanting like dolphins do for the healing of the World. Rubbing and creaking they sigh, holding each other in love through storms and the fires of time. They’re a Zen koan for effortless achievement. As if they’ve been standing here forever like this and the sky fell down and landed in between their spaces.
Imperturbable. Auburn trunks stand pumping memory and sustenance up from the heaps of sweet decaying logs. Felled by time and wind, their girth twice as tall as my head, I walk past their lengths singing my favorite walking song. I sing one and a half full rounds before I reach the crown of roots. Here are two that fell after a millennia of holding hands beneath the duff. Fell like twin walls. We, passing between them still feel the magnetic longing that flickers here— eternal, erotic. Their shallow root systems spread like two vertical rooms, like palms raised in peace, form are our gateways through. Even mosquitoes can’t pop this bubble of peace bequeathed to my fevered brain, my raging activist spirit, my puny, guilt-laden humanness by these beings of fire and air, earth and water.
Green voices humming through spongy sapwood tell tales of long, slow, vertical centuries. Under the distance of their chorus I vibrate slowly, unwinding in the seamless story of their singular song—a journey of interconnection. We breathe it in like air and are enmeshed as we’re taken up. In this calm sea of green light, we are ant-like, tiny beings crawling through the giant realm of ancient trees.
Trees growing on trees growing on trees, a million years deep. On a hill of long-decomposing tree, seven giants sprout, a thousand years tall, a cathedral. Caves carved beneath their feet tell the story of fire’s devouring hunger. Gnawed by flames and covered in moss, the soot-smoothed sides of filigreed caverns beckon from darkness. Above, they shine in the light. There are no edges here and green is the fire that doesn’t consume. Green just burns and collapses in ever deepening fables of green. We’re walking through this dense and mythic hush under the liquid calls of birdsong. With each ascending note, the atmosphere opens in ever expanding circles, pushing aside the vastness of space, as if my consciousness, dialing through long-distance circuits, connects suddenly in stillness to the limitlessness that is the depth of world.
This forest is the counterweight to all the concrete of Manhattan towering on the opposite end of the continent. These very trees are what keeps us from capsizing in space to sink beneath the intensity of the grey death cult of a civilization we keep creating. Oh, to be a Sinkyone Indian a thousand years before the idea of concrete. To have this green wisdom to cradle me always. To live inside enough-ness.
Forget Buddhist notions of non-attachment. I want to be attached like this! Goddess, attach me like a woven thing—cord me to creation. My heart pierced forever with this verdancy, break open my separateness like this and fuse me back into patterns of reaching limbs. Let my mind wander from my high-desert home back towards memories of this green palace, this honeyed light. I drink it in against the droughts that will come. Shamrock carpet. Lowest boughs glowing. Bright-leafed maple gorging on this sun. Long, cool shadows behind me. Me on my knees, be-ing here. Stunned simple, kneeling in fallen needles, decomposing with duff to feed the world well. Chanting goodness, chimes of clarity, the voice of this light. Sending life and light like health and wealth where inside and outside become one single surface.
Imagine being abducted by trees. Imagine being taken suddenly from your life, flung up by the redwoods into highest tree consciousness. Julia Butterfly was surely abducted like that. And we, in our own way, seized, snatched by the scruff of our souls beyond puny imaginings. Captured hearts, held in the pockets of forest. Before leaving, we re-visit the baby trees. Tender and bright with new growth, I touch their heads and marvel at the height these heads will reach. Think about the decorated feather Kate tied to a tree our size. Imagine it someday, impossibly 300 feet up in the sky. I can taste it in my mind. I’ve been seized and taken up like that.
Sticks and stones, redwood driftwood, seaweed and sea-polished agates. We walk slowly, stoop to sift, selecting through wet, salty piles as the light selects us, as events select us, as time trips and travels along that haze of crashing waves. A cantering roar that thrashes us all down to our smooth, adamantine centers. An then even those dissolve. The connected centers circle here, sifting sorted sea gifts in paradise.
The ocean shivers, stands up on her flukes to peer at the beach, deciding. With a great breath she rises, sun lit and shining like green glass, poses there in her clarity, seafoam sliding off, and then she roars, folding to roll her great weight up the hill of this seashore. Lifted inside that wall of light, building the energy for the crest, she exhales before slamming shut like my heart after your brief and final visit. The vulva of the wave enfolded hollers, released with a gasp or a yodel in primal drama.
The sea and the trees, so close here in Northern California, and so different. I’m missing the trees as soon as we hit the open arena of all this sky. The beach is too big, my pulse’s beats too spaced between metaphors and nothing to hold me. The business of the sea is Dispersal. She lives to break things down, crush them up to a pounded separateness. To sand, that irritates my softness and sticks to everything with its sea-salty glue.
The energy of the forest is about weaving tiny, disparate things together, it holds me with the All as one in a basket of tiny living proofs. The sea annihilates all proof, destroys the evidence. The gulls hunt, the dead wash up, thoroughly ended to linger and bite your feet as carcass shells. In the forest, nothing dies.
From Patrick’s Point, the skirt of growling surf makes a fine, wide crescent against the headlands. Ruffled and rough voiced, she refines everything that’s ever found. Finding it all. Dissolution squats heavy in the light, and the crashing waves hold us back.
Thrasher Mother—you Dark Lilith—I love you too. Nowhere to hide from your fierce winds of change and chaos. The sea is a shapeshifter of all, swimming in chains of her restlessness. She recognizes me way up here, clinging to the last green fringe of rooted vegetable life. On the beach before the enigmatic engine I sort handfuls on tiny colored agates searching for a green from the heart of the final ocean’s heavy story. A green that can carry me Home.
Heading south now, the redwoods shrink from millennia to mere centuries old and wave their lazy branched goodbyes to us. Leaving the wild womyn hills of the North, leaving the softest silence of the Mother forest, leaving that singular womb-iness, cellular happiness. Leaving the colors—that specific matte to the bark in the dark, her gleam in the always- shade that somehow conveys red in all that deep darkness. That ineffable something attached to being inside that ancient-grove groove where I root down, hold on, spin webs and call the fog to come.
Burls bloom in 500 years to hold the packed promise to the next hundred centuries of wild wind. The lungs of the future, if there will be a future, wait, dreaming more redwoods. They recite reassurances to be patient, chant ritual invocations that fly into the now in envelopes of fog. While underfoot, a zillion roots hold hands, praying in circles like womyn on land, for Life. Life.
Flung below the bright green canopy rocks the floor of the world. Soothed like that in a cradle of shamrocks and ferns and massive trunks the size of apartment houses in The Bronx. Wood stood straight as spears, impaling such a silence, like angels dreaming in my ears. At the speed of a redwood, trees charge off into adventures, vertically directed, sinking, soaring, accomplishing their thickening in spiral rings, singing creation myths back to the tree gods.
In the forest that was saved for us, the four percent of old growth redwood still standing on earth, spared, for now, from the chainsaws, just a charnel depth of ancestors, a deep bloom-booming digeridoo. Dig straight down through the duff with a spoon, through ten thousand redwood bodies fallen across the thatched centuries defying death, life lingers sprouting endless salads of clover that snap shut in sunshine. And the ground that we walk on and kiss nursed by fallen giants, composting giants fallen from the sky in the slanting sun rays of god’s eye.
On the road again, passing semi-truck after truck full of redwood bodies— shingles, decking, hot tubs, redwood junk mail, trucks-full of sacred ancient ancestor future plywood. We’re leaving the forest primeval that’s leaving the planet, so much poorer without her. Leaving us all alone with our grief at the endless parade of trucks, rage popping like hot oil, feeling my heart go up in smoke.
Pelicans so close to us in slow motion wind, I see the white marks above their bills, their ancient dinosaur eyes; they touch their shadows to the sea. Pelicans against the long white curl of the wave, and none looking back. Seal as big as a cow swims lazily into sight, plays slowly between the giant rocks, the sound from the other that floats beside is a growl-heavy roar— the lion in sea-lion. There’s a tide in the forest. There are plants in the sea. Headlands of Big Sur looming in lupines, gorse, fennel, iceplants. Huge oaks almost to the cliff edge, happy in the salt apron. Driftwood. Kelp. Wind.
Edges everywhere are softening. Ridges, ledges, gardens wedged above the river, leaching mineral stripes, struck by sudden sunlight and swallows. Rooted rock, uprooting river, all the spirits of place in The Mamarock pushing the inner edges like an eardrum as we’re blown down the sweet tunnel towards home.
Oh, Utah! Unbuild the tabernacles! God is here. God, the crison arch against the cobalt sky. God the raven sailing through the arch. Only flood the minds of the righteous with nature, simple ecstasy, stone-framed below the windy blue. Slickrock, rimrock, river rock, capstone. Veils of water tumbling, long caresses of another god, shaving the rock thinner. Stone and water coupled to un-couple, molecules unclench, time eats itself up.
Define time: Mesozoic, Jurassic, Paleolithic. The weight of these ages presses this place into Right Now, and all the verbs are present tense. Muscles tense, leaves rattle in the wind, stone breathes and steps away. Stars fill the spaces, and satellites join them. Great heaving journeys of curves, blocks, oceanic layerings emptying permanence. Ocean floor, now valley floor, splayed like a red footprint, the vermillion wash absobs all the ghosts of whales and pikas and humans into this one psychedelic drama the tourists try to get on film. “Didja get it? Didja get it?” Chuckling ghosts thin their vibrations, listening to the silliness of the 2-leggeds and spinning off the scarlet stones.
When the last chunk of rock pops off into timeless space, will the walruses return to sway, weightless and sunless in the repetition of salty seas? Eels and sturgeon, shining scales, all the fluid energy still swims across these stones. The sea’s in the curl of the juniper, the swallows’ swirling flight, the swell of the arches, a redstone wave. It curls to break, bearing down, bearing it—the weight of millennia, the great O of the wave. Bearing busloads of Germans and Texans, bearing the heavy stars, the satellite, all our human insecurities, wanting to capture this miracle on film, did you get it?
Arches open like god mouths, laughing the rainclouds, seeding mesas with fishes for later. A school of chittering grackles pass overhead. In their shadows, fins replace wings and leave trackless ripples in the air of the just-dried-out sea. We leave food for the spirits and float on under flukes of clouds.
Red rock under bare feet, shredding twist of cedars and raven voices split the stones further. Scrub oak scratches her messages into red shredding parchment, ageless spirits of wind and rain watch over us, waiting. Our cultures will crumble long before these ever flinch and look away.
Somewhere out there, men are planning for war. Nuclear bombs detonated under the earth. Jets scream over the skies. These rocks can wait forever. These men, shut-down so tightly to life. They are shutting us all into their minds. Locks turn, holding on. These rocks slide open. Spinning their tumblers, they let go. What flies out? Fall out of time—fallen arches, busted windows, loosening frames. Space dances between elaborate densities. Going up like smoke. Like extravagant needles. Exhale our exotic crumbs. Shake it all off. Freedom.
back to list