Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Some things are so beautiful they make you do things you thought you would never do. I am not talking about a beautiful woman, but snow. I am back.

When I was a teen I raced snowmobiles. Hard to believe for those of you who only know this version of me. But it is true. I drag raced Sno Jet snowmobiles mostly in the summer, and took first place everytime. Well almost every time. Once I got second place. I blame that on my Dad because he was the one that souped up the machines, against all rules and regulations. Back in those days they made the women race in the "powder puff" race. Oh Pa-lease! I think they did that because secretly they knew the women would blow them out of the water, or off the grass as the case may be.

What I liked best about snowmobiles was the suit. I had a black suit with yellow stripes down the sleaves and legs. It was hot. A black fur collar. A black fur helmet cover. It was so 70's. I had patches all over my suit, too. Sayings like "Don't eat yellow snow", things like that.  My suit kept me very warm and I wore it for all outdoor activities.

One winter day I had on my black snowmobile suit with the yellow stripes and trudged through the deep snow in the field behind my house to my "fort". My getaway. My safe harbor.  That day there were snowflakes the size of golf balls, you know the kind.  I found a nice spot and stretched out in the snow, my black snowmobile suit with the yellow stripes keeping my warm and dry. I stared up into the sky in amazement as I watched the giant snowflakes fall millions of miles down from the sky. They kept coming and coming and coming...I imagined them looking down at me, a big black blob in the snow. Slowly they fell. A soft landing on my eyelash. A moist landing on my tongue. A crash landing on my patch that warned about yellow snow. It was one of the most magical moments of my life.

Snow is powerful. It can stop everything. It can force us to stay home with our loved ones. It can close schools. It keeps most of the bad guys off the streets and helps me feel safe at night. It records the stories of the animals as they play out their life and death struggles under the stars. It can sparkle brighter than a diamond. It can light the entire night with just a sliver of moonlight to reflect off its drifts and ridges. It can hold shadows. It give the mice tunnels and the fox challenges. It allows us the joy of sledding and skiing and snowshoeing. And the pain of shoveling. It is one of the most mysterious, magical gifts of Mother Earth.

And for that I give thanks.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Thank you and good night.

I am simplifying my life. Plugging the energetic dam so to speak. Disconnecting so as to focus more fully on fewer things. I have had to transition between living the life of long term unemployed to full-time state employee. I don't have the time or the energy to do all the things I was doing before. I am whittling down my life. I want to forage wild foods for my pantry. I want to write music. I want to spend quiet time alone or with a few friends. That is about it right now.

I am not sure why I started blogging. I mean really, my thoughts and opinions are no more important than anyone else's so why bother writing about them? I love to tell a good story, I certainly can stand on a soapbox as well as the next person. But I am tired.

So I will not be posting any more blogs in the near future. I am not sure if I ever will. I just wanted to say thanks for reading them and thanks for entering my world.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Destruction by Omission

There are 566 Federally recognized Tribes in the United States. I say "Federally recognized" because it is a legal definition and only Tribes given this designation are entitled to recognition and treatment as such by the US Government. What about those Tribes without federal recognition? There are nearly 100 that have received official recognition from 20 states, some have applied for federal recognition. And there are many more who have no recognition at all. All of these Tribes have their own governments, their own communities and cultural practices. Most struggle with issues of poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, and health concerns such as diabetes and heart disease.

Michigan has twelve Federally recognized Tribes and three State recognized Tribes. Do you know their names? Do you know where they are located? When was the last time you read anything in the mainstream newspaper or heard a story on the radio or television about any of the Tribes in Michigan? Or anywhere? Maybe you once heard something about a new casino, or the terrible murder of a young boy on the Saginaw Chippewa lands. My bet is your Tribal landscape is barren.

Why is that? Why does mainstream America omit information on the lives and stories of over 600 Indian Nations that are our neighbors, our Sisters and Brothers? I would argue it is the concept of destruction by omission at its finest.

But this blog is not about Tribes or our collective ignorance of them.

We are destroying the Earth. Slowly but surely. We continue to pour chemicals and toxins into the soils and waters. We bomb. We demolish. We frack. We drill. Our numbers grow and grow with no regard for the other Beings we displace with our constant sprawl. The banner that we all fight under reads "Economic Growth!". Build more factories, create more jobs, make more money. But at what cost? Why do so few ask this question?

We live on a living breathing planet called Earth. She exists due to thousands of complex cycles and relationships between the Land, Water, Air, Fire, and all Living Beings that call Earth home. She is an entity all to Herself. Her function is perfection.

How is it that we call ourselves the most intelligent animals (yes, we are animals) and yet we kill for no reason, damage our life sustaining land and water, and act as though we are the only lifeforms that matter?

Destruction by omission.

How many trees can you name? How many birds? How many flowers? How many fish? How many animals? Can you describe the carbon cycle? Can you describe the effects of the moon on the planet? Can you describe the water cycle? Can you read the weather based on the behavior of animals or the position of the leaves in the wind?

Why not?

In all the speeches I have heard on our education system and training children for the future, I have not once heard the topic of Ecology listed as a core requirement. Science and technology has top bill right now, but they are focused on economic growth. Why do we omit Ecology or Limnology or Soil Science or Natural History from the list of desirable courses? How can we expect anyone to care about our Earth when few know anything about Her or how things function? How can we appreciate the impacts of our actions if we don't know a thing about the ecology of life and how all things are related?

We used to know these things because we lived with Nature, we were a responsible member of the community. We respected the cycles of Nature, the Relationships between all living Beings. We took care of the Land and Waters because we respected them. Today, our lives are so isolated from Nature that we have to be taught about these things, and most people could care less about learning it. They have forgotten their part in the great Web of Live. What do we respect today? Good question.

As fast as our population is growing, someday in the not to distant future we will have gobbled up most of the land, pushed out most of the animals so that Nature will only be found in "nature preserves" and zoos. What kind of place will that be, where humans have literally taken over the world? Already it is hard to find any wild place to go to. Some leading biologists are saying there are no wild lands left in the world. That breaks my heart. Because there WERE wild lands when I was young. To think that the children of today will never know what it feels like to surrounded by a healthy wild forest with all its mysteries and magic is unimaginable to me. That most will never feast their eyes on the billions of stars in the night sky or see the Milky Way because we have polluted the night sky with artificial light is a great tragedy. I have seen such a sky but once. In Alaska, 1985. It was breathtaking and I feel blessed to have witnessed the beauty. And I know that I will have to travel a long distance to ever see a sky like that again.

So my vote is to make the study of Ecology and our Earth required for all children everywhere. If we don't, then we will surely destroy this beautiful world we live in. We can stop this but time is running out. Our Spirits are connected to all Living Beings. The more we disconnect from them, the more we disconnect from ourselves.

Oh, and if you want to learn about Tribal life in Michigan, you can look at a few newsletters and newspapers by clicking below. If you want to read some news about Tribes outside of Michigan, then tap here.

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Observer
Keweenaw Bay Indian Community Tribal Newsletter
Bay Mills News
Grand Traverse Band News
Little River Band Little River Currents
Hannahville Indian Community Tribal Newsletter

No omission here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Walk On Blue

Today I think of Blue and my friend Michael. I hope he doesn't mind me posting this picture. You need to see beautiful Blue not just read about him. There are no words to express the deep feelings of sorrow that come with the loss of a companion. My heart breaks for my friend. Wishing you many adventures Blue. I know your Spirit will be in that canoe with Michael, paddling the Lake Superior shores. Rest in peace.

Sunday, September 1, 2013


In 2005 I lost my dog Idgie to breast cancer. I swore I would never "put a dog to sleep", that it was really just putting MY pain to sleep, because I couldn't bear to watch the suffering. But in the end that is exactly what I did.

I felt like a murderer.

But after I got over the guilt I knew in my heart it was the right decision. She was suffering. I was suffering. Hers was physical, mine was emotional. She wouldn't get better. I would. Well, as good as one can get when they go through these heart breaking decisions. I don't want to play God. Ever.

One of my dearest friends is now going through this anguish. And it breaks my heart to watch his suffering as he says his goodbyes to his companion, Blue.

I first met Mike back in the early 1990s when I took a rock climbing class at the Ledges. We didn't know each other well then, but he made an impression on me, as he does with everyone he meets. Mike is outrageously funny, deeply caring, loves Michigan as much as I do, is an adventurer of life and wilderness. It was only fitting that a Being as special as Blue would come into his life.

Blue is one of those breeds of dogs that chases sheep around (he doesn't really chase sheep around but would if he had any sheep to herd). And he is the most highly trained dogs I have ever seen. Wherever they go Mike and Blue give a show, with Blue fetching his frisbee and doing all things that go with fetching frisbees, all by Mike's hand signals. I have been with them in parks and a long trip to rice camp in the UP and it is the same everywhere. People stop to watch in amazement. Young and old, rich and poor. Blue is simply amazing. He is an equalizer, an angel of joy.

If I were a dog I would want to be Blue.

Blue has traveled by canoe to places I have only dreamed of. With his personal flotation device strapped securely around his black and white furry body, Blue rides contently in one of Mike's beautiful cedar canvas canoes while Mike paddles him through Michigan's wild lands. He has Mike wrapped around his little toe, such as it is.

It was just a bit over a week ago that Mike got the news. Blue has some serious cancer. And of course he is devastated, as are all who know and love Blue. Yes it is true, death is a part of life. But that doesn't make it any easier.

There is a very special magic that the Creator has given to Dogs. For those who can open their hearts to it, there is no deeper love or healing than that which is freely given by our Dog companions. And because it touches us in places we rarely feel, it is that much harder when they leave us. I am finding there is still some pain in my heart as Mike and Blue's journey is reminding me of Idgie and my last days together. It hurts like hell. I have tears right now as I write this. Such is the love for a Dog.

I am keeping Mike and Blue in my prayers as they walk these final days together. I hope you will to.

Monday, August 5, 2013


I just finished eating a bowl of venison stew made with mushroom soup, juniper berries, dryad's saddle mushrooms, wild rice from the western Upper Peninsula, and kale from my garden. As I sat in my backyard enjoying my supper, I watched as a pair of Cooper's Hawks, born just this year, glided between the large white oak trees that watch over my home. As my eyes traveled down the beautiful gray trunks of these wise trees, I noticed a knot hole, just the right size for a hive of bees. It was too far away for these blue eyes to see; it would take a pair of binoculars to confirm. My eyes continued on their journey, marveling at the gifts that surrounded me.

First they took in the grape vines that wind and twist down my old metal fence, loaded with the promise of deep purple grape juice in the fall. I saw the dark brown seeds of Curly Dock which I will harvest to make a gruel. Yellow rose hips hang like ornaments on a Solstice tree, dangling from the fragrant pink rose bushes that an old woman planted long ago. They will give me a nutritious tea in the wintertime to help me keep colds at bay.

I gazed at the two apple trees that shade my bees. The Macintosh is absolutely covered in apples this year, many without a spot on them. I never use chemicals. This year the bugs decided to share with me. I look over at the bees going in and out of their hives, bringing in pollen and nectar, making the most delicious honey that ever was. Their pollen baskets are so big and yellow I can see them from quite a distance away. When the sun is just right, I can watch their flight paths...some flying up and out, others spiraling to gain height then disappearing over the apple trees. I wonder where they go.

My black raspberries have done their work and gifted me with many sweet juicy berries this year. Behind the raspberries the beautiful green leaves and tall stalks of Jerusalem artichokes command attention, towering amongst the orange-flowered trumpet vines and lavender Rose of Sharon bushes. Soon the chokes' dazzling yellow flowers will appear. But the best part lies just beneath the surface of the ground. Their tasty tubers, my favorite of all time, are to die for.

And it doesn't stop there. I look to the garden beds, so neglected by this forager, and they are bursting with color. Blazing star looks like a blue torch lighting the day. Splashes of white, yellow and orange dot the vines and herbs and climbers. New green tomatoes, starting to show color, tempt me with the promise of their heavenly taste. Cherokee purples, Garden Peach and other heirlooms I have never tried. It is not the best year for tomatoes, but still they provide.

As I sit here in my living sharing my Sacred world with you, the house wren babies that were born in the clay flower pot on my front porch are noisily begging for more food. They will fledge soon and once again there will be stillness outside my front door. I will miss them.

All these things so freely given to me by the Trees and the Plants and the Bees and the Birds. Some call them resources. I call them gifts. How blessed are we.

Friday, August 2, 2013

All Part of the One

Today I finally understand that we are all part of a Universal Spirit. I don't know why it hit me when it did. I have have read this, heard this, sang this. But today I felt it in a very deep place. The place that causes movement as big as an earthquake in one's Soul.

As I walked down the blue carpeted hall of the State building I work in I realized that each person I passed was a part of me and I them. Each of us expresses a part of that Spirit in our unique way. Think of this. Ten thousand people are given whistles. Each person will play their own song in their own style. But the sound coming from those ten thousand whistles is the same. Much like the expression of who we are as a part of the Universal Spirit.

I thought of people I don't like. I thought of people I like very much. I used to think these folks were at opposite ends my spectrum. But they are actually just exaggerated aspects of the same Great Spirit. And if this theory holds true, then it follows they are also part of me.

Many people I don't like openly exhibit behaviors I am uncomfortable with. Behaviors that are also, or have been, part of me. Things I try to heal. Things I try to hide. Things I have done and now deeply regret. Things I wish I could do but never will.

And those folks I adore? As the song goes, "Oh Lord it's hard to be humble." I see all the things I like about me in them. Except bigger somehow. I'm a little creative, but I love someone who is really creative. I am drawn to adventurers, seekers, dreamers. Those trying to make the world a better place. People who cook without a recipe. Are you getting me here? Do you see the connection?

I look at people differently now. With new eyes. And here is one thing I have learned.

To judge another is to judge myself.

And would it not follow that to love another is also to love myself, given we are both part of the same Source? By accepting and loving all things about me, then...


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wearing a Veil

I don't know how
not to care...
to pass by an animal
dead on the road
and not think about
its Birth and Life
and tragic Death.
It lays there alone
melting into pavement
instead of Earth.

I don't know how
not to care
about melting ice caps
and drowning White Bears
and great Inuit Hunters
and not think about their Births and Lives
and tragic Death.
They sink into the darkness of Water.
which should be ice

I don't know how
not to care
about the dying Water
watching Bird and Turtle and Child
swimming through gas and oil
unknowing of the cancer,
mutation, sickness
and not think about their innocence
and our guilt.

I don't know how to wear a veil
that shields my eyes
from the suffering of our of world
the way some do...
those who drive over carcasses
drill for more oil
pour poison into River
without a
much less

Is something wrong with me
or them.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Solitary Confinement

In my fifties
Living as if 93
and friends all dead.
Children never call.
Phone never rings.
Only the dark places of my mind
offer their company
And I drown again
in loneliness.
Night after night
weekend after weekend
month after month
year after year.
Whatever was my crime
to be sentenced
solitary confinement?

"John Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, is the world’s leading expert on loneliness. In his landmark book, Loneliness, released in 2008, he revealed just how profoundly the epidemic of loneliness is affecting the basic functions of human physiology. He found higher levels of epinephrine, the stress hormone, in the morning urine of lonely people. Loneliness burrows deep: “When we drew blood from our older adults and analyzed their white cells,” he writes, “we found that loneliness somehow penetrated the deepest recesses of the cell to alter the way genes were being expressed.” Loneliness affects not only the brain, then, but the basic process of DNA transcription. When you are lonely, your whole body is lonely." --Stephen Marche, The Atlantic.

The blue light of the clock
glows like the moon
in my room.
Thoughts wake me
every hour.
I turn to see the glowing numbers
over and over again.
I close my eyes and breathe
hoping to smell patchouli and rose
from the pillow you once lay your head upon.
So many losses over the years
each taking a piece of my heart
before there has been time for healing.
Now time feels suspended
Where am I?
Why am I?
And who really cares?

A recent study by AARP reported that in 2010, 35% of people over 45 were chronically lonely while just ten years earlier the number was 20%. Some say the advent of social media has made us more lonely, creating superficial connections that do not feed the need for deeper human relationship. Kind of like our diets. We can't eat just one cookie, it must be five or ten or more...we are never satisfied because we are literally starving for nourishment.

I have met two types of single women. Type A never wants to be in a relationship again, due to prior bad relationships/marriages. A healthy, happy relationship is beyond their comprehension and they see no other reality than repeating their past. These women have given up on love. I have never heard them say they are happy being single, only that they never want to be married again.

Type B women really want love in their life and have worked hard to try and heal things about themselves that have contributed to relationships that didn't work out. They believe it is possible. And they suffer the most with their loneliness because they still dream of a loving, happy relationship.

I have never had a single person tell me I just need to learn to enjoy my own company, although many partnered folk have (none of these well-intentioned individuals have ever lived as a single person). Believe me, I know how to enjoy my own company, I am with me enough. It ain't about that. It is about connecting with another human being. It is about having someone to talk to, to go grocery shopping with, to laugh and cry with, to hug and kiss. It is about having someone to share a meal with, to care about your well-being, to get you a cup of tea when you are sick. It is about seeing a loved one when you come home. It is as simple as touching another human being. I could go on, but I hope you understand.

I am fairly well-known because of my music career, my work, my wild foods connections. I know many people. And I am very lonesome. It is not about quantity it is about quality. Inner circles. Soul connections. I don't want a Facebook life. I want real time with real friends. I want a companion. Sometimes I feel like I was plunked here by mistake, several centuries late. Is my longing for connection a thing of the past, too? I don't think so. I believe it is a common human need that partly defines who we are as a species. We are Wolves, Crows,  Caribou. We need connection with each other to feel alive.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Divine Moment

It is hot today. So hot there are warnings. I am sitting in my air conditioned house, looking out at the steamy air.

My shirt is damp from the cool drops of the sprinkler. You see, I was driving down my street just now and saw a large garter Snake writhing on the hot asphalt. It was trying to cross the road but was getting burned from the extreme temperatures taken in from Sun and held in the black asphalt. I slammed on my brakes and ran to Snake and tried to scoot it off the road. It had given up. It no longer tried to crawl.

Ok, at this point I share with you one of my humiliating traits. I am afraid to pick up Snakes. Luckily I had a towel in the car. I grabbed it off the passenger seat and gently cradled Snake, who had only enough strength to spray its nasty smell as one final gesture of defense. I smiled. She was still alive.  I put Snake into my car and traveled the last one hundred feet or so to my house.

What to do? I closed my eyes and listened. Coolness. Shade. Safety.

I took Snake to my raised garden beds and carefully laid her in the tall grass which grew along the wooden sides of the bed and needed trimming. At this time of day, shade now blankets the beds. Snake didn't move. I could not see her breathing.

"Come on Snake, stay with me, you'll be OK I promise".

I turned on the sprinkler, which rained droplets of cool refreshing water onto Snake's skin. I left her there, went in the house, and prayed.

I remembered last year, I had befriended a garter Snake I called Elizabeth. I saw her regularly, she was the most beautiful Snake I had ever seen. One day last summer, during the heat wave I found Elizabeth coiled up by my front sidewalk, mouth agape. She had died from the heat. I took a breath and held it. Please, Creator, let Snake live.

After about a half hour I went to check on my new friend. She had not moved, but I did see her breathing. I again left her alone.

I waited again for a quarter hour before going out into the steamy summer evening to check on the well being of my patient. She was gone, but not far. Snake was slowly making her way to my herb bed. I softly spoke to her, telling her to stay here in the yard or go to the woods behind the house. That she would be safe there. "But," I warned, "do not go across the black river. Never go across the black river." On she crawled. I moved the sprinkler so it would soak the herb bed. Snake disappeared into the leaves.

A simple gift of cool water saved a life today.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Aurora Borealis

I-69 takes me from my home in central Michigan to the place I was born, Angola, Indiana. My Dad helped build part of that highway when he was a young man and I was about three feet tall. He is now retired and I am now dreaming of retiring.

Back in the early 1990's, I was traveling north on I-69 after a wonderful visit with my Grandparents. It was dark and the sky was peppered with stars. Off in the west I could see the beam of a spotlight, the kind that a business might use to attract customers, shining straight up into the night. I kept driving.

Then I started thinking.

Off in the west was nothing. No towns, no cities. No stores that would shine a spotlight up into the sky. I kept my eyes on that light, curious.

The Creator blessed me that night, for it was precisely in a random moment that I was watching the light when an arc formed around it and out poured the deepest crimson I have ever seen, as if someone had a giant pitcher of liquid color and was emptying it across the sky.  Soon greens and blues appeared, swirling across the black sky. I blinked hard, rubbed my eyes, for a moment unable to comprehend what I was seeing. Then it hit me.

It was the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights.

I pulled to the side of the road and turned off my car. As I watched the colors dancing across the heavens, I started to cry. I had never seen anything so beautiful and it literally took my breath away, moving me to tears at its magnificence.

Grandma! I had to call Grandma!

I started up my truck and raced to the rest area, which was only a few miles up the road. Thank heavens I had lots of quarters for the payphone. I began dialing. Grandma answered.

"Grandma, Grandma, the Northern Lights are out! Go outside quick and look up between your trees. I know you can see them! Hurry!" I exclaimed, barely able to contain myself.  I then put in quarter after quarter, calling every person I knew to tell them to go out and look up into the sky.

Everyone at the rest area was standing outside, silent, watching the beautiful reds and greens and whites and blues swirling and pirouetting across the midwestern sky. It was Sacred. There was reverence.

What a glorious place we live in, what amazing and awesome gifts we are given in the form of beauty on this Earth. It is beauty that must be shared when we experience it. An instinctual response put there to keep us all connected to such things that steal our breath. I hope you see something beautiful today, something that steals your breath and makes you run to the phone to call everyone you know. And I hope they all answer.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Devaluing of Wisdom

Once upon a time this land was covered with large Trees...giant white pines, red and white oaks, sugar maples, and hemlocks. Trees that size have wisdom. They have witnessed decades, sometimes centuries, of life. Those giant old Trees along your street that are 150 years old? They have seen a time when your neighborhood was a beautiful, peaceful forest. They were around when humans traded their horses in for the Model T. They lived through the Civil War, the Apache War, the Snake War, both World Wars, the Korean War, the Viet Nam War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to name a few. They have lived through 29 Presidents, starting with Abraham Lincoln. When these Trees were born, there were a little more than 1 billion people on the planet. Now there are over 9 billion.

All that wisdom held within the big old Tree in your front yard.

Wisdom takes time. It is slow growing. It is cumulative. Its only requirement is time.

Our throw away society no longer values wisdom. Time is too expensive. The worker who has been on the job for 35 years commands a larger wage than an inexperienced 20 year old. So the company gets rid of the older worker and replaces him or her with a sapling.  The sapling will grow and eventually be harvested, too. Just like our forests. Never given a chance to mature and grow to reach their fullest potential.

All that wisdom, gone.

There is also something else lost in this process. We lose our roots, our sense of belonging. I would argue that consistency brings security to our lives and Spirits. Ever wonder why old folks long for days gone by? Because all the rapid changes that occur in our world everyday are destabilizing. Much of our daily experience is driven by the greed of capitalism - the race to keep up with ever changing products and technology, geared more toward sales and profit margins than actual necessity. Do we really need a new and better iPhone every year? Or a new Windows operating system on our computer? Or three new sizes of iPads? So much energy spent learning how to operate this or that. Rotary phones were so simple, you put your finger in the dial and turned. The rest of your time was YOUR TIME.

I like to call it "imagined deprivation".

I see children of friends and co-workers doing this and that after school, being shuttled to this game or that lesson. It tires me out and I am not the one driving them!  But what are they really doing? Packing in so many different activities, rarely sticking with any one where they might actually develop a skill or talent...the beginning of wisdom. What, if any, of these activities will they take hold of and carry through their lives?

Folks used to stay in the same jobs for decades. They lived in the same houses for their lifetime. They kept their friends and family close. They held the wisdom of their town or Tribe, they knew the place they lived in and all their neighbors. They were the storytellers and historians. We used to live like Trees.

Some might say, so what? Here's what. I am looking around and I don't see this way of being making the world a better place. There are more children going hungry. We are becoming more detached from each other, more distracted by technology. Wages are lower as corporations strive to increase profits in a global economy. Mother Earth is hurting and we are destroying the environment, our true home. I would bet the Trees would tell us we are heading down a path of self destruction. They would know. They have seen it all.

If we fail to allow ourselves to develop wisdom, it we continue to devalue this great gift that we have been given, our world will begin to resemble a high school with no teachers to guide us. I don't know about you, but I would prefer not to go back to those days.

Maybe the first step we can take is to go have a talk with our old Trees.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Red Tags and Crumbling Foundations

Awhile back I wrote a blog post about the family across the street. They lost their mother a short time later. It has been a sad story unfolding outside my picture window.

While the mother was in the hospital, the sister and brother living in the house (who I'll call Mandy and Jerry) allowed sister #2 to move in after she was released from jail. This sister (who I shall call Misty) was there with the agreement she would not do drugs anymore. Misty promptly started stealing the mother's Social Security checks, and any other money she could find in the house. She stashed her needles in between sofa cushions. She stashed her drugs in the garage. Every day I would see her go into the park to do a drug deal. Or see her dealer pull up to the house.

Mandy got a job working nights as a custodian at a nearby school. Her daughter and boyfriend live at the house, too. Mandy yells quite often at Jerry and Misty. And at her dog, a white pitbull mix that really is a friendly dog, just has no manners. I think she is stressed.

Jerry was in jail once for drugs. Now, he works hard everyday taking care of all the neighbors lawns. No one asked him, he just does it. First the mowing. Then the leaf blowing. I told him not to blow the leaves and yard waste into the street, it goes right into the storm sewers and ends up in the river. So he found a street sweeper you push. Now he cleans the streets, too. Maybe that is the only thing he feels he can control in his life. Grass.

I know these things because Jerry tells me. Sometimes he breaks out in skin rashes and has to be in bed for several days at a time. He is very stressed and hates his sister living there.  He says he likes to help his neighbors because he is trying to be a good Christian. I tell him I can't pay him. He doesn't care. Once in awhile Jerry will ask for a cup of sugar or some cash. I give it to him.

At the holidays, Jerry always cooks the family dinner. He knows I live alone. Every holiday he gets out a styrofoam plate with compartments from a stack that Mandy has brought home from school and he makes me a plate full. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, corn, beans. He knocks on my door and proudly hands me the warm food.

About a month ago I notice a red sticker on their front door. Red stickers in Lansing mean that a house is unsafe for human occupation.

Jerry came over and told me that Misty had attacked him and choked him. He called the police on her and so not only is Misty now in jail for assault, but the police called in an inspector and found code violations right and left. Jerry assured me they would fix the electrical in a week and then the family could move back in. That was a month ago.

Jerry and his sweet boxer Scooby are living in their garage. They have several junk cars in the driveway and they were told they couldn't just store them. So Jerry moves the cars around every day.

Mandy told me that she and her boyfriend are looking at a place out of town and her siblings have brought all this on and she is done taking care of them. Every few days she comes by and packs up more stuff from the house. I don't know if they are really moving out, but they are definitely living somewhere else right now.

Jerry has no job. None of them have any money. They can't pay for the repairs that are needed to remove the red tag. As I look out my picture window, I see that Jerry has set up a table and has a mini garage sale going. A TV, microwave, a bike, some jewelry.

This isn't just any old yard sale. This is the only way he has to find money to be able to live in his house again. He can't work a steady job, he has some issues. But he is a good person.

They have no water, haven't had for some time. The neighbor to the north has let them hook up a hose and run water to their house.

This story unfolding across the street touches my heart in many places. I know what it is like to be poor. I know what is it like to have no home. I know what it is like to have to sell things to pay the bills, sometimes it is the only thing you have left to do. I worry about Jerry and Scooby. Do they have enough to eat? Are they lonely? Do they still hold on to hope?  I wish I had more disposable income to be able to pay Jerry for the work he does at my house. I wish I could give him a nice fat $500 bill for the two years of lawn care he has gifted to me.

But I fear that it would only help in the moment. It seems the biggest problem they all have is that they never learned how to take care of themselves. To take responsibility for their own well being. Taking in a heroin addicted sister who steals probably was the straw that broke the camels back. And now they find themselves in a pickle.

The most important thing I notice is how my picture window has become a mirror, showing me times in my life that I, too, made poor choices and what that looks like from the outside. It reminds me that the most loving thing I can do for me is to take responsibility for my life and my choices. For when I do, the choices I make most always turn out better than when I see myself as a victim.

Please send good thoughts to my neighbors.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Who Needs a Sports Car to Feel Young Again?

A couple weeks ago I woke up at 4:30 am and a Thought was there to say good morning to me. "Hi Barb," the Thought said. "How much do you pay to park your car when you go to work?"

"Huh?" I said, still wiping the sleep from my eyes.

"Dollars. Moolah. How much do you pay?"

I thought for a minute. Two dollars and twenty five cents times five. "$12.50 per week," I said.

"How much is that a month?"

"Come on it is 4:30 in the morning!" I whined.  "Ok, about $50."

"How much gas money do you spend driving those 3 miles to the office?"

"Uh, well let's see..." and I did the math. About thirty cents per mile. Not including wear and tear. So almost two dollars a day. Times five days a week. Times....you get the point.

The Thought continued.  "So how many hours in a month do you work simply to pay for driving and parking your car on the city street three miles from your house."

I knew where this was going.

Thought said very simply, "Get a bike".

A bike. Like bicycle. Why didn't I think of that. Oh wait, I did. Brilliant!

I used to ride a bike when I was a kid. I loved bikes. What kid didn't? I had a stingray with a banana seat after my tricycle.  I had a blue ten speed with white tape on the handlebars. I promptly stripped the bike down, painted it a metallic copper/gold color, and wrapped buckskin around the handle bars, lacing them with leather. My friends and I rode miles and miles and miles.

That was decades ago. Bikes are a bit different now. More fancy. More expensive. So I talked to some friends in the know. What should I look for? What should I avoid?

I hopped on Craig's list and quickly found the bike I was looking for. A 1977 Schwinn Suburban, new tires and seat, excellent condition. Scored it for $100.  Ebay has them for $900. This was fun.

Next was the helmet. Of course looks are everything, then comfort. I found both. I look patriotic. A blue bike, helmet with a red streak. Stylin'.

I hopped on Old Blue and off I rode down the street, arms wiggling trying to get used to the handle bars that feel like I am pushing a wheel barrel. Soon it was a smooth ride. Then it hit me.

I was free!

Free like an Eagle soaring across the sky! I experienced that complete exhilaration I remembered as a kid, the moment I was no longer a bipedal humanoid but new creature with round legs that gave infinite motion. Oh my lord, I was a kid again.

I have been hankering for a sports car or an old pickup truck lately, something from my younger days. But not anymore. I am reliving my youth riding Old Blue down to the Capitol every morning. Each trip is a new adventure. "Mom, will you pack my lunch? Pickles and peanut butter sandwich please, with sour cream and green onion chips! Don't forget the cookies!" I can hear myself say.

I take the river trail most of the way, greeting the ducks and rabbits and birds that are already going about their day. My wheels squish ripe mulberries on the boardwalk, little puddles of purple dotting the wooden rails. I stop if I feel like it and fill my mouth with summer bliss. I think of Grandma Bell, making me a mulberry pie from the pale full that I picked for her one summer day in the early 1970's. My blue mouth smiles and on I go. I pass the homeless people having their breakfast on the shore of the river. "Morning!" I say. They smile and respond. My smile never leaves.

I have walked to work and I have driven. But I never learned about the topography until I rode my bike. Wheels reveal secrets. I never knew it was mostly downhill to the Capitol, except for the last little jog.  My legs told me it was uphill most of the way back today, my first day of commuting by bike. I felt so good when I got to work, and even better when I got home.  Who else gets to go out and play before they go to the office?

I must have been a sight!  I had a pink bandana tied around my right ankle to keep my pant leg from getting greasy. I had a guitar strapped on my back with a bright orange MDOT vest wrapped around that, as we had band rehearsal today at lunch.  When I tried to stop and scoot off the seat, the guitar was behind it and prevented me from moving forward far enough. That first stop was hilarious as I was trying to look so cool to the passing motorists.  I can hear them now. "Look a that old lady with a guitar on her back riding that 1977 Blue Schwinn Suburban!"

Eat my dust!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Wren and the Bumblebee

One of my favorite memories of Grandma's home is the song of the house wren. She always had a nest box tacked to the clothesline pole, and each spring the house wrens would return, singing their delightful songs.

The first year I moved into my house a wren nested in the clay pot bird house I had made. I watched their comings and goings from my kitchen window, as I had hung the pot on the front porch directly in front of it. It was wonderfully healing, helping me feel close to my Grandma who had passed the year before.

I haven't seen any wrens at my house since then. Last year a chickadee family claimed the clay pot home and successfully fledged their young. I left the pot hanging over the winter without removing the old nest, thinking I would get around to it in the spring.

A couple of days ago I heard a wren. My heart was filled with joy! I ran out back where the pot was now hanging and quickly took it down so as to clean out the old nest.  I disassembled the pot and took off the bottom tray, only to find a large Bumblebee buzzing out of the nest! I placed the nest on the ground as the disoriented Bumblebee flew around. My mind only on the wren, I took the bird house to the hose and cleaned it out spic and span. I quickly reassembled the clay pieces and hung it on the front porch. I waited.

The Bumblebee didn't leave. I watched as it flew around the back door, obviously searching for its home. She didn't give up.  Finally, the Bumblebee flew closer to the ground and found her nest. She disappeared under the fluffy ball.


I went to the front porch where I had hung the clay pot bird house, which was now a Bumblebee house.  I took it down and walked back to the Bumblebee nest. Was she still there? She was not at all happy with what I had done, in fact she had me trapped in the garage for a good ten minutes. My nose pressed to the glass, I watched as she tried to get in to the garage through the clear window pane, obviously wanting to give me a taste of her mighty stinger. I couldn't blame her.

I cautiously approached the nest. No Bumblebee. I quickly put the nest back on the clay dish, inverted the pot to cover it, put a cork in the opening (just in case she was still there) and screwed the whole thing back together.  As I walked into the backyard to rehang the pot from the patio roof behind the garage, I saw the Bumblebee flying around the spot where her nest used to be.  I took a deep breath and spoke to her gently. "I am sorry Bumblebee. I did not know this was your nest. I have put it all back together so let me hang it back up and you can have you nice, cozy home back. Just hold on for a few seconds, OK? No stingy me, OK?"  She backed up and let me hang her nest.  As soon as it was up she flew inside. Home sweet home.

Later that day I was watching the news and saw a clip of Governor Chris Christy proudly smashing a Spider that had crawled onto a table in classroom he was visiting. The children cheered. Tears welled up in my eyes for that Spider, who was doing nothing more than walking through its home. Tears also formed for the children, whose hearts were already hardened to the sacredness of life - on that day the life of the smallest creature.

How can we be so different? It is no wonder we are killing this planet when we have taught our children to revel in the death of one so small.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Illusion That We Live in A Democracy

I was in my 50s by the time I received my first notice of jury duty. Unlike most people I know, I was excited to experience it. When I arrived at the courthouse, I was seated in a room full of people. We watched a video on how wonderful it is to serve on a jury and waited to see who was called. I was amazed as I sat there, looking around at people of all colors and sizes. We were there as Americans about to perform a sacred civic duty - to sit in judgement of our peers. This felt like a heavy responsibility all of a sudden. My vote could send someone to jail, disrupt a family, break the heart of a mother, bring revenge to a father. I was experiencing the sensation of performing my civic duty and I was proud and honored to be a part of the process. I swallowed back a big lump in my throat. I almost broke out into song...."God Bless America...". Don't worry, I didn't. They also didn't select me as a juror.

While I have lived a life full of experiences that most have not gone through, I still retain a level of naivete. I still expect honesty and integrity in people. So when I decided to attend a Senate Committee hearing on an environmental bill, I was quite excited to once again see democracy in action. I took my seat and eagerly anticipated respectful dialogue and debate. I expected the Committee to be sincere in their solicitation of public comment. Did my bubble burst.  The contents of the bill in question were never discussed. Ever. The Senator who introduce it employed a tactic of diversion, bringing up examples of the failings of the Michigan DNR and telling outright lies. I knew they were lies because I am a biologist and work in the programs he was describing. He told lies to his constituents, who believed him and supported his truly harmful and ridiculous bill. He would not discuss the contents of the bill in the hearing. Divert, divert, divert.

I attended the second hearing, hoping what I had observed in the first hearing was a fluke. It was not. This time the entire room was packed with people opposed to his bill. He told the audience he would hear all their testimony, then the Committee would take all the comments and deliberate for a week and then reintroduce the bill with amendments. At the end of the meeting, he promptly called a vote and passed the bill.

This is our Michigan legislature at work.

Today I attended a House of Representatives Natural Resources committee hearing. They were discussing the above mentioned Senator's latest bill, which was created to circumvent the democratic process and eliminate the public's right to vote on game species in Michigan, specifically timed to negate the 250,000 signatures gathered to put the wolf hunt on the ballot.  He gave his bill synopsis to the committee, once again twisting the truth. And then, he tells the Committee that just last night four wolves attacked a family pet in the UP and the viciously killed the dog. He told us he wanted to show us the photos of the dead dog but they were so gruesome he was advised not to.

He diverted in a big way.

The rest of the hearing had nothing to do with his bill and everything to do with irate Representatives wanting the DNR to send armed officers to guard the residents of the UP from the wild wolves that will surely, as this Senator claimed at the end of his presentation, take the children next.

Testimony began. Citizens who spoke in opposition were harassed by several of the Representatives, being demeaned because they did not live in the UP. One Senator would ask each person if they lived in the UP. If they said no, which most did because they called the meeting just the night before, he would say "I have no other questions", as if this grand statement proved something. The Senator had instantly created an atmosphere of antagonism and anger, by aggravating fear in those who already were scared of wolves, and the urgency of the need to protect wolves in those who were there to speak against the bill.

I had spent several hours carefully drafting a statement which I fully planned to read at the hearing. After sitting in the hearing room for over an hour listening to this most uncivilized display by several of our public servants, I decided that if I was asked whether I was from the UP I might answer something like, "I will not dignify that question with a response. I will however answer any questions directly related to this bill or my testimony." Then I would take off my size 11 shoes and throw them directly at the heads of those two Representatives. Not a pretty sight.  So I submitted my comments and went back to my office.

As I walked on the sidewalk around Michigan's Capital, I felt disillusioned. I wondered if all committee hearings are like this, or is it just the environmental bills? What was the point of all the testimony? It was not listened to, in fact the people who were brave enough to speak submitted themselves to disrespect and rudeness by the legislators we the People voted into office. One speaker said taking her right to vote away is not how a democracy is supposed to work. The Representative who was surveying everyone's peninsular affiliation, told her we are not a democracy. We are a republic. Huh.

Frankly, I don't know what the hell we are anymore.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Oldest Friend

It is night. I am little, maybe seven or eight. I am supposed to be in bed, asleep. But I am not asleep. I have my guitar tucked under the covers with me, ear pressed to the curved sides, listening and feeling the vibration as I softly strum the strings. My thumb is sore. It has a blister from strumming so much. But I don't care. I am mesmerized by this instrument. Captivated. I am in love.

I am my guitar. My guitar is me. I have been playing for fifty years. Without a guitar, who am I? My Soul speaks to the world through this instrument in ways my voice cannot. It is the way I express myself. It is how I connect to myself and to Spirit.

In 2010, I had a concert celebrating the release of my CD Turtle Dove. Lots of rehearsals, and it was a great show. Surrounded by my favorite musicians, it was probably the best time I have ever had on stage  After the show I couldn't play guitar without terrible pain.

I have arthritis in my basal thumb joints. It was so bad in my left hand that I had to have reconstructive surgery. It was nearly a year before I could play again. Last year I did two shows.

This past winter I realized that I had to make room in my life for my music and for performing. It is who I am. Barb Barton.  So I started booking gigs. I formed a band. I got excited.

We have been rehearsing for about three months now. I knew it was happening but I couldn't accept it.

Today I played a couple songs on my 1860's parlor guitar. Nothing fancy. Something is wrong. My hands. They aren't working right.

My right  basal joint is now as bad as the left was. I can't get through one song holding a pick because of the pain. I can't fingerpick the way I used to. My left hand is hurting, my left thumb is hurting. I must have the surgery on my right hand in the next year or so. I'll never play guitar the same way again once that happens. I don't know how to take this in. I do know it hurts me in a very deep place. I am not ready for this. I am not ready to leave the stage as a guitarist. But the time is coming. This I can no longer deny.

I remember those nights under the covers, holding my guitar so close to my heart, feeling the vibration of the woods enter the cells of my body and become part of me. My sweet sweet friend.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston - Another Tragedy

This morning I am sipping a hot cup of Peruvian coffee, listen to the Robins and the Cardinals singing their spring songs in the darkness of dawn. I had a great day yesterday. I accomplished an important goal at work which will protect the Water. I accomplished another goal of having an exclusive session on Wild Rice conservation at an important conference. I may get the OK to invite the incredible Winona LaDuke to speak at that conference (I am on the planning committee). I had a great rehearsal with my new band. I saw a crocus. And there were bees flying around my hives. Indeed it was a glorious day.

Then I heard about Boston.

This morning as I sit drinking my hot cup of coffee, my beagle curled up in his bed, three beautiful Spirits have left this world, including an eight year old boy. One hundred and forty people are hurting from injuries received from blasts planted by as yet unknown terrorists. The rest of us are hurting for them.

Sometimes I feel so bewildered by this world we are living in. And deeply saddened.

We are the only animal species on the planet that does this to our own. And we think we are the superior species. Really.

All I can do is pray for healing of the human heart. All I can do is reach out my hand to my fellow human beings and say I love you. I just don't know what is left to do.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Why? Because I Care.

Senator Tom Casperson is mad as a hornet because his attempts to allow hunting of Wolves in Michigan is being opposed by many people. Thousands of folks, both Tribal and non-Tribal, went out in the cold weather, sat at tables in bookstores and conventions and coffee shops and pet stores, collecting signatures so that the voters of Michigan would have a say in whether Wolves are hunted here. The Wolf hunt was threatened. So Casperson crafted a bill that would essentially inoculate any listing of game animals from a public referendum, in other words, we would lose our voice. Do you love Sandhill Cranes? Mourning doves? Virginia Rails, a pretty marsh bird that I hear often in the wild rice beds? They may be next on the list of species that people can kill. And you won't be able to do a damn thing about it. The power would lie solely with the Natural Resource Commission, appointed by the Governor.


What Casperson hasn't thought about is what would happen if the Natural Resources Commission might someday be composed exclusively of anti-hunters. What a day that would be! They might say "No, no, no, no hunting season on any animals, and the people of the State of Michigan would not have any way to change that. Sorry, no hunting folks. Don't care about what you think or want. Or what science says. Nope. We have the Powah!

Poetic justice.

I have been hearing from so many people that they are tired and defeated. The Republican take over of Michigan government (and that is on the voters for putting them there) has resulted in a systematic disintegration of the democratic process. Look it up, I am not going to into all the details and examples here (although I could). They have also waged a war on our environment. You can look that up, too. Forget the national and international war on Mother Earth (Keystone Pipeline, oil spills, whaling, climate change, continuous war, etc). Our lawmakers in Michigan are having a hay day. Like teenagers turned loose with platinum credit cards in a mall.

We who live in Michigan are blessed. Where else can you find lakes, rivers, streams, mountains, sand dunes, prairies, bogs, fens, alvars, islands, Oak/Hickory and Beech/Maple forests, marshes, and of course the Great Lakes? Wild rice and maple sugar? Morels and whitefish? Trout and venison? We share a home with Bears, Wolves, Moose, Elk, Deer, Cougars, Raccoons, Otters, Weasels, Skunks, Squirrels, Mice and Voles, Chipmunks, Opossums, hundreds of Birds, and Fish and Insects. Orchids and Pine Trees and Cedar Trees and Maple Trees. All in our backyard! Truly, where else can you have all this beauty and a rich, diverse set of neighbors? Only in Michigan.

So why, then, do we not get angry when lawmakers wage war on all that we hold Sacred about Michigan? Why do we not stand up and form armies to protect all these things that are our home? Why do we not stand up to our government and say NO? Even if we feel that there is nothing we can do, we are wrong. There is always something. Run for an office. Actively participate with groups that work to protect the environment and democracy. Run for an office. Vote. Did I mention run for office?

I love Michigan. I love all the Beings that share this land and air and water with me. I will never stop fighting to protect this place and these friends. I will never stop fighting for your right to have a voice, for our rights of Democracy, for equality and fairness for all, for understanding and compassion, for accountability.

Why? Because I care.

Do you?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Losing Bees

When winter comes I feel a sadness, because I miss the birds that fly south. And I miss my Bees. I get so used to sitting with them and watching their hustling and bustling. I remember when I heated my log cabin with a wood stove. Every spring when the fire went out it was like a Spirit left my home. It is kind of like that for me in the winter. The Spirit of the Bees and the Birds is missing.  So I am anxious when spring comes to see my old Friends again. But I also hold my breath. Winter is not always gentle with the Bees.

It is never easy when a hive doesn't make it until spring. You pray for them, you go out and talk to them through the wooden sides of their hive, you sing to them, you do everything but jump inside with them.

It doesn't matter.

All four of my Bee hives are dead. I am in that stunned stage of grief. Not quite understanding that they are gone. But seeing the thousands of bodies laying on the bottom of the hives verifies it. I know that two hives had too much moisture and the condensation likely killed them I don't know about the other two. I just don't have it in me to look closely yet. I have to focus on processing the honey that I removed from one of them, take care of the wax. All the work they did over the summer, collecting nectar, making comb, flying in and out with their pollen sacs full of sunny yellow and bright orange pollen. All that effort to prepare for the long winter. And they didn't make it.

It was the first real taste of spring today. I was watching for them to be flying about with the warm sunshine heating up their hives. I could tell something wasn't right. It was too silent.

I gaze into the pile of Bee bodies with a tear in my eye. "Thank you girls", I whisper. It will be a lonely spring in our backyard.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Why Are You Silent With Me?

There is something very curious I have been observing lately. No blame here, just observation, OK?

Anyone who knows me can tell you I am pretty sensitive to others. I want everyone who interacts with me to know I see them. I notice when they are happy or down, sick or distracted. I care and and I ask what is wrong, are they OK?

I never came out as a lesbian. I just always was, ever since I was born. Never a doubt in my mind. I didn't think there was anything wrong with me, no more than the fact I had two legs and two arms. It was just who I was. But everyone else seemed to have a problem with it. I am not sure why. But they did. I figured it was their problem. In my eyes I was just fine.

So here is the curious thing I have been observing lately. Everyone in my life, whether it be friends, coworkers, acquaintances, family members (except for my sister Diann), has remained silent on the fact that I legally cannot get married. The Supreme Court is hearing two cases that may have one of the biggest impacts on my life, something I never dreamed would happen, and no one has said a word to me. Most all of the people in my life are straight. Perhaps they can't even imagine what it would be like to be denied the basic right to get married, have a wedding, know that your beloved will be taken care of when you die, or to be able to adopt children. Perhaps they take it for granted.

My sister Diann supports me 100%. But no one else has called or written and said, "God I can't imagine what it must feel like to have society so blatantly discriminate against you". Or, "Barb, I want you to know I am thinking of you and am praying that the Supreme Court will make the right decision so you can enjoy the same rights as me".

Why is that?

Only a few people know what I have gone through in my life because of my orientation. I am glad that times are changing and that today many gay and lesbian youth have support groups to help them grow up in a healthier environment. I know that my courage to always be myself, along with thousands of others, has helped bring us to this day. Even though life has been hard at times, I wouldn't change a thing.

I wonder if they know that I sit in front of the TV and cry as I hear the President of the United States say he supports me. I hear many people on TV say they support me. I never had support from anyone. Ever. And today, the President stands with me. Isn't that something?

So I watch the TV all the time, I want to hear those words over and over and over. "In support of gay marriage...equality...life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...". I can't hear it enough. It is beginning to heal all those deep wounds inflicted by insensitive bigots over the years.  But why do I only hear it from the TV? What about the people in my life? Do I dare think that they don't support my right to happiness? I know that is the case for some. How do I deal with that? How can you accept someone into your heart who thinks of you as less than?

I know when I am with people who are oppressed, I see them and I let them know I won't stand for it in anyway shape or form. And I have dedicated my life to creating change and equality for all people and beings. It is not an abstract concept. It is right there in front of me. I cannot ignore it. I can't do anything but try to change it because it is the fair and right thing to do.

I am oppressed and discriminated against by the laws of the State of Michigan and the US Government. Did you ever notice?

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Awhile back I wrote about my Spider friend Charlotte. Apparently she has moved out, perished, or simply vanished. I haven't seen her in weeks. At first I felt sad, I had grown quite attached. But then, one day while taking a shower, a new Spider was hanging out on the curtain that covers the window out into my backyard.  I could not sense whether this new friend was female or male, so I named it Thursday, the day I first met the Spider.

Thursday has an ability that Charlotte did not - she/he can climb out of the bathtub. Thursday is a different species than Charlotte, and seems to be more adventuresome. I have seen Thursday many times, mostly at night when my aging causes me to visit the bathroom more than I used to. Thursday may be on the wall, just sitting there. Or, perhaps working on a new web. I never know. We visit for a bit and I go back to bed.  It is a relief to know that Thursday can climb out of the tub, significantly reducing the odds of getting washed down the drain.

There is something comforting about knowing the Beings that share a home with me. It helps me not feel so alone.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Soul of the Animals

Many humans like to believe that other animals don't feel emotion. Perhaps that makes it easier for us to kill, maim, injure, torture, use them in lab experiments, or eat them. If you knew the pain that a fish experiences when a hook rips into its mouth, would you still fish? Some would.

There are videos that show adult Elephants mourning, returning to the place where one of their family or herd members died. They rock back and forth in an Elephant funeral ritual. They mourn. They feel emotion.

Here is a story that will sound unbelievable, but I swear to you it is true...

When I lived in Pennsylvania I volunteered at a wildlife rehabilitation center. House there were a variety of animals including Bear Cats, Vultures, Owls, and Hawks. I helped to feed the animals and clean out their cages.  The Bear Cats, a rare mammal from Madagascar, ate chopped vegetables. The other Birds ate small mice or rats, all frozen. Each day I would go into the freezer, grab a frozen white Rat by the tail, and take it into an Owl pen and place it in the food dish.

One day we started noticing an odor. It smelled of something rotten. We couldn't locate the source of the smell. Over the next several days the odor became more intense, due to hot weather.

In the center of the building where the animals were housed was a large six foot square metal box with three foot high sides and an open top. This was used to re-train the predatory birds to capture mice.

The smell was coming from under that box.

The owner started up her fork lift and drove it to the shiny box. Carefully she slid the forks under the box and slowly lifted it. Then, she backed up. I could not believe my eyes.

There, under that box, were hundred of dead white Rats. Bisecting the stacks of dead Rats were linear pathways. It was a Rat cemetery.

She turned off the fork lift and took her place next to me, staring in disbelief at what we were witnessing. Apparently, the resident Rat population (living) were taking the bodies of the their dead white Rat comrades from the pens and placing them under the box. It was their cemetery, the place where they honored their dead. They did not know the white Rats. But they cared for them anyway.

The owner bulldozed the pile of dead Rats out into the woods. I felt sad for the Rats. All of them.

Friday, February 1, 2013


Several times I have gotten ready to turn the water on in the bathtub in order to take a shower, only to stop myself in the nick of time before drowning a poor little ant or spider. Once or twice my hand turned the knob just a millisecond before my eyes spotted an ant desperately trying to climb up the slippery ceramic sides of the tub, and down the drain they went. I felt horrible.

Usually I will place a long piece of toilet paper draped from tub bottom up and over the side, to serve as a "ladder" so any helpless little creature can climb out.

For the past few weeks there has been a particular spider, who I now call Charlotte, that has made several trips to the bottom of the tub.  "On belay!" she cries as she lets her spinnerettes do their thing. Down she goes, an invisible thread connecting her to the silk wisteria that borders the ceiling of my bathroom (hold you tongue!). She finally lands in the bottom of the bath tub. And there she must stay until I rescue her.

"Hello Charlotte, jumping off cliffs again?" I ask, as I tear a small piece of toilet paper for her to crawl onto. Usually it takes a few tries before we figure out each other's moves, and Charlotte will disappear into the fluffy white folds. Up she goes until the elevator reaches the top floor of Wisteria Lane, and she will walk out onto one of the white silk flowers. "Now be careful, Charlotte!" I say. "One of these days I might miss you and you will either drown or starve to death!" She disappears in green leaves.

Charlotte and I are developing a relationship. Every time I go in the bathroom I search for her with my eyes. "Charlotte, how is your day?" I ask her.  "Catch any little gnats?" "Are you warm enough?" I had closed the damper on the heating vent some time before I first met Charlotte, and realized it was mighty cold in there for a little spider. So I opened it so she could be warm again. I know she appreciates it.

I have had several relationships with Spiders in my lifetime. Each one has been special. There is an ease to connecting with them, I am not sure why, given the bad rap they get. Every Spider I have ever known has had an open heart and welcomes a smile instead of a squish.

So next time you see Spider in your house, take a moment and just watch her. Get to know her. You will find your heart warmed by the experience. Seriously.

Friday, January 25, 2013

If I Died Tomorrow...

If I died tomorrow...

Would you know how much you meant to me?
Or about all the things I have learned from you and taken into my being?
That a part of you has become a part of me?

Would you know that I forgive you for those hurts from long ago
that have stood as a troubled wall between us,
we have had to climb over whenever we talk?

Would you know of the things that I hold dear?
The earth, our diversity, acorns, my dog?
Would you know what I do everyday to protect our waters?
Or the loneliness when I come home to a house without you?

Would you know of the places I have lived or the friends I have known?
Of the bogs I have bounced on or the deep muck that has sucked me in?
Would you know my disappointments and triumphs, my fears and my dreams?
Would I know yours?

Will I have said everything I wanted to say,
knowing that chance will come no more?
If I left you behind would you grieve eternally for that which was not?
Or gain strength from that which was?

If I died tomorrow will I go with regrets,
or with the peace of knowing I told you?
Will I leave with dreams unfulfilled or
will I go with a heart full from life well lived?

As long as I wonder about these things
in the autumn of my life
I believe I will say all that needs to be said
and live all that needs to be lived
Love all that I needed to love
Including you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks

Sunday I went to the movies to see the new film "Beasts of the Southern Wild". I arrived just a few minutes before the lights dimmed for the preview portion of the show. I made my way to the back of the theater, where I had five rows all to myself, two of which were behind me. There were few people in the audience that day, I imagine because this was a movie that makes you think. As the lights faded to darkness, I observed a mother and two young girls making their way into the seats directly behind me. Aw, isn't that great. A responsible parent taking her children to see something that will hopefully inspire questions and discussion.

As the previews played, I could hear the girls talking to each other. "I want to see THAT one," the youngest said. "Yeah, me too!" said her sister. I smiled.

Then the coughing and sneezing started. Hack hack hack. Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Now you should know I have been bragging about not getting sick this flu and cold season, attributing it to my clean living and herbal and fungal teas. Cough, cough, cough, went one of the girls. And not into her elbow.

I immediately thought about moving to another seat, but I was too worried about making THEM uncomfortable. So I stayed put. I'll wash my hands right away when I get out of the theater, I'll change my clothes and wash my hands again when I get home, I thought. I'll make a real strong pot of cedar tea, full of vitamin C, to protect me. But still. I've seen that video showing projectile nuclear droplets soaring through the air looking for fertile ground to land on. I was well within the target area.

I started to feel pissed at that mother. Why did she take a sick kid out in this weather, to a movie theater of all places! Did she work for the military, part of a conspiracy to test out the latest Corporate designer virus in exchange for a year of free movie passes?

"Hack, hack, hack," went the little girl. I imagined the back of my head and shirt covered in snot.

Why didn't I move?

Because I am a caretaker. I care more about other people's feelings than my own. I was too worried about making them feel bad. I could imagine the little girls saying, "Mommie, why is that woman moving to a seat five rows away from us? hack hack hack sneeze sneeze sneeze. They would be scarred for life, feeling rejected by society and having weekly therapy sessions when they become adults, all because of me. Oh Puleez!

As I type, I can feel the illness coming on. The projectile nuclear droplets found their fertile soil. I am waiting for my cedar tea to finish steeping, a last ditch effort to drive out the virus that was so graciously given to me by that little girl in the movie theater.

Next time I will not hesitate to move. Whether it traumatizes someone or not.

The movie, by the way, was powerful and one of those films that leaves you without appropriate words to express your thoughts and feelings. I am still thinking about it. And those droplets.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?