Our Species at Dusk

Last night I wanted to go to sleep and wake up as a happy five-year-old in this house of my grandparents, with both my Grandma and Grandpa alive, healthy and vital, the decay of the future far away or nonexistent, that present that was the past eternal again in a child’s unending summer day. And I found myself crying quietly in Grandpa’s study where I sleep when I come to Fresno, California to visit, because he is ten years still gone and Grandma is here in body but is barely and unrecognizably tenuously “alive” in her spirit.

I’m twenty-eight now and, for the great majority of my adult life under the rational light of the sun, I am accepting of and at peace with the situation that has come to be: our time is one of seeing more beloved elderly people slowly and pitifully die than ever before in society, proportionate to the numbers of the young who must witness it. Our grandparents and parents, once all medical cures are exhausted, languish in a half-life awaiting death, this rite of passage of which I have increasing faith in as a great liberation and the ultimate cure itself. People are living longer, but not necessarily better lives past a certain point. It became known to me in the past few years that Grandpa had considered seeking physician-assisted self-euthanasia, had his incurable physical pain become unbearable and death had not taken him in his sleep. The thought of it would have been too hard for me to handle when, at his death, I was eighteen and he was eighty, but now I have more and more serious respect for the natural and ancient dignity in such a choice. I had the freedom to euthanize my beloved cat of thirteen years when her veterinary ailments became unbearable for her, but we are in such stupid denial about the dignity of human beings in valid situations being able to choose the same for themselves. Instead, we force our beloved humans to have their butts wiped by somebody else, a humiliation that should never be forcibly born by a person because those around them are too chicken-shit to accept the reality of death in The World.

Sometimes, it’s the very resiliency of human beings that scares me so much: we can go through any hell and keep living. Other animals are not averse to the peace of death as a natural response to a suddenly severely maladaptive environment. But we humans are terrifying in our ruthless, pertinacious will to keep breathing through any plague, and now I wonder what this insect-like insistence has made of us. We have become titans of battle against everything, against our own brains and against Nature itself, and we have become unloving of Reality, at odds with The World, constantly unaccepting of the limits of the universe. Do I share in this same inclination to be at odds with The World in my childlike longing for a theoretical universe that could have (should have, would have, but only might have) been?

I was a child of the 1990s. I’ve long had a quietly uncanny feeling that something happened in the ’90s, and it was the end of the world. It was the end– or maybe the world spun off into different directions, dimensions, and this who I am in one of them is not who I am in another. And yet I do not feel divided within myself: through all my depression and the shit I went through as a kid with an insanely emotionally abusive mom with Borderline Personality Disorder, I have had the great luck of always feeling continuously whole within myself. Imaginatively, this uncanny sense of differing possible realities is more that I was pulled into one possible universe where things were not as whole all was meant to be, and something was off, only because, in contrast, I also glimpsed that deep Beauty of the Original World peeking through into this one. As a child, I saw this through the lens of my family. And who I am here have always been a little exorcist, who descended only deeply enough in time and in worlds within worlds to confront something, finish something, set something right. And any day now I will find my way back home to where I am supposed to be, waking up, relieved, from a dream.

Back in this world, I have lately been enjoying the lighter quality of trying not to feel so much all the time, for once in my life: my nature is to be so deeply feeling that it is frequently maladaptive to my environment, and I am weak and as yet unskilled in spinning this sensitivity into strands of gold. And now it suddenly and forbiddingly occurs to me that this ability to turn away from the tender heart is the necessary –and terrifyingly natural– shadow underlying my hominid ability to uncanny adaptation. How comfortable we are pressed to become among prolonged sickness and wrongful decay in our dogged search between a rock and a hard place for survival: the loss of tender feeling for that shimmering Original World, peeking through the slats of our weighted days, becomes an unbearable heartache for those with too much to carry. So much of an aging human life is full with the totalistic and unbending trial of coming to accept the absolute finality of death and loss, when still our persistent hearts in their deepest chambers yearn for life eternal. Among all of this, we must find a way to be happy– on pain of death. No wonder that those who find a path of absolute acceptable of reality while somehow keeping a tender heart are rightly called the saints of our species. And so I wonder if the Christians really have it right about something: humanity’s omnipresent longing for a semblance of eternal life, evident in all cultures, makes me wonder if there’s really something to it, in the way that hunger is an indicator that food exists somewhere.

But I am here now, born into this land of the vast old Earth, where my species is restless and beautiful and full of ancient and unknowable strangeness. Drifting into sleep last night I heard the night birds of this warm valley cooing their evening song from their perches and nests, calling steadily to their mates in their peaceful language, comforting their young in their downy breasts. I know their names, some of them, and the names and intimate formations of the trees that they love, that I love with a tender heart, that are bequeathed to me in an unending ancestry of natural lives in exchange. It was the Descent of Man, a going-down which Darwin spoke of, into the World to be among it completely, in totality. And in this moment of my brief human heart in the glorious life of the dark Earth I want nothing more than to be among the sounds of the night-songs forever, here in The World, so deeply is their avian comfort entwined with the blanketing world of the dusk, the old bones of the mother-sound of my animal life.

 

Capacity to Wonder

Where would the Abrahamic religions be without their precious conflicts? I say “precious” because all the Abrahamic religions have developed largely by thriving on conflict to such an insidious degree that they experience a crisis of purpose when not faced with some constant, huge moral drama of problems to suffer and fight against. Abrahamic believers can never let themselves be at peace with the life of the world’s profoundly normal and anciently functioning natural cycles of life and death. They must always look for some problem to throw themselves against, and when they do not find one, they invent one. They are bored with peace, because peace does not bring about their sick fantasy of armageddon. They have become so entwined with their need to fight everything that even the world itself has been sorrowfully vilified by their holy texts that resent the creaturely body and the ground itself. What a poverty of spirit when the whole living, physical world is decried as your resented enemy keeping you from some imaginary disembodied heaven, instead of your natural, creaturely, beloved eternal home.

To truly educate is to bring out what is already inside a person. A teacher may input information, but authentic education uses this imparting of information to draw out the animistic aliveness of the student in their capacity to wonder.

Photo by Noah Silliman on Unsplash

Dream Memories

The heart of religion is to stand in the presence of beauty. This is the experience of divine beauty, which is not confined to appearances but does sometimes communicate through the sense of sight.

Dream entries from years past:

July 2nd, 2016.
Looking west across rail tracks to San Francisco on the other side of the Coastal Mountains, my Grandfather appears. The City is quiet now. An earth quake is coming, and an inundating wave, and there will be blackness. Grandpa says I can follow him to where I will be safe, and I go to gather from our cabinets the fragments of my childhood. A strange light is breaking, dusky and blue. “We must go now, Sugarpie,” says Grandpa. “The mountains are calling, and I must go,” –these words that are loved. At the edge of the forest Grandpa makes a proper burial place for those who were soon going to die, so that they would not feel lonely or scared when crossing over. The loving dead do this for the living when we cross over, so that we will be comforted and at home.

Grandpa died in 2008. Yesterday I got word from my uncle Larry that Grandma fell and became blind.

October 11th, 2015.
There are too many empty houses. Many are newly built, but where are the people? So many are hollow inside.

 

March 19th, 2011.
Riding a horse to my old home, I knew that something evil was beginning to invade there. On the dining room table there was lain a horrible corpse, charred black as if by a fire, but not fully skeletal, yet 9 or 10 feet tall. This is wrong! This should not be here! This evil must be expelled! Who else can see this for the horror that it truly is?! But around me they were saying, “Oh, honey, it’s only natural.”

December 1st, 2010.
I loved the spindle in my hand. It was in a strange town in another time, but it was a beautiful village, with roses. A double-steepled church was in the middle of this town which was pressed into a hillside. The sight of the church. Turning back to my spinning, I could see no longer. A long brown dress with a shawl for my garment, a circle of comforting wool. Towards the hills and to the left there was a room, and the day began to grow dark, and someone was coming for me, calling my name. I was ordered to a certain meeting unknown to me. When I entered there were many people, and women in particular. They asked why I was still wearing my brown, why my spindle was still in my hand when, don’t I see? The veil has been lifted. And what did they mean, I asked, as they moved in a circle around me. They turned toward a wall with a huge painting of a demon and fire on it. They said to me, “That is where we are going to send you this Sunday, instead.”

December 8th, 2010.
Over a dark lake I flew with my cloak as my wings, navigating toward the sparkling lights of the shore. Halfway to home there was a raftsman with his own warm house of light floating out on this dark lake and I flew down and landed here. The man, a friendly ghost, held a lantern. He offered to feed me, knowing how I hungered. A variety of delicious dishes were available upon the instant of magic. Immortal fish and fellow water beasts provided their bodies as food to me. With fondness and gratitude I finished my meal. I thanked the friendly lantern ghost and continued toward the far shore.

A Road Running Two Ways

It has been a while since I’ve collected my thoughts fro publication, here. I’ve been occupied with learning Japanese  (again) in long and mostly satisfying hours of study. I began learning Japanese as a child, and I have always wanted to finish the job. Tony and I are also looking to move, soon, and I am fixated on discarding as many unnecessary belongings as possible, a task that is at once intensely cleansing and liberating while also anxiety-producing. Among the things that have piled up lately are the stacks of journal entries in various notebooks that I have been sorting through. Here are some of these writings.

The senses are an ally. They lead us into the heart of praise and happiness. Stoicism only takes a human heart so far. After the medicine of moderating and dis-attaching from inflated emotion, it is a sweet renewal to return to the upwelling praise and astonishment at the life of the physical word. 

You who bring all the stars into being, my relationship with you is changing. I feel better about it because I am not so lonely when I am not missing you so much. I am more comfortable, now, in the natural apathetic doubt of adulthood. But I do not vilify this natural distance we humans feel from you, sometimes. Because of my refusal to vilify such a naturally-occuring disinterest in constantly thinking about the divine, I feel less theistic than ever. This is peaceful in its own way. Still, I hope that the quiet between us will not last too long.

Through the human ability to form words comes rushing the ancient, pre-humanly infinite energy of creation. But because we are so limited in our articulate power and so endlessly restless in our search for the holy, I am coming to understand how a departure from such chasing of truth and intensity brings great relief to the sapiens mind. Is this a part of what the Zen Buddhists allude to?

Our species, they say, was parted in ancient days
85,000 years ago at a road running two ways
out of Africa; it was on a cliffside, imagine:
the boundless earth of beasts beyond humans,
a deep wilderness yet to know a first campfire:
we wore the same skin, then. You stood
on the edge of a dry place, my right cheek
facing north to where the earth opened up
into a cavernous trail beckoning my progeny
into a country unnamed, a foreigner’s skin.

Word Magic Spelling Its Spells

The following piece is from an old journal entry written when I was practicing the free-form writing advised in such books as Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, which I have referred to with appreciation before. While this method has been helpful at times, I share here my reflection on the changing of my mind in the creative process. It has been too easy for me to have anxiety in my writing induced by my own “monkey mind”, the racing thoughts that arise when a writer practices free-form writing without self-editing along the way. I am now at a stage where I am no longer doing unedited journaling, because I have come to realize it is ultimately not the constructive mindset I want to cultivate. Ironically, the value of a constructive and sane mind in writing is taught by Goldberg in her book, so I continue to have a great appreciation for this part of it. While free-form journaling does produce some scattered gems, these gems are still emphatically scattered. This causes clutter in my writing archives that I don’t currently have the solution to editing. It leads to more somewhat anxiety-inducing primal chaos to wade through when going back to edit. It is paradoxical that by practicing a form of journaling which is beneficial to some people, in learning to let out their thoughts unrestrained, this method has become to me more of a burden than a help. But I would not have known this had I not experimented with it… and I am admittedly cheered to rediscover this journaling piece.

Don’t try to watch or only look from the sides just reporting what you see because you’ll never be there, really telling exactly what is. Be standing in the light and speaking from the inside of the dream where the power and love spirals. Be standing and writing from in the inside of the holy waters, holy rivers who flow down without giving up through the desert valley. Desert valley’s still loved and don’t you forget that. Mother waters mountain to the east have work to be done. It’s coming from the chaos that life happens. The earth was formed by magma. By fire and thunder, how frail we are here below. Plate tectonics cray insane volcanos roaring into life as fire make energy, this is how the earth was formed, and from this heat all life has come into being. Get out of its way. Beautiful! And what a tragedy especially when the feminine won’t by lava create.

 

See the magic here is too much, maybe like monk sitting in snow, a lot of distraction but keep quiet mind in the midst. Yes you want not too much of one way and a balance with the other. No rules, just energy. This way when you write with the truth, the truth doesn’t have to sit tucked up inside you threatening you. You get to look forward to all of life, ever in the in-between moments of everybody because it’s there that the power lives and you live with it, you conduct it in conversation with it, you begin to see that the raw pieces of another wise disoriented or disconnected or unfulfilled life actually do make sense after all. You begin to see you live in sacredness, you walk in communion with a tribe of the sacred and even a strip mall will not hurt you, or sap your vital energy. The power is sneaking in around everywhere and it’s the in-between moments between one place and another that she comes to you and whispers “I am here” and you are not alone. Your own small life is in her. You live in praise. The call to give praise in the core of our beings is the call of the bright mind, the writer’s mind who doesn’t know one holy place from another. To return here yet with the eloquence we have learned later on the journey is the task of the monk in the snow.

 

Sometimes the mind goes very fast. Thought becomes enormous and many splintering visitor-spirits in a modest country hut where you live can’t contain them, unaccustomed to such a commotion. They knock on the door of the back of the head at the base of the skull, at the top of the neck and say “enter”, for a human mind lives here. Traveling down your arm, first thoughts, the many spirit ideas get bottlenecked somewhere between your shoulder and palm. It’s what happens when you don’t know what to say next because you have so many visitors and this is why you’re never bored. “That’s exactly what it is,” said a fellow creature I met on a hot afternoon. She was an artist of pictures, this fellow creature, but it is no different. There’s a traffic jam getting stuck somewhere south of my elbow and that’s why I get a numbness sometimes north of the place where I figure out how to say what I need to say. I got to shake out my hand to get the traffic of word magic spelling its spells again.

Matter Over Mind

Last night I woke up at 3:30am with a feeling pulling me to go sit outside for a little while. I call this a sit-spot, coming from my time as a student at Wilderness Awareness School where this tradition of sitting, quietly, in the natural world is practiced. It is near-constantly rainy in the Pacific Northwest this time of year, but last night the sky was perfectly clear, and I could see every star not obscured by the city lights, and the air was a cool but pleasant temperature.

I sat on our gravel driveway where we never park our cars, the place where, for three years, I have neglected to make a fire though I have lived here with my partner who owns the land and would happily allow me to do so. Why have I not made a fire? This is an important question to me: being near a real fire has been a sacred practice in my life. I still loathe fake gas fires with a deep repulsion unknown to most of my modern peers. Fires must be made by friction, or by a simple lighter with a hand-assembled tinder bundle at most. We all need to have our ritual ways.

When I woke up this morning, the stomach ache from eating three spoon-fulls of delicious bee pollen at 3:30am before going outside was still gnawing at me, but I slept really well. I usually sleep like a rock, regardless of almost anything, and I count this a lucky blessing. But upon waking, I got word that there will be an elder fire tonight, where the older folks of the community come together to share minds with the younger ones at a place we call home, and I should go to this. Tomorrow I will hear stories around a fire with new friends, too. Maybe the fire is coming back to me, but it is a calming fire, now, not the fervent, uncontrollable feeling of my youth.

The stars were beautiful last night. I noticed that the Big Dipper was positioned differently than how I am used to seeing it. That is to be expected, but it matters to notice these things with our own eyes.

What I thinking most about last night was my own ability to logic my way out of depression, which I’ve had a perpetual case of to varying severities since adolescence. While sitting remarkably peacefully under the stars (“remarkably”, because I have often felt self-conscious, monkey-minded and unworthy while sit-spotting) then subsequently breathing myself into a restful sleep back in bed despite my foolish overconsumption of bee pollen causing a tummy ache, I was continuing to consider the wisdom that I truly do have the ability to change my mindset at any moment. I am on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, and I do think they work to a possibly life-saving degree. But good scientific medication is only half the effort (don’t talk to me about woo woo “naturopath” medicine, please), where the other half of thriving is the far harder effort of changing one’s own mind.

But is it effort, exactly, with such strenuousness? Or is it simply being, that delivers us into the peace of “no-thought“? I’m thinking back to Natalie Goldberg’s wonderful book, Writing Down the Bones, where she refers to the power of writing in the right mindset that she learned through her Buddhist study with Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Zen Buddhism is infamously easy and difficult all-in-one, and I’m no practicing expert, but the sense I got from the teachings in these books were what I like to call “matter over mind“. (Isn’t that fun? I thought of that. Probably someone else has, too, just like eyes evolved in the animal kingdom separately in various complex species.)

And here I am, on this clear morning, with a clearer mind, finally writing and thinking fluidly with the lighter breath I was looking for. Here is how I can describe this “matter over mind”.

The human mind, and all it produces, are phantoms. The brain is its own constant enemy, or friend, depending on its untamed impulses. I think that this is the image of the untamed horse and rider that Tibetan Buddhists talk about: the mind is the horse, the person is the rider. The human brain is crazy. Even typically healthy brains with no signs of depression or any worse mental illness are just crazy deep down in there. But what a light-hearted relief, what soothing valve for mental pressure it is to acknowledge this. It’s crazy being human!

Speaking from my own depressed brain in its gravest dips into pain, this human brain produces longings and memories and fear and intense feelings that serve no purpose but to cause anguish, now. This is progress from my former way of valuing these emotional depths as something spiritual I wanted to protect, even if they pained me greatly. Now, I don’t want to pin my spirituality on these emotional weights, even if they do produce some great art and passionate spiritual feeling. I’d now rather be calm and utterly mature, like an unshakable old Sequoia tree, unbothered by and calmly accepting of the insanity of life. Big change in perspective.

The minds of other animals do not appear to be nearly as harried by this human craziness. Animals must be completely grounded in the reality of the physical world around them. Matter over mind. The world of what is profoundly real, this physical world exterior of the brain’s torturous phantoms, is the anchor of sanity, to a very serious point. Those who are clinically insane are diagnosed as such precisely because they have lost contact with blessed physical reality. And physical reality is blessed, because it is the foundation of everything and so is infinitely valuable though sometimes sadly disregarded and overlooked for its goodness. The constant ground of matter –the literal ground of the world holding us securely in gravity, covered by a blanket of sky– shall always exist independent of the brain’s self-cycling drama.

Matter over mind. Constantly looking inward is the source of a lot of suffering. Looking outward, instead, brings relief. The mind will always be crazy inside, but when anchored in the physical matter of the world, it is calm.

The brain does not change its neural pathways by wishing, or by praying, but by doing. The will to change one’s actions doesn’t even come from the inner mind, but instead comes from a grounded awareness in the reality of the real exterior world. Matter over mind.

I focus here not on the “action” of social political agitation, which I am mortally tired of. I mean the action of physical movement and awareness: breathing, walking, focus on the movement of a leaf on a tree, the presence of an animal.

What should be made of the inner sanctum of the mind? It is this place of refuge from the harsher parts of the exterior world that I have cultivated for so long, guarding its impulses even in the anguish it causes. I am not alone in having wanted to retreat from the glaring, unnatural clatter of urban life. Coming to terms with the atonal disharmony of our current times is also an act of kindness to ourselves, forgiveness for the environmental stress we feel, in that we should not expect ourselves to be perfectly at peace all the time. We are fervently trying to adapt to a changing landscape. But this effort at adaptation puts us in good company with all our plant and animal relatives of evolution, who themselves have survived all environments, peaceful and hostile, to get us here. We can feel less alone when we realize that, by our experience of environmental disharmony and subsequent behavioral adaptation to adjust to or even influence our environment, we are participating in the long and beautiful life of evolution itself. This mental inner sanctum of refuge from harsh environmental exteriors should then be a temporary refuge, and not an addictive escape from reality. This is a critical distinction. There is too much attempting to escape reality, now, at the cost of losing that shimmering image of beauty which we seek in our escape, for only The World itself truly offers this relief. The effort of the wise is to find this shining world open its way to us, even among the grit of inquietude. In every city there are the laws of physics, still: the pull of gravity never leaves us, and the air is present, and even animals and plants are to be found slowly and surely repopulating their habitats. Most significantly, should I give in to the temptation to view the creatures of nature as in a war against the structures of human design? I should not, for then I would see myself as an enemy to my anchoring world of matter, when I am no less a native animal here than the nearest little creature who scuttles or flies. Nothing can truly be ever outside of nature. That is, by definition, impossible. Nature is the sum total of all that is real. Ultimately, all our human designs are within this force as much as any other assembly of atoms. Matter over mind. The inner sanctum of the human mind needs constant fortifying by the solidity of the great exterior world of matter, which is the very definition of solidity itself. Then, we carry the world of matter within us, and it is a constant source of peace.

I am convinced now that this is how animal minds endure the hardships of their own lives. They cannot afford to be distracted by fantasies. Their lives and entire mental wellbeing depend on their constantly being centered in the physical world itself, and in the wild they show no trace of boredom. It is possible that the “domestication” of modern humans contributes greatly to the mental suffering of our time. If this is so, and the environment is unlikely to spontaneously change for us, then it is all the more important that we creatively adapt to and influence our environment not by escaping from it, but by going into it in sensory awareness.

This sensory awareness practice is what I was being taught at Anake Outdoor School at Wilderness Awareness School. I was not ready to understand it until now. But, like all great and complicated human communities that impart wisdom, they taught this wisdom alongside what felt like a contradictory practice. In my words, I’d call it too much navel-gazing, too much self-examining of so many emotions. It’s possible it only felt like too much to me, because I had done it already for so long and to a pointless, depressive degree, whereas such self-examination is new and useful to others.

From the beginning, animals accept this Dark Mother that is present in the beauty and violence of natural life. This Dark Mother is an archetypal rendering of the simultaneously nurturing and brutal aspects of Great Nature, as Shinto beautifully and simply names it. Nature is the mother who gives birth in one breath, then impersonally strangles the helpless infant in the next (countless babies in have died in childbirth from umbilical cords wrapped around their necks). Great Nature brings us abundant food and the right amount of sun and rain, then is unrestrained in famine. She allows a creature to escape from certain agony by the fortune of its genes for swiftness or camouflage, while another is crushed by an amoral falling tree. Evil exists, but it is a construct only of human social life, and is natural only insofar as the human brain with its demons is natural, though we have every justification to expect our humanity to behave morally. Evil is not a component of all the rest of Nature. This does not mean it is less of a serious thing: we use the word “evil” to rightly describe extreme and unjustified suffering, such as torture or rape, caused upon one social, sentient being by another. The amorality of scientifically-revealed “Great Nature” is, then, all the more a relief to the human brain which tires in these maturing centuries of distinguishing the phantom agents of evil and good beyond the human sphere, once attributed to gods. A tsunami is devastating, but it can never be called “evil”.

Today is a beautiful, rare sunny day in a Seattle winter. I want to get out and enjoy it, but with humor I am realizing that I won’t enjoy it if I follow my typical pattern of anxious thinking by worry about not enjoying it enough. That’s a non-helpful thought pattern of seeing this bright day as something I need to “measure up” to. Instead, there is no pressure of measuring up to this day by showing it how much I appreciate it by going snowshoeing for fifteen miles and wiping myself out. If I merely go out into it and don’t even think about being “happy” or “sad”, then the calm of a deeper happiness comes.

What this comes back to, in my original point about calming the crazy human brain through sensory awareness, is the value of not extending moral judgments further than they need to be applied. I am prone to feeling unreasonable guilt, even for such ridiculously common reasons as being depressed in itself. You can see how this becomes a depressive cycle. That is an overuse of the human need to name “good” and “evil” actions. It is easy for depressed brains to turn this thinking on themselves, and fall into a cycle of feeling a lack of worth or ability to be “good” again. But when we see that this depression is only the result of a brain being a brain, merely in need of getting outside of itself and into amoral Nature, relief is found. A brain is not committing a wrong just by being depressed, but it is doing a right action by putting matter over mind.

 

 

Above: “Groundwater” © 2017 Amber MV. Watercolor on paper.

Featured image: “High Desert” © 2017 Amber MV. Watercolor on paper.

Here’s Some Happies, World: Plants, Quotes, and More, (Installment 1)

Here you go, World, here’s some happies. I’m cleaning out the depths of my computer in preparation to retire it unto the Great Reset Button, now that I have a new computer that is better functioning. I’m a stickler about it: I need to move all my files manually, meticulously, or else I’ll just feel cluttered with all those sneaky unnecessary junk files sneaking into the database on my fresh, sparkly new compy. Cleaning out one’s computer files is therapeutic much in the same way as is cleaning one’s house.

I’m using my blog as one method of storing information to save. The information that I’m alright sharing with the public is being cheerfully piled here. Hence, the stream of new and mostly brief writings, posted in daily backlogged order, just because I do it that way. Most of these posts are compiled form my notes that have been threatening anarchy to get out onto The Leafy Paw anyhow, so there’s no time like now.

Right now I’m feeling tired and only half-awake from all this winter low light, so I’m having some wine and half-listening to Richard Dawkin’s Science in the Soul, and it’s making me feel a sorta love and appreciation for the guy. Non sequitur? I think not. Because Lalla Ward’s Fancy British Accent only makes Dawkins’ same accent, in his petulant masculine way, really kind of endearing, even though I normally am annoyed by those airs. We can all be “sapiosexual” for Richard Dawkins, lol. As a former church-goer, I never thought I’d smile about that. :D

It’s not just me with the winter sleepies. My cat, Ivra, has colonized my American Girl doll bed for his adorable furry uses. He fits perfectly. The little guy.

💕

Anyways, below you’ll find some “happies”. These are collections of Good Things I take delight in, and you might, too. These are gathered images, logs of naturalist scribbles, literary quotes, etc. More to come. Enjoy!

🐢

Plants of Hamlin Park in Shoreline, WA: Have you seen these species?
Fringecup – Tellima grandiflora
Vanilla Leaf – Achlys triphylla
Kinnickinick – Arctostaphylos uva-ursi
Inside-out Flower – Vancouveria hexandra
Woodsorrel – Oxalis oregana
Starflower – Trientalis latifolia
Deer Fern – Blechnum spicant
Sword Fern – Polystichum munitum
Orange Honeysuckle – Lonicera ciliosa
Evergreen Huckleberry – Vaccinium ovatum
Pacific Rhododendron (WA state flower) – Rhododendron macrophyllum
Salal – Gaultheria shallon
Low Oregon Grape – Mahonia nervosa
Beaked Hazlenut – Corylus cornuta
Indian Plum – Oemleria cerasiformis
Oceanspray – Holodiscus discolor
Snowberry – Symphoricarpus albus
Trailing Snowberry –  Symphoricarpus hesperius
Western White Pine – Pinus monticola
Lodgepole Pine – Pinus contorta
Madrone – Arbutus menziesii
Pacific Dogwood – Cornus nutallii
Grand Fir – Abies grandis
Western Redcedar – Thuja plicata
Cascara – Frangula purshiana

 

Here’s my dear beloved 8 Shields wheel of the 8 directions and how they correspond to the days and the seasons, as laid out by Jon Young and Wilderness Awareness School. Though my feelings about the school have changed somewhat since graduating Anake in ’13, my love for these teaching has only deepened. If there is now a symbol of a religion –no, cosmology– closest to my heart, it would be the eight-pointed wheel, or the compass. This representation only scrapes the surface. In this heartful systemic philosophy, there are layers and layers of ecological significance (insects in the east, frogs in the southeast, print-tracking in the south, etc) as well as the stages of a human life, a year around the sun, a single day of natural magic, and so much more…

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You might get a kitty at the door. This little guy, Jesse Wiggles, was everybody’s best friend in the neighborhood. We are sad to conclude that he may have passed away somewhere :,( or else got scooped up into someone’s house and never let out again, because we haven’t seen him around in a while. Did I mention I love cats? He came to “bonk” us when my kitty of twelve years, Rosie, died in 2015, and there was a painful kitty hole in our hearts. He was there.

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“You can let me in and I’ll love you forever,” said every cutie.

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Look at those love eyes from my baby Mawser! That’s goofball baby Ivra below. They came to us after Jesse Wiggles helped us out.

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Hmmmm, this is turning into a cat post. Cats are important.

If you go to a kitten shelter, you might find a Little Guy Wantin’ Some Love.

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That was at The Cat House on the Kings near Fresno, CA, where I’m from. I swear they make the cutest kitties down there!

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This one above is my Simba, back when I was a teenager circa 2004.

 

 

Arguably, my sweet man, Tony, is also a cat. He is a Leo, after all. I drew this picture of him.

 

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My baby Ivra!!! I can’t choose the one picture I love the post, but here he is using my arm as a pillow. What else are humans good for? Just look at those criminal little white paws.

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Here’s the author. She likes her own face, but she doesn’t like posting selfies online.

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My sweet baby Rosie, RIP little girl.

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Tony and I made this in church when we were passing notes :D

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I’d like to apply the following quote to my love of cats, and how much better their little lives are now in our time than in centuries past, more than ever before:

“How love fares against hate and indifference is the only reliable measure of historical progress that we have.” — Gil Bailie

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Tiny Lions

Journal Entry from 7/24/2016

My cats are relatives of lions! –of large and small wildcats, they are relatives to them all. My cats are “guardian spirits” to me, my “familiars”, with their bright yellow-green jewel eyes and same stripedy patterns of their wild cousins. It is a blessing and a delight they have come to settle in with us human domestics, to purr at our feet, begging kibbles and bonking our faces with their adorable ways. A story goes that cats became domesticated so that humankind would have the pleasure of snuggling the tiger. Actually, the truth is probably nearer to the opposite: humans became domesticated so that cats could have the pleasure of sitting on us!

Baby Mawser, at three months old, is Mr. Independent Bug Hunter who pounces and tumbles over the small woolen toy I made for him, practicing for prowling in the wilderness like a big tough kitty. He will not go into the wilderness, but he brings the vitality of his wildness home to us. His brother, Ivra, is my big goofy cuddle-baby-lion who doesn’t lose an opportunity to sit in my lap or on my back as I stretch out on the floor. His way of “hunting” is to be a lazy paw-swatter on his pack, like an over-confident comic male lion. I love these little cats more than I can put into words, so much it makes my heart hurt in that extraordinary way. House cats are hilariously wild and yet merely big kittens for life. 

We humans used to know the names of all beasts and plants and called them our friends. Wandering out of Africa into deep green and dark northern forests we met our Neanderthal cousins, sharing their likeness. The world was endless then, when all hominids hunted their food and gathered from the plants. The world itself was sanctuary and home. I get the sense that, finally, I may be lucky to be living at a time when this way of loving The World as our permanent home is returning to us.

Little Kitten, descendant of great beasts, bless us with your wilderness condensed into your small body, the wilderness you carry within your snuggly, tiny self, little stripes and spots of the tiger, heart of the lion. Your energy is boundless and full of vitality in every muscle, paws eager to seek out the path of the jungle. Little Cat, remind us that we too are like you, The World within us, and that we have not “fallen” so far from your happiness. Give us persistence to find our way home in The World.

Little kitties, is this why you came to snuggle us in the Neolithic days? You could not have known the changes coming for our species, that we would come to love you so dearly. It is the Lifeworld we want, and this you greatly bring to us, The World that you live in, that you carry within yourself, pounces and bright eyes alert and at the ready to purrs. It is this vitality we long to be reborn to. We have loved you and called you friend, miniature Tiger, tiny Lion, herald of happiness. May happy landscapes await us where the night is more joyful, the dawn more delighting, and lively animal forms are pouncing unceasing in lovableness along the paths of our lives.

Robin Hood, Trickster Archetype of England

The origins of Robin Hood (or, “Robin Wood”) are buried in the imaginal of the medieval ancestors’ dreams. His colors are green and gold, the heraldry of the forest. Some have said that he is a collective memory of the The Green Man, or Pan, returning to the people in the midnight of the middle ages when they needed him most. His role was to be a Trickster for the beaten soul of England. Trickster is the archetype who mocks the King and gets away laughing. It’s a serious and necessary power in every culture that shows itself in various ways.

I’m especially fond of Robin Hood in T. H White’s The Sword in the Stone, the first volume of The Once and Future King. Young King Arthur, before he knows he is a king, goes pouncing out on adventures with Merlin, getting turned into the animal people, the better to get himself “eddicated” about humane lordship, by Merlin’s benevolent devising. One day he goes into the forest. He meets Little John, who is a giant, and Little John tells a tale about the Lord of the Forest…

“Aye, Robin ‘ood. What else should un be, seein’ as he rules ’em. They’m free pleaces, the ‘oods, and fine pleaces. Let thee sleep in ’em, come summer, come winter, and hunt in ’em for thy commons lest thee starve; and smell to ’em as they brings forward their comely bright leaves, according to order, or loses of ’em by the same order back’ards: let thee stand in ’em that thou be’st not seen, and move in “em that thou be’st not heard, and warm thee with ’em as thou fall’st on sleep—ah, they’m proper fine pleaces, the ‘oods, for a free man of hands and heart.”

Robin Hood was probably not a singular man, but a conglomeration of many medieval bandits, dissenters, peasants and folk at the age of society assuming the collective name in their adventures against authority. T.H White’s words ally Sir Robin with the soul of the forest itself, an embodied face of an older, unconquerable wildness. Regardless of whether Robin Hood ever literally existed, what matters is that the English-speaking world has so passionately claimed this figure as a deep mythological symbol of the untamed soul still present in the heart of Western art and mythology. That is what makes him emotionally and enduringly relevant.

 

 

 

 

White, T. H. The Once and Future King. New York: Putnam, 1958. Print.

Within Humanity: Toward a Healthier Ethnic Identity for Ancestrally European People

A little while ago, I was speaking with a friend about the racial tension issues surrounding the 2016 election in my country, the United States of America. He reacted strongly to the national tension by veering further “left” politically than me, whereas I have become more cautiously moderate. In this conversation I expressed my anguish about becoming separated from beloved friends over these divided politics, especially friends like him. We were talking about the issue of perceived “whiteness” in America, and he felt strongly that White people might be historically redeemed by wiping away this stain of self-identified “whiteness” by no longer identifying as “white”, but instead by reclaiming their roots as ethnically Dutch, Irish, Norwegian, French, Russian, Italian, and so forth. I told him why I take issue with this: “Tell me,” I said, “which am I? Am I French or German or Danish? Am I Scottish or Swedish or English? I do not know which section of my DNA is more worthy of my recognition, in order to be pardoned from a cultural guilt which I have no responsibility in creating.” By trying to uplift the cultural experiences of non-white Americans, he was ignoring and devaluing his own simultaneous reality that White people in America tend to identity as White for a very good reason. They do not belong to only one of these disparate ethnic European groups, but an ancestral admixture of many of them. The story of gradually becoming White in America was not some sinisterly ordained plot worked out in advance from the Mayflower. It was a multi-century, organically evolving experience of blending into a new cultural group of pan-European American people, which eventually resulted in us having only one box to check on the census: “White/ Caucasian”. This blending of ancestries was not some malicious conspiracy to make all ancestrally European people immediately the top of the social hierarchy, though this happened for a multi-generational period due to being the majority population with its own set of complicated values and age-old human problems. This is a story of a people’s multi-generational diaspora, and it isn’t very remarkably different from every other migration story in the history of humanity.

I want to participate in my own ethnic European-American “tribe” the same way other tribes are openly permitted to do so in my country without all the shame and blame to follow. At the same time, I do not accept any supremacist attitudes from anyone, regardless of their “race”. I put the word “race” in scare quotes because I follow the scientific conclusion that there is no biological evidence for the distinct categories we call “races”. There are varying genetics, haplogroups, phenotypes, and distinctive cultures, all of which result in the many ethnic groups of the world, but there is no evidence in reality for such a thing as “race”. Looking at this desire to wholly belong to and participate in the communal life of a human tribe, I view my own need for this cultural identity and cohesion through the same evolutionary and anthropological lens that applies to all in our Human species. I place my own pan-European and American ancestry within that global, million-year-old Hominid story.

Part of the ongoing problem of colonialism’s legacy is that the “privileged” groups tend to unconsciously feel that they will only ever have their privilege to identity with, or else their utter shame and self-hatred in response to it. They forget their own normal humanity that holds the same needs for a semblance of peaceful cohesion as does any other ethnic group. A healthy ancestrally European identity could begin as one which does not assume the blank slate of normalcy for all that is culturally “white”, while marginalizing all non-white people as the Other. Instead, it would claim the beauty and humanity of its Western ancestry, influenced by many peoples over many centuries, while acknowledging the parallel normalcy of everyone else’s accomplishments and subsequent centrism in their own ancestry.

One of the ironies of the politically “progressive” White-guilt complex is the blindness to it’s own ability to be so deeply self-critical as a group of self-identified White people. If White people were so hopelessly irredeemable for the sins of history, we wouldn’t be repenting on our knees through the desert in sackcloth and ashes like we are. The alarming part of this is not a peoples’ willingness to be self-critical, but rather a peoples’ willingness to eagerly self-destruct their own culture in hopes of redeeming itself through a sacrificial offering. The sick religious connotations I draw are intentional. The proclamations on the part of white people who wish to culturally beat themselves and their progeny into submission in reparations to people with more melanin in their skin is sadistic, unacceptably emotionally self-mutilating and will never change the past. It will only put a stain on the wellness and relationships of the generations of the future, whatever their skin colors.

Some contemporary people of European ancestry are trying to creatively re-envision an ethnic identity not automatically tied up in the colonial slaughter of the past five hundred years as their founding mythology. It is appropriate to acknowledge the pain of the victims of colonial history without relegating our own European ethnic heritage to the two worst options: either crippling, self-hating ancestral guilt or inexcusable White supremacist ideology. Neither of these can ever be healthy and I look forward to the future demise of each.

We do damage to upcoming generations when we give them only the consistently despairing accounts of history, without pairing them with the equally true and powerful stories of inter-ethnic friendship, cooperation and acculturation to each other. To only speak exclusively of historical despair –hoping to heal the wounds of history by emotionally flogging the children of the future– only perpetuates conflicts that do not belong to the future. Each of us are born to be the living recipients of history, and so we are the ones qualified to talk back to it. The greatest wisdom of the elders should be to let their warfare die with them.

 

 

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