Interview: “Yo-kai Watch” Inspires Fitness, Challenges “Pokémon” with Animist Tales

Hey everyone!

I just completed a sumptuous article and interview about Yo-kai Watch and Pokémon Go. It was a lot of work and I’m proud of it. Cats are involved. The piece focuses on the mythological underpinnings of these gaming stories. They can have a positive effect on urban people in search of embodiment and a relationship with the natural world.

Check it out! Share!

“Yo-kai Watch” Inspires Fitness, Challenges “Pokémon” with Animist Tales




photo by DaFranzos. CC0 Public Domain.


With a Cat Mother’s Love


Dear Abby,

As much as I love my wonderful cats’ uber-domesticated constant affection, I wonder if their being indoor animals who don’t much use their muscles or claws or fangs or hunting skills outdoors (though they wrestle each other!) decreases from their quality of life. (I don’t know, but I like it about myself that I worry about this.) They seem content -and we love each other immensely- but so do animals at the zoo seem content, who are often depressed and seriously unfulfilled. So do unhealthy humans living the sedentary life seem alarmingly content. But whatever about modern humans, cats are highly dignified animals who still have their tails and fur. Yet when I let my kitties out for a moment, I find that they have forgotten how to be outside. they are frightened. And if they hadn’t forgot, they might kill birds. Not only that, but is it weird that I infantilize them? They’re my babies. I love them. I cuddle them. One is a grown cat, the other yet a teenage kitten, but by virtue of their being so domesticated, they are totally reliant on me and my partner. I am their mother! I am emotionally attached to my cats and loath risking their being eaten by wild animals outside. Our neighborhood kitties sometimes disappear, including one cutie pie who used to come say hello to us often. His humans haven’t seen him in over a week. If I worry about their quality of life in these ways, am I anthropomorphizing them? But if I am not anthropomorphizing them, am I devaluing the fullness of their little animist souls and sovereign personalities? Or am I too anthropocentric in my relationships, and my standards of what constitutes a sentient soul? Do you think cats have immortal souls? I do. And I hope that when my sweet beloved kitties pass away, we will meet again, in this world or another. Though, I think that cats are spirits of this immediate world: they tell us that animal life glorious enough. They do not wish to saved from the earth, only born back into it, life renewed in the great circle. Animals do not look to a world greater than the aliveness of this one. Will we see them again, animal companions, with their adoring eyes and purrs? But wild, sharp, independent, able-bodied, fierce natural hunters of the woodlands and savannas where we, too, will be wild again alongside them, and fulfilled. I turn to wondering.

With a Cat Mother’s Love,
Anxious Interspecies Parent



Image © Gentle J. Pine. All rights reserved.

Remember Me Who Have Not Any Wings


Sparrows who come to live in our rafters, here you are welcome to nest. When you fly, will you take with you the undigested weight of the earth? I am not the mighty soul who remembers each one of you falling, but I, I can give you a place for your homes in the hallways above me, welcome your conversations and song into the courtyard in need of trickling water. Your voice taught the stream how to sing. Your Avian voices are water to olive groves, and to orange trees you are the crown. Do you hear all we say here below of you, Sparrows? You follow us into cities to watch over the wanderers, we without wings, who think they must fight to know God. You know a better way, in the trees, travelers of the wings. For you the Creator plucks feathers from Her own breast. Unafraid of the heat or the sun or the winds of the seasons, you are familiar, dear sparrows, to the gardenia of day, to purple jasmine’s desert night. Come, friend of the sunflower, and take with you our prayers and oblations, small birds, those who dip close to the walking world, that we too will find the house of the morning, that we will make our nest in the garden at dawn. Feathers of stained glass, I implore you, remember me who have not any wings, but two legs and full heart to walk to the daybreak of birdsong.



Written at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno, California, July 17th 2016


Photo by susannp4, CC0 Creative Commons Public Domain,

The Running Practice of Love

Running is for sweat in the breeze. Dog-panting is good. Running is an act of Love, a dedication, a practice for bodies, heart and hot life. Imbued with fire where Great Spirit comes down to roll out the red road and we, coyote and roadrunner, sprint trails along thunder and pine. Great Spirit come down to visit you, Love, satisfied in your small successes. For it is a great success to get up and run in the morning, or at night when the dusk settles down into nests and roofed gables and you go out to breathe your lungs into life, limbs heat, sweat salt for dedication, body who lives. When you run, take your whole body with you, complete animal forms. Encourage it with words of affection. Catch light that enters your chest with a leap of the heart when you are tired and make your back straight. Loosen your neck. Let down your shoulders. Look for adventure wherever you go, tracking Great Spirit there. Into the shapes and the colors of the world given freely, free body, free air, free heart and legs to run into the practice of love. Doesn’t this feel good? Every few days I go out and take up the red road and I am completing, dear brother, a part of the world. Putting whole-world back together again. It fits in the palm of my hand, tucked up in the runner’s arch of my foot. I yearn more and crave less. Not too full a belly. Eat a little good and enough. Complete the circle of humans who run. Run for the ones who can’t run but yearn to. Run for the ones who didn’t want to run though they can. Take your body of joy to the streets and do not set expectations for records or beatings. Records are beatings. We go more tenderly. Run, open lunged and deep chested, to the next tree, next shadow at the end of this street, at the end of the sidewalk dropping off into grassy oblivion wilderness, run. Make time for the hummingbird to beat his wings with you. One small work of love at a time for humankind to follow behind you, adoring the tracks of Beloved who came this way before. Keep going, sweat streaming. Find wonders here. Run off the weight of the pain and the sorrow and self-doubt. Commit to this again and again. No competition. The weight of the heart is the true burden. The pain of self-doubt is the only real flab. Run to go love yourself, catch up with your spirit, the edge of the blue and brown desert painting California Dali. Run to tell Coach he didn’t take it from you. Run to tell them all that you & Great Spirit now own this. Run to make a way for the animals and the children and ancestors yet to be born. Run to love your own life, your own breath, the life that will live forever this moment to the end of the block. Slow to a stop at the end of the sidewalk where your mind becomes quiet and you recall, body buzzing electric, being a small child running ecstatic for glory down a block like this for a ball kicked by a father or friend.


photo by howo, Creative Commons Public Domain.

They Put On New Skin

I have quiet mind. I ask for quiet mind then worry what to do when I get it. I have nothing to say when I get it. The world is the one who has something to say. All this while I am sitting at the cafe. Overhearing a woman at the checkout stand say she cannot sleep without the TV on, I am thankful this is not one of my problems. In front of me is the newspaper telling about the three police recently dead in Baton Rouge. Red Stick, blood stuck in the muck. And the two black men before them. But something else quiet beneath them. I remember being eleven years old on 9/11 and I was only upset the adults were pressuring us kids to get frantic, take it personally. But every damn night on the evening news before and after this day there are stories of bloodshed and death. But this one is exceptional, every new bloody death is unheard of. This is not cynical. It would bring us all together and make us feel angry and proud, make us feel what we’re missing. Everyday thousands and millions of people die and I learned at an early age to not to pay mind to the news, instead to drop under into the pulse of the world, the sandstone raw ground of the soft belly below. Down here there’s more sense. We can mourn our dead as they call out to be loved, making sense of the senseless because it is in this place, not in the nightly news, but in the underworld where we finally approach the hugeness that is death, and yet its nothingness, its normalcy. To live in love of the world is not to be “worldly”, not to think that the world is the shadow facade that is shown in the papers. The world comes to us all, embraces the dead to say live again, here in my bosom find life anew. You are remembered and never forgotten. Here there is love. To be in relationship with the world is to turn away from the anger that passes for news, because it isn’t the real news of the world. The real news is that the dead have already found heaven because they began to find it in life and now they live again in a new way. They put on new skin, come out between the legs or cut belly of a different mother again. The news of the world is the truth that we can only live on a personal scale, turn back into animals when the curtain falls. We do not access the world by becoming engorged on society’s drama. The society is not the world. Draw closer to the soul of the world this way: stare into a single seed of a tree. Written history is a pile of dead bodies. Watch the worms crawling away from it, carrying words of love from the dead, transporting their atoms to wombs. You want to remember the dead? You want to love them and tell them they still matter. So do I. You’ll have better luck finding them in the face of the river, in the endless mirror. Turn out the heart to be wrung in the rain and the sun. Behold the beautiful young men. Listen to the gallant young women. Draw close to them. They’re carrying life. You’ll be back here again.

Antarctican Forest (Homo Mutatur)

I dreamt that Antarctica warmed, and instead of melting, it became a great conifer forest. Birds of the Americas delivered the seeds of trees carried in their gut and their wings. When the seeds touched the ice, out came green saplings writhing like caterpillars in a protective ball around animal fetuses, cocoons for refugees from lost lands. In time, this new world blossomed into a dark green forested land not unlike Alaska, full of giant new beasts who glow in the night from radiation. Long ago, the humans entered into this place from South America, and hid deep in the ground to survive the war of ice and fire washing over the planet. One century, many lifetimes later, when a quietness not known for eons had settled over the whole earth and the war of the elements ended, a new creature crawled out from the darkness beneath. Her eyes ice blue and transparent-wide, her skin a membrane of milk and watery veins which had forgotten the sun and the moon; her kind become the descendent of the remaining Homo sapiens. On claws, groaning songs like the whales who once were, her people crawled like spiders into the forest, Homo mutatur, the last of the awoken apes. The time of their species stretched out as a nebula’s hourglass, howling their new and final prayers into the boundless forest beneath the shadows of the mountain.


Memory from a dream on October 7th, 2012

Four Films for the Times…

Public domain,
Public domain,

I recently wrote about four of my favorite globally-minded films: Whale Rider; Osama; Of Gods and Men; and Avatar. “Movies have a powerful effect on the global culture of our time, both reflecting and shaping our world. Each of the following award-winning films speak to important issues in our global society today. They are recommended to anyone who would know greater empathy for our increasingly interconnected times.”

Read the article here, “Four films for the times — global culture in cinema”:

The Aliveness of Places


Places are alive. Setting, not merely a dull backdrop, is a topic near to my heart as a writer and as one who recognizes herself as a natural human animal. (And make no mistake, “animal” ought to be a title of honor and pride.) Much of my professional background is in the outdoor education field of “deep nature connection” and the “re-wilding” movement of reconnecting people to our natural environments. It is an educational movement based in loving the aliveness of a world shared with other members of the kingdom of life on earth. This is my starting place for so much of what I feel and do professionally, and it continues to mature in me over the years while influencing my relationship to writing especially.

One of the most important lessons I learned early on in my own nature-based education (unlearning and relearning) is about “the wall of green”. That is the feeling of disconnect, bewilderment, ignorance and fear that many modern humans feel when confronted with a forest or any other natural environment not walled in with four corners and a thermostat set to 70 degrees all year long. I remember it being absolutely overwhelming at first, until, by a slow and gentle establishing of relationship, the “wall” of green disappeared, and I realized I knew the names, and more importantly the distinct personalities, of many of the “plant people” and “animal people” who before had all looked the same. Seeing the natural world in this new way, I was disturbed by my own ignorance. Now I knew the difference between a Western Redcedar, the famous Mother Tree and Tree of Life of the Pacific North-West which provides medicinal tea and valuable building materials, as compared to a Sitka Spruce, an equally beautiful tree whose needled branches taste like candied mint when covered in ice but whose same needles can be extremely painful to grab or step on indelicately! So many species became alive to me: my eyes were opened, and I knew I could never see the living land as merely a passive, mechanical, impersonal “setting” or “backdrop” which only existed as a pretty, disposable decoration for more ostensibly important (and arrogant) exclusively human drama.

This massive paradigm shift has affected me profoundly, and in this I cannot even approach writing itself as a disembodied subject. The aliveness of the land, a being with a relational, lovable, even conscious personality all her own, will always be an important character in the writing process, as it deserves to be. I suspect that this will continue to make a strong mark on my developing career as a writer and obviously influence which subjects feel attractive to spend my time writing about.


And neither is an experience in nature-based education all sweetness and light. Many adult initiates go through an intense cathartic inner turmoil, a “dark night of the soul”, where we come to peace with the unavoidably harsh, violent, and deadly aspects of nature which live in our own human psyches. We find we become more creative, more aware of these primal forces, and we find healthy outlets are honoring them. We may come to honor our newfound awareness of our own edgier natures by channeling physical aggression through more exercise or sports, taking responsibility for our meat-eating by learning the bloody work of how to harvest an animal body on a farm, or enjoying the gothic literary genre and contemplating our own limited lifespans. Indeed, all of these are places, too: states of being expressed in the pitch-black of a forest at night, the strangely soothing beauty of a graveyard, a broken-down part of town that glimmers with a mutinous danger. All all these, also, are nature. Having contact with the magic of places and the night-side of nature provides much creative juice to an ecologically-minded creative writer.


Now I live in a more urban area again, several years after that initial introduction to an indigenous mode of learning about Place. After several transformative years of living rurally surrounded by forests, it was at first a difficult transition “back” in many ways. Yet I chose to accept this new chapter with confidence that nature is still present in the cities, and the aliveness of the world around us comes to aid all of us, even in an urban setting. The movement of the city trees in the sunlight echoes the same effect of a woodland cathedral. We must love and rehabilitate even our urban environments in fiercely creative and regenerative ways, honoring them as not separate from the rest of the earth. We recognize their capability of hosting the same natural magic as the wild places, albeit with more urban flare. The spirit of Place is alive and magical, wherever it is.

Many wild animals have adapted to urban environments and bring their old magic to visit us. Crow, Fox, Coyote, Squirrel, Raccoon, Thrush, Jay, Bobcat, Lark, Butterfly and so many of the Insect Nation, occasionally Deer and even Eagle I know are near me, hiding just beyond or above the concrete sidewalks. There is a beautiful Bald Eagle who nests on a lamp post above highway 520 on the Seattle side facing Bellevue, signifying a threshold between the riparian marshes of the sea-sound and my species’ metal towers. This interconnected aliveness which calls out to us, involving our human-animal selves in their subtle web of life, cannot be disconnected from the writing of a writer who is aware of these relationships.


There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, called Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” There is a poem that comes to mind, by Lisel Mueller, about not being able to go back to old ways after having experienced a new yet societally unrecognized way of being. The poem, Monet Refuses the Operation, is about the impressionist painter Claude Monet’s refusal to have cataract surgery on his eyes so that he can see “correctly” again, because he valued what others called his “disability” of cataracts as a gift that allowed him to see all the world blending together in beauty, as his paintings revealed. Though I certainly don’t consider my re-wilding experience to be in any way a disability, the parallel holds symbolically in the line, “I will not return to a universe of objects that don’t know each other…” I am happy to explain to people why setting is not just a lifeless thing in the background, but instead is a character as much a part of a story as an animal.
Below is a link to that poem. May it inspire us to see differently, unafraid to see the magic of setting, even in our own lives, with new eyes.

if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.



Source: Lisel Mueller, “Monet Refuses the Operation” from Second Language. © 1996 Lisel Mueller. Louisiana State University Press.


The Art of Carrying Verse

When I first moved to San Francisco in January of 2010, I took nothing with me but a backpack and a satchel. I had given away my only computer, one of those old white-cased Macs. I wanted to be unburdened. I stayed at a youth shelter for a time where my only music came from my 2004 iPod, which was stolen. I didn’t miss it for long, because I carried with me a book of poems, songs and prayers that I hand-scribbled in black ink on soft, textured pages. At that time I was nineteen, nearly twenty years old and fighting one of the worst multi-year episodes of my lifelong depression. So I carried with me through that city of sea-fog and sunlit towers out of my league the words of poems to remember, and hymns and folk songs to sing. I memorized the verses I found and needed to carry, singing them to myself on the Muni, on BART, climbing those steep streets of fool’s gold to old churches past homeless encampments. Many a passersby seems to enjoy my spontaneous singing, it being so out of the usual in a modern American city. I sang to Golden Gate Park when, one day, I found a baby American Robin fallen out of its nest. I stayed a long time to see where it hopped to, trying to direct the distressed avian infant with my own winged motions to a place of safe haven. I hoped I’d find the same place for myself. To sing words by heart means you can call on their power whenever you need them, and they will assist you.

The old-school method of rote memorization of verse may, after all, not be so harsh if the pupil can but choose the words that call out to them. How many people today care to have tucked in their sternum the rhyming words of remembering love, the song your grandma sang when you were a child, a poem that grabs and squeezes your frozen heart ’til it warms and pulses again. When my grandparents were children in the 1930s, everyone knew by heart some songs and poems, and it was not unusual for young adults well into the 1950s to strike up a song together in chorus at a party, even unaccompanied by instrument, for the natural joy of it. I call this the lost art of carrying verse. Common people used to know poems and songs, the way people now know their favorite internet music channels. It is not to say that our excellent access to recorded music is a bad thing, but only that I wish we wouldn’t let it replace our own spontaneity at carrying and reciting verse from within us.

I first heard Anne Bradstreet’s famous poem on marital love, “To My Dear and Loving Husband” performed on audio recording by Robert Pinsky on his album of recorded poetry, Essential Pleasures. I had long been a lover of spoken poetry by then. I had never yet had an intimate partner at that time, and the poem spoke of a love and trust between spouses I hadn’t witnessed in my own never-even-married parents. Written sometime between 1641 and 1643, the poem, spoken passionately in the woman’s voice, moreover gives the lie to the stereotype of downcast and unfulfilled early European American woman. Being written by a woman, much less in the 17th century, it is an indispensable perspective in love poetry which too often makes the woman the thing to be looked upon, instead of the active agent who does the loving and desiring upon a man who receives her affections. Love poetry written by women does the dual medicine of amplifying women’s voices and experiences while allowing men to be loved themselves, for once. Finally, menfolk, take a break from always being the active agents. Lay back and let your women do some active loving!

If ever two were one, then surely we.

If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;

If ever wife was happy in a man,

Compare with me ye women if you can.

I prize thy love more than whole mines of gold,

Or all the riches that the East doth hold.

My love is such that rivers cannot quench,

Nor ought but love from thee give recompense.

Thy love is such I can no way repay;

The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.

Then while we live, in love let’s so persever,

That when we live no more we may live ever.

Bradsteet’s poem echoes Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 (“Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day?”) in tone, though it be twelve lines instead of fourteen. I already knew Sonnet 18 by heart, and I scooped up Bradstreet’s love sonnet like silver, memorizing it into my hopeful San Francisco hymnal. The author’s voice of joy rising to crescendo conveys this earthly love up to her prayers, putting the woman’s love that happens on earth squarely in the realm of that which is respected as sacred. Her comparison of this love’s greatness to the inconsequentiality of the world’s riches might make us mistake that she disdained this world. But she rather draws all earthly things into it; in the large way of the poet. Her love is by her husband reciprocated.

When I read it, I held this poem in my hands, there in those San Francisco streets, and then I held it in my memory, as a potion to find such love as this. Lonely, short-haired, I looked for this largeness of love and verse yet incorporeal to me in rose gardens owned by institutions, but which gave their floral splendor to me indiscriminately. I looked for this love already coming to live in my own life, recovering from my depression.

Bradstreet’s poem is anaphoric in nature. It is in the rare second person, addressing her Beloved with all the boldness and tenderness of a young lover even in her middle-aged marriage. Bradstreet’s poem connects all us women through time, ancestral wisdom, like the wisdom of carrying such words within us. It tells me, with much relief, that in every age before me there has been true marital love, not only in our ostensibly more enlightened time, but inherent to all eras of human life. Now I have found my beloved. My partner, T, is much worthy of this poem. If I hadn’t remembered it and carried it, would I have had such perspective in earlier years that finding him would be possible? Would I have had Bradsteet’s ancestral help in my recovery from depression? I take inspiration and reassurance of this deeply human experience written down by a woman cultural ancestor so many generations before me.

I no longer live in San Francisco. I left that city June of 2012, tired of the impossible cost of living and established societies difficult to break into and find real community. I went to attend an outdoor school in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, the greater region which I have now settled in, with T, my object of poetic affections. I still battle depression– it’s a condition I will always have, but I now know how to manage it a little better. I still have my book of verse, and I find new words to imprint in my memory, bright words of power to carry.

Fugitive Writer

Pull up, take a seat facing the window East, I choose, at end of day not to avoid the glare of the setting sun but because what I see out to the East is most beautiful. A garden of the library, East reminds us of where beginnings come from. At the library I am practicing fugitive writing.

Fugitive writing is like this. You go in and sit somewhere and take up any scraps of paper lying around without your bag or your shoes even, and you borrow a pen, and you write because you are rich in your soul and what you have to do here is urgent. Pay attention! I live a two-to-five minute walk from my library but I couldn’t go home to get my proper notebooks, ’cause there are no proper notebooks in life. I couldn’t go back because I stand as in Exodus, loins girded up with the fire, staff in one hand and flat bread in the other, ready to go free and tell stories. That’s what is means to be free. Don’t go back and bury your dead if you meet the Lord on the road. Follow the Spirit wherever She tells you and be rich in what She gives, even writing the scriptures on scraps of the system cast off like yourself. Don’t think yourself better than the homeless guy sleeping three tables next to you, for you are a Fugitive Writer, and your writing is in service to men such as him. We’re all equal before the Lord in our writing, our miniature scripturing. This night I walked into this library and it expanded with a buzz in my temples, opened right up with the air conditioning and colorous rows of image and knowledge. It’s a place we come to be present with Muse, who likes to roll dice with the Holy Spirit betting and laughing who will hear their call next?

Starting the 2nd page now I feel equal with the people of the earth on scrap paper, now that I am a Fugitive Writer of borrowed paper begged possibility. We’re all on borrowed time from the Lord. If you are poor you can come here and partake of free pencils where chairs will lend themselves to you to be a poor and free Fugitive Writer. Mondays are good days for this. You want to set the week up right. It is then fitting that I, sunburned this day in my labors with children, was seized by a powerful spirit of writing in intervals in the day between duties, and during duties I was pleased to get no relief. Supervising an inflatable bounce house in the half shade with not enough sunscreen I filled the fields of pages in a notebook not touched in a decade. I’m really going as fast as I can with a pencil here, but I honestly had the notebook out even when I Wasn’t Supposed To, secretly inscribing the fire that is fugitive writing poured out. You got to sneak a scribble when the power’s ain’t looking so the bolts of the system loosen to let lubricant in. If you don’t have any paper or pen on hand you can recite these things in your head to do fugitive writing. It is more difficult because the risk of forgetting is looming. You may need to bookmark your fugitive writing in tree-bark or tables or pieces of plastic to remember that story about writing like flame with your knees pulled up to your chest and a broken pen and a kid screaming three yards away. That’s a story you need to tuck for safe keeping in the folds of a steel and glass window so nobody finds it or suspects it is there, and when the coast is clear be sure to go back for it. That’s good fugitive writing. You have to write without a desk, all the time. Only the privileged get desks and their own extension to dial and the rest of us got diapers to change or another counter to mop but be sure to know it’s OK to just tell the truth in your fugitive writing. Tell those squirrelly ideas to just wait their turn for the bounce house. You’ll take them all out to recess on the page in a minute where they’ll make exclamations of joy but for now you will have to be a fugitive writer. You may need to risk empathy for the mentally broken or neurodiverse of the earth when you find out that to talk to yourself may be the only hope left to follow the Lord where She takes you. If you were born in the lucky rooms of the world you may have a recording device to speak into so you don’t have to suffer feeling too totally awkward talking out loud to yourself. But if the fire builds up in you and Great Muse won’t leave you alone and if the wind is knocking at the tender backsides of your knees and the barbed wire is whispering and the handicapped rails are leading you down into a telling and you cannot find even a scrap paper or pencil to write, then you must be a Fugitive Writer. You are hounded in Love to tell, Fugitive Writer. The bricks and the roadsides hear what you sigh to the swallows nesting in cityscape cavities, hauled up in a library, don’t go home to bury your dead because you’re a wild-called Fugitive Writer.