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The Crows Who Knew the Fox Who Knew My Mother

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Always, in the month of May, I feel my mother's presence in the untamed view outside our windows (which was once her view), in the mountain neighbors who once knew her, even in the noisy crows who congregate in the gangly ponderosas in our yard. The elders of this crow family might have been youngsters when Mom was alive, growing as she aged, recognizing her just as they recognized the mother fox and each new set of kits who denned below the house. Mom loved nature, and walks in the woods, but she also loved Japanese art, exotic travels, world-class museums, good books, classical music, Darjeeling tea, and French food. She never had these things growing up, which is perhaps why, later in life, she loved them so much. She loved Van Gogh, but not as much as she loved Claude Monet. A print of Monet's Japanese Bridge  found its way onto every bedroom wall I had as a child.   I've been re-reading my old journal entries from 2004, when my mother's valient struggles with cance

On the Green River, In the Steam of Another Lifetime

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Two special women in my life just passed and I find myself filled with nostalgia for my own mother and for a childhood that was, by all measures, a good one. And yet there were tragedies, as with all childhoods. This poem, in this new year, takes me into the heart of a few of these memories... Forty-five years ago, Colorado’s South Platte River left her banks and thrust herself at the tall cottonwoods whose deep roots until that moment drank  matter-of-factly from her mossy waters near the frog pond by my childhood home twenty feet tall, the river roared across mowed lawns  scoured cul-de-sacs, inundated our home as indiscriminately as she snatched Betsy Grant’s  two-story brick house, carving a gaping hole where the basement had been, leaving nothing but a curtain rod. I do not remember if the day the rains came, on the heels of mountain snowmelt if on that day, a rainbow – like now, here on the Green River – stretched across the blue horizon offering itself as retribution and apology

Like Horses, We Falter When We Lose Our Way

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The morning after the veterinarian injected the little white mare with a sedative, and then a lethal dose of barbiturates, the herd did not want to go out to the pasture. They stayed near the gate where the sweet elderly Arabian had taken her last breath.  “The timing is good,” the veterinarian had said. “Not too soon, and not too late.” She had taken care of Echo for many years. None of us wanted the thin mare to endure another hard winter, even with the herd beside her, even with abundant hay. The slender white mare had roamed these high mountain pastures for nearly thirty years. As other horses came and went, Echo’s presence remained as constant as the glow of moonlight over the meadows. She wasn’t a leader. She wasn’t an enforcer. She wasn’t even a follower. But like her name suggested, she was the mirror that reflected back to the other horses their sense of order, their sense that all was right in the world.  Like the vista of a deep canyon inspires us to shout across the water a

Returning to Kindness: What the River and the Poems of Linda Hogan Teach Us

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Women have been gathering at the river for thousands of years. It is where we have traditionally  come to greet the sun, to cleanse and purify ourselves, to find inspiration, to tell our stories, to create a vision for the future. Torrey House Press, the publisher of Linda Hogan's newest book of poetry, The History of Kindness,  writes that these new poems “explore new and old ways of experiencing the vagaries of the body and existing in harmony with earth's living beings.” "There is no one like Linda Hogan," writes author Terry Tempest Williams. "I read her poetry to both calm and ignite my heart. A History of Kindness is a series of oracles rising from the page born out of a life of listening, feeling, responding." For women, living in harmony with our bodies, and with nature, does not always come easily. We are often encouraged by society to embrace a lifestyle that is everything but harmonious with nature. We are led to believe that harmony wit

The Earth, A Reclamation

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The poem and poet's statement below, and accompanying photographs, first appeared in the May 2020 digital issue of Langscapes Magazine , published by Terralingua.Org. The print version of the magazine, Volume 9, is now available. I wanted to also share " Reclamation " with the subscribers of "All Things Literary/All Things Natural." Thank you.  Reclamation They say the traffic in London has killed the song of the nightingale. When they serenade each other, they sound more like the honking of horns, the squealing of brakes, and so the nests lie empty. Yet a coyote sought shelter in a Chicago Starbuck’s last month, the closest thing to a cave he could find, stood shaking next to the cooler in the dark corner with the Odwalla juices and the caffeine drinks and the mineral water from Fiji. Just last weekend, in Santa Fe, in the hours before dawn, on the Plaza while the town slept, a mountain lion leapt through the door of a jewelry store, leaving a

Where the Condors Fly

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I should be in Peru right now, visiting with the traditional weavers in my broken Spanish, dotted with poorly pronounced Quechua words, smiling at Elena, petting her lamb, telling her about the ewes we used to have in Wyoming, about the lambs my children used to raise. Our laughter would embarrass her, but her eyes would twinkle and suddenly we would be just two women standing on a mountainside. I harbor a secret dream that rises up whenever I visit Peru. In the highlands of Peru, progress seems to stand still but time travels on, swirling among the ancient Apus where the condors fly, sifting through fields of ripening corn, floating down the Urubamba River, rising as mist that floats across the ancient citadel of Machu Picchu. Time travels through the fingers of the Quechua weavers, too. Ancient patterns appear like magic in wool freshly dyed with crushed leaves that only a few days ago fluttered in the breeze. "When you speak Quechua," I am told, "you c

What if God gave us a Do-Over? What if Kristin Flyntz's imaginary letter from the virus to us isn't imaginary after all?

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If you haven't yet watched Kristin Flyntz's video (see below), pick up your journal, find a quiet corner, then click on the photo below. As you watch and listen, imagine our species making this earth our home for a mere 200,000 years. Imagine the 4 billion years that the earth has been home to as many as 8 billion other living beings.  We are babes in the woods. Consider, what if the human species is only one of a million sentient species? What if we are not even the most sentient species? What if the earth, and all life on earth, has been trying to have a meaningful conversation with us for thousands of years? What if we suspend our disbelief,  and watch  this video  with humility, with our senses engaged and our human egos disengaged? What if we suspend our disbelief, like we do when watching movies or reading novels, and pretend (just for 3.5 minutes) that we're not the smartest beings on the planet, that all life carries within it the same miracle of creation.

The Coronavirus and The Eight Master Lessons of Nature: What Gary Ferguson and Mary Clare are Teaching Us About Living Well in the World

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March 19, 2020 Update : Journalist John Vidal poses this question in The Guardian : "Is our destruction of nature responsible for Covid-19?As habitat and biodiversity loss increase globally, the coronavirus outbreak may be just the beginning of mass pandemics." Scroll down for the link to the article. Did any of you, when you first heard that the coronavirus was sourced from a live-animal market in China, have this fleeting thought:  What did we expect after centuries of treating animals cruelly? Did we think there would be no consequences?   Perhaps it’s time we look not only into the pathology of the coronavirus, but also into the morality of it. We have always known there would be a day of reckoning. The bad news is that the final arbitrator might be Supreme Nature herself. The good news is that the final arbitrator might be Supreme Nature herself. In  Lesson Five  of  The Eight Master Lessons of Nature   (“Our Animal Cousins Make Us  Happier—and Smarter”),

Cummins' American Dirt and Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth: Can stories, even when they aren't our own, build bridges?

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Jeanine Cummins is on the hot seat right now for writing American Dirt , a novel about immigration and life on the Mexican/American border, which was (until a few days ago) believed to become one of the most important novels of 2020. Oprah named it a Book Club Choice. Stephen King endorsed it, as did Ann Patchett, John Grisholm, Sandra Cisneros, and other notable writers. The New York Times and Amazon gave it the #1 slot. Rumor has it that the publisher paid Cummins a 7-figure advance. A few days ago, the dirt hit the fan for Cummins and Flatiron Books (an imprint of MacMillan). The book tour was cancelled. Oprah was unusually quiet for a few days, then posted a video on her book club Instagram page allowing for an opportunity in March to discuss the controversy in more depth. Suddenly, American Dirt was everywhere. And nowhere. January 31st  Slate Magazine published an article by writer Laura Miller , which discusses this question: Will the American Dirt Fiasco Change Ame

The Gifts My Father Has Given

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In my hands I held a hardback copy of Jules Verne’s Classic Science Fiction , torn airmail packaging scattered at my feet. The inscription: “To Matt, with love from Grandpa Loren, San Francisco.” Why is my 75-year-old father sending my 9-year-old son a 511-page book? The inappropriateness of the gift irritated me—a gift hurriedly bought with too little care given. But perhaps it was unfair of me to expect my father to know what a boy of nine would like. Then I remembered that spring, when we had visited San Francisco. Dad had sprinted after a cable car, grabbing Matt’s hand and leaping aboard. Later he plucked a nickel off the street. “Matt, look! When you put a coin on the track—the cable car almost cuts it in half!” I can still picture them standing there, heads bent in mutual admiration. Less irritated, I stared out the window at our dog Hondo, sleeping on the deck. He had been with us since he was eight weeks old. Gray hairs covered the muzzle of glossy black head, and the