May Post 1 – Dreams filled with water lilies

Water lilies have roots firmly entrenched in the muck and mud, but their beautiful, immaculate blossoms float on the water above. They are the nymphs of the pond, known for their loveliness and grace. As the light of day fades, they close only to be opened by the next day’s sun-rays. Recognized throughout the world as having deep spiritual significance, they are symbols of rebirth and second chances. Dreams filled with water lilies are associated with one’s revitalization after a time of trial.

In ancient Egypt, the lily, symbol of Upper Egypt, was teamed with the papyrus flower, the symbol of Lower Egypt, to denote a united country.  Religious iconography of this flower revolved around creation/origin stories. Also, the pillars of the temples in ancient Egypt were in the shape of lily flowers, blossoming from the soil.

According to Buddhism, enlightenment is associated with water lilies. Different colored water lilies have different powers and meanings. A red lily connotes love and passion, and is considered to be the lotus of the heart. The purple lily represents mystic power, while the white lily is mental purity. The highest deity is represented with a pink lily, and blue lilies are associated with knowledge.

The water lily belongs to the Nymphaeaceae family. According to Greek mythology, ‘nymph’ is the supernatural feminine that inhabited bodies of water. Perhaps this is why they captivate the hearts of every onlooker.  In fact, I am finding the need for such warming of my own heart these days given our present political climate, so cold in its attitude toward those regarded as having lesser value.  The under belly of our democracy seems a little murky.  It is not the rich nutritious mud that provides nourishment for ever-growing beauty and life, but is simply crud that seems to be rooted in greed infused with racism, sexism and dominator mentality.

This past week, 61 year-old Code Pink crone, Desiree Fairooz, was found guilty of two counts of unlawful conduct on capitol grounds.  She could face up to a year in jail and hundreds of dollars of fines.  In January she was sitting in on the hearings to appoint Jeff Sessions as attorney general.  When Republican Sen. Richard Shelby referred to Sessions’ “extensive record of treating all Americans equally under the law,” she laughed.  That laughter lasted only three seconds, but she was removed from the hearing.  When the police officer hauled Fairooz out of the room she shouted, “Why am I being taken out of here? This man is evil.”

For decades protectors, protestors and hecklers have been showing up at such hearings.  Their voices have been the voices of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea-partiers and others.  Many of them have been ejected.  But few, if any, are prosecuted, especially with such vengeance.

We need the wisdom and the beauty of the water lilies to enlighten our paths and blossom in our hearts!  The water lily keeps its watery home clean. Moreover, it protects from predators the diverse inhabitants, the many small fishes and aquatic animals, living in her waters. In the same way, we need our government officials to be protectors, not predators, of the people and the environs in which we live.

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April Post 3 – after you learn to draw a circle and a straight line

Detail of Old Street Car – Fort Bragg

I have only taken one drawing/painting class. That was when I was at Central Park Junior High School in Schenectady, New York. I was in the eighth grade, and I must confess I do not remember much of the class, not even the teacher’s name or what she looked like. But I do remember her very first words: “After you learn to draw a circle and a straight line you can do anything.”

Under her tutelage, we practiced over and over again the twist of the wrist for a circle and then a swish of the wrist for a line. Each student filled up pages with circles and lines until we almost perfected them.

My only other art courses were in college: art history, art appreciation, and ceramics. Art appreciation was a wonderful class. My college was located in Bronxville, New York, just a short, inexpensive (at that time) train ride into New York City. So the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney, just to mention a few, were the extensions of our classroom work. My favorite artist became sculptor Alexander Calder whose huge mobiles of colorful circles attached to black lines which hung from the ceiling of MOMA’s largest exhibit hall.

Through a Perrier Bottle

Many artists made contour line drawings on paper, but Calder was the first to use wire to create three-dimensional line “drawings” of people, animals, and objects. He introduced line into sculpture as an element unto itself. Later Calder shifted from figurative linear sculptures in wire to abstract forms in motion by creating the first mobiles. Composed of pivoting lengths of wire counterbalanced with thin metal fins the entire piece was randomly arranged and rearranged in space by the air moving the individual parts.

To this day, thanks to that eighth-grade class, I love images that have circles and lines in them. To some extent all images have circles and lines in them. But those great abstract images that deliberately juxtaposition circles and lines seem to be filled with endless interpretations.

Many years later when I was reflecting on that mantra of my eighth-grader teacher, “a circle and a straight line,” I have come to believe that her instruction was far more reaching then drawing those shapes.  She was talking about philosophies, ways of thinking, cultural paradigms and life styles.

Linear and circular thought patterns are often seen as polar opposites.  But perhaps they can be partners in creating new ways of being as they were on those sketch pads in eighth grade.  Each of these modes has a set of operating conditions that are intuitively different.

Scientists often think linearly while artists think circularly; men on average lean towards linear thinking while women are more circular. Aboriginal people traditionally think in circles while westerners tend to think linearly; patriarchal religions present their dogma linearly while goddessians create community circularly.

Linear thinking is considered logical, objective, disciplined, and goal oriented, all in order to push back against the dangers fear has identified for us.  Perhaps this way of thinking provides for our survival. Circular thinking is rooted in a drive to be inclusive and transparent – a belief that the answer will come when everyone shares their innate wisdom, and a diverse array of thoughts are considered and integrated. Without circular thinking we could not change, feel contentment or develop relationships.

A circle and a line – toiling together rather than in opposition; it might just work! It certainly did in the “skin” of the old street cars of Fort Bragg.

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April post 2 – Blooming the orange-gold smiles

Beautiful is the red crimson columbine

like a fire cracker ablaze in the forest

Dancing to a mellow tempest

Blooming the orange-gold smiles

of the unfolding spring

Edging the roadside of wonder

and bringing joy to the soul

of earth and her two legged travelers.

Returning to a familiar location can often pay off especially if the changing weather disrupts a predictable bloom. That was the case for me when finding a few wild columbines blooming at mile marker 12.43 on the Fairfax-Bolinas road heading toward Stinson Beach.   This road was closed for two months due to multiple landslides caused by our torrential rains and it looked like these plants would only be blooming out of sight of human visitors.

Wild Columbines are difficult to photograph because their stems are so thin and long that even the gentlest of breezes will set the flower in rapid motion.  Using a flash can help greatly so that you have a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the motion caused by the breeze.  This way you don’t have to shoot wide open which gives you very little depth-of-field.  Better to let the background go dark, due to the distance the flash is able to land on, than to have a blurry image. In fact I like a black background occasionally with a wild flower.

The root of the name columbine, Columba is Latin and means dove. But the columbine’s proper Latin name is Aquilegia which translates to mean eagle. It was so named because the spurs of this flower reminded some observers of the talons of an eagle, and like the eagle the columbine has evolved to survive perfectly in its diverse environments whether it be southwestern United States, the hillsides of Marin or the mountainsides of Colorado.

Receive the wisdom of the columbine: Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.  The Celtics believed in the world of dreams and visions and that columbines were the portal to this world.

After photographing these wild columbines I meet Gaia (her actual name is Mikki) on her journey from New York.  She came to San Francisco in honor of the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love.”  In nature and in the eyes of others may we notice how the beauty around us abounds and helps us celebrate our various seasons of “Love.”

It began with a simple four-letter word: LOVE!  In the 1960s this word became synonymous with a generation and then the city of San Francisco. It was an achievable ideal, a belief deep in the hearts and souls of all who were there (and those who were there in spirit…even years afterwards).

The website for the 50th Summer of Love is reporting: The original 50th Summer of Love permit for June 4th has been denied. As directed by the Park Commission we are applying for a new permit for: September or October at Sharon Meadows Golden Gate Park, SF. Hopefully this application will move smoothly. We apologize to you for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Hummmmmm ??????  Nonetheless bloom with orange-gold smiles!

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April Post 1 – Calla Lily of our Soul – Julian of Norwich

One of my favorite mystics is Julian of Norwich (England) who lived from 1343 to 1416. Although voluntarily confined to a small, cell-like room called an “anchorage” in the courtyard of the church from which she took her name, she had immense freedom and was highly sought after for her wisdom. She reformed and re-visioned Christian doctrine into a universalism that focused on the goodness of both God/dess and humans.

Julian was the first known English-language woman author, someone who thought and wrote with a creativity that took her beyond the accepted teachings of her day.  Despite that, her teachings were never disputed or retracted. Next month we will celebrate her feast day, May 8th, so she has been particularly on my mind.

Julian of Norwich saw the Savior as our true mother “in whom we are endlessly born and out of whom we shall never come.” She promoted the concept of “oneing” through her writings and visions. For her, there was no distance between the human soul and the Divine Presence. She wrote: “…all humans are oned, and one person is all people and all people are one person.” (Showings 51).

I don’t think there are any flowers assigned to or associated with Julian of Norwich, but I tend to think the essence of the Calla Lily serves her well.   She taught that the fullness of joy is to behold Goddess in everything.

Calla lilies are not real lilies. They grow from bulbous roots, “tubers” we call them, with finger-like growths. These beautiful flowers originated in Africa and grow mostly in marshy areas. Locally you can see them throughout Golden Gate Park with a special concentration around Stow Lake. Although their official blooming time is late spring you can find them here beginning in winter with some still blooming into late summer.

The word calla comes from the Greek term for beautiful. Because of their unique shape every image created with the calla lily seems to capture the very essence of what we call “Beauty.”   This is why I equate the flower with the writings and wisdom of Julian of Norwich.

Mother Sophia, Sister Julian,
unfurling Wisdom from stalk to petal,
Calla Lily of our soul.

You promise to unwrap your compassion
from our inner to outer light.
Your beauty and love are all we need desire.

Your passion and power are planted
in our vulnerability, sparking our oneing
in which we find impetus and strength
to grow into our full humanity,
interlaced with sacred story.

Bless us for the journey as your spirit
wells up in us from the center
of the earth, your body, our womb.

Maiden, Mother, Crone.
Blessed Be.

Prayer & images ©  Stacy Boorn

“All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.”  – Julian of Norwich

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Abstract images in weathered paint remind me of Diebenkorn!

Many diverse images caught my eye and imagination this past week. Some were found in the details of boat bottoms in the commercial and sport fishing fleet docked in Princeton Harbor.  The stories contained in the peeling paint and rusting ridges seemed to represent birth and death, beauty and harshness.  Segments of these weathered ships with their patchworks of paint have created Diebenkorn-like abstracts.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art is presenting a new view of two of the twentieth century’s most extraordinary painters:  Henri Matisse (1869–1954) and Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993).

This major exhibition explores the insightful inspiration Diebenkorn found in the work of Matisse. The show brings together 100 extraordinary paintings and drawings—40 by Matisse and 60 by Diebenkorn—that reveal the connections between the two artists in subject, style, color, and technique.

Diebenkorn grew up in San Francisco and first discovered Matisse as a Stanford University art student in the early 1940s. Over the next four decades he pursued a serious study of the work of the great French modernist.  The exhibition represents the span of Diebenkorn’s career — his paintings in direct discourse with those of Matisse, whose own work he so admired. Take a trip to MOMA, and see the exhibition for yourself.  Is there validity to my feeling that the abstract images I capture in weathered paint remind me of Diebenkorn’s masterpieces?

Another gorgeous San Francisco exhibit is on display in Golden Gate Park, especially around the Japanese Tea Garden — the cherry blossoms. In full bloom this past week, they draw us into the beauty of their branches, inviting us to stand beneath the blossoms and look up with awe at their colors and shapes.  The twisting branches bend to show off the pink petals as the flowers bask in the rich blue skies of spring. The sweet fragrance that surrounds you hints at love and inner grace.

Locals and tourists flock to the cherry trees to have their portraits taken, some with selfie-sticks and some with  the monster lenses of professional photographers.  I prefer to photograph small segments of the branches to highlight the wonder confined in each flower.

Japan is a country rich in Buddhist and Shinto mythology and legends about nature. In those cultures cherry trees have special significance. In general, sakura, cherry blossoms, represent the impermanent nature of life. Not only is the magnificence of the flowers short and sweet, the trees themselves are also short-lived. But there are paradoxical meanings as well, meanings that symbolize birth and death, beauty and violence.

Japan sent cherry trees to the U.S. to represent friendship and goodwill. In 1915, we reciprocated by sending flowering dogwood trees to Japan.  Dogwood trees represent the kind of friendship that is long lasting, even in the midst of turbulent times, much like the relationship between the creative energies of the artists featured at MOMA.  In our own turbulent times, we might find some peace and direction in exchanging trees with those with whom we feel at odds, nurturing friendship and reaching out for mutual understanding.  But perhaps meditating on peeling paint and rust, Diebenkorn and Matisse, and cherry blossoms will also do the job!

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March – Every spring is a miracle around and within us!

While growing up in Schenectady, New York, I experienced dramatic changes as the seasons moved from winter to spring. Winter was a time when the landscape was blanketed in white frigid snow leaving dormant almost everything underneath. Every year the snow would melt and give way to budding trees, and the crocuses would break through the still-frozen ground like Lazarus leaping from the tomb.  Yet, as a child, I remember believing every spring was a miracle.

The first color that broke the winter cycle was yellow. Before there was even a hint of leaves on what looked like dead branches in our back yard, the forsythia began blossoming.  That memory still moves me to seek out the first hints of local spring yellows.  I have found it in the oxalis, mustard, scotch broom and wildflowers, including my favorite version of the wild poppy, the Coastal Poppy, whose petals are both orange and yellow.

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, the move from winter to spring is a little more subtle. Especially if our winter rains, like this year, are quite plentiful, the hills rendered brown by the summer begin to amass greens and yellows already in January.  In our area, a California poppy or two can be found throughout the year, but, when spring comes, the colorful signs of rebirth and regeneration are explosive.

The California Poppy, of course, is the floral symbol of our state, and it even has its own song.  Written by Curtis Clark and Bob Fox circa 1940, it goes like this:  “Poppies, Golden Poppies, gleaming in the sun, closing up at evening when the day is done.  Pride of California,  flower of our state.  Growing from the mountains to the Golden Gate.”

Every day, as the media reports on the leadership style and choices of our president, we are reminded that we are in a time of regression and movement away from caring economics, environmentally friendly policies, and partnership paradigms. Yet spring keeps erupting with promises of beauty and life, almost insisting that we take occasional mini-retreats from our acts of resistance to get out into the natural world to replenish and renew our soul, heart and focus.

As I look for fresh angles from which to capture the beauty and essence of the poppy, I am inspired to search for new tools for making the personal shift from domination to partnership and its implications for the greater society and the common good.  One tool that blessed me this year was the online course I took from Riane Eisler and the Center for Partnership Studies.  The course helped me reconnect with the truth that all life is best lived when we express love, compassion, and understanding through everything we do.  When we live out that truth, every spring is a miracle – in the world of nature and in our own inner being.!

If you are not familiar with the Center for Partnership Studies I suggest you look at its website:  http://centerforpartnership.org/

You can view additional Poppy images in my Poppy Portfolio

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March week 1 – migrations of all types are being thwarted.

“Migration” is a concept that has been popping up in my thoughts, dreams and camera lenses this past week.  For the many species of birds that use the Pacific Flyby, it is reported that the routes north are beginning to fill.  But, for some reason, the local wetlands, ponds and seashore strips where I have usually seen large numbers of migrating feathered friends have been very sparsely populated this year.

Marbled Godwit – mud on beak.

I am not sure why that is so.  Climate change?  The increase of urbanization in once wild areas?  Decreasing food sources? More rain than drought? Or perhaps I just forgot where to look.  I am concerned for the birds because I know that at least some of these theories are true.  What will become of these wonderful creatures as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and its research, protections and regulations are greatly de-funded and dismantled?

 

A 23-page directive to the EPA from Trump’s administration proposes changes and financial cuts to the EPA’s budget of $8.2 billion.  The cut of $2 billion will surely cripple the work of this already understaffed but vital department.  Trump proposed that the cuts from the EPA and other domestic agencies are needed to add $54 billion to the already huge $598.5 billion Defense/military budget.  We need to be deeply concerned about the birds, their world, and one another as well.

Migration has always been a part of our global seasons and systems – the movement of birds, butterflies and animals for breading grounds, filarial worms migrating within the human body, the nomadic tribes following water sources for their cattle and goats, refugees moving from death zones to safety, and migrant workers following the farmers’ harvests.  By executive order and proposed federal policy changes, migrations of all types are being thwarted.

In the avian world, for example, American Avocets are suffering because of the loss of wetland habitat, especially ephemeral wetlands, and, of course, an increase in contamination. Here in the arid west, wetlands compete with urban and agricultural areas for limited supplies of fresh water. Many wetlands that were once important Avocet breeding areas have declined in size by as much as 90%. Selenium and methylmercury contamination of wetland breeding areas by industrial farms is an important conservation issue.

In the San Francisco Arboretum I noticed for the first time signs of a very different kind of migration. The weathered stones in the limestone wall that frames the garden outside the botanical library were once part of the Cistercian Monastery in Santa Maria de Ovila in Spain.   The monastery, 90 miles north of Madrid, was founded in 1188 and thrived for over six centuries.  But, in 1835, over 900 monasteries were closed by the Spanish government, and, thereafter privately owned, Santa Maria de Ovila Monastery fell into disarray.

In 1930 with the approval of the Spanish National Art Commission this monastery was sold to William Randolph Hearst to be reassembled as a retreat center in Shasta County.  It was a dream that was never fulfilled.  During the depression Hearst experienced financial setbacks, and so the stones remained in a San Francisco warehouse. In 1941 the stones were purchased by the City of San Francisco to be incorporated into the deYoung Museum.  Fire and weather had erased much of the precious markings on the stones, and lack of funding prohibited their restoration.

In 2000 several of the stones were used to construct the Botanical Garden’s Library Terrace and were arranged in a way that would showcase their original medieval masonry. The salvaged stones remind us of a nearly lost fragment of history.  Maybe we can see all other “migrations” as sacred and precious, a step on the road toward the reconstruction of a global monastery – a safe and hallowed place where those who embody the holy other gather!

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February week 3 – explosive new shapes and possibilities.

Conservatory of Flowers detail reflected in pool.

In 1958, just a few years after graduating from Princeton, Frank Stella began his groundbreaking “black paintings.” These austere works were composed of parallel stripes determined by the proportions of the canvas and the width of the paintbrush. They had no meaning beyond their physical form; as Stella famously put it, “What you see is what you see.”

The Frank Stella Exhibit at the De Young, with colorful geometric shapes half a block long and twisted sculptures that jump off the wall, will close in a few days.  It is well worth seeing even if his art doesn’t float your boat!  One of the most highly regarded post-war American painters still working today, Stella employs a style that is constantly evolving. I just had to see and experience it since he is consider a grand rule-breaker.

Stella’s works are often called “pinstripe paintings,” but the implied regularity is inaccurate. When working, the artist doesn’t measure out lines, as many critics have presumed, but works freehand — faintly deviating from perfect straight lines. His use of materials is just as revolutionary; in his work, he uses house and car paint, cast aluminum, fiberglass, and the latest 3D-printing techniques.

Stella focuses on the basic elements of an artwork – color, shape, and composition. I like to think that some of my own “abstract” images employ similar creative patterns that begin with modest materials such as rusting hinges, peeling paint and ripples distorting reflected lines. I hope that these kind of photographic images cause a person to wonder if “what you see is NOT what you see.”

Sometimes we really do need to frolic among the lines and curves around us and explore and manipulate their unfolding possibilities.  In doing so we might be able to revision that which is before us into creative imagery with explosive new shapes and possibilities.

Same image as above with different angle and more water movement.

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Touching the soul of the earth with Hildegard von Bingen

These days we need to strengthen our spirituality so we can be the “change-makers” necessary for the well-being of this world and its people.  For me, spirituality is a life-path filled with practices that build up, enhance and release our innate human capacities for love and beauty, peace and harmony, justice and joy, awe and mystery.  In this way we are connected to the great “sacred spirit” of the universes.

Even though there has been regression in our national leadership, our lives can be filled with hope through spiritual experiences.  We find this in the breath of the seasons of the earth.  Locally she has been drenched by the rains, prodding nature to blossom, green and grow. It is as if every page of Gaia’s coloring book is being filled in and coming alive. This is the greening power that Hildegard von Bingen often wrote and sang about.

The Soul is Breath

   by Hildegard von Bingen

The soul is the breath of the living spirit

that with excellent sensitivity,

permeates the entire body to give it life.

Just so,

the breath of air makes the earth fruitful,

Thus the air is the soul of the earth,

moistening it,

greening it.

Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) was a remarkable woman, a “first” in many fields. At a time when few women wrote, Hildegard, known as “Sybil of the Rhine”, produced major works of theology, visionary writings as well as medical and science texts. When few women were given respect, she was consulted by bishops, popes, and kings.

Hildegard used the curative powers of natural things for healing and wrote treatises about natural history and the medicinal uses of plants, animals, trees and stones. She is the first composer whose biography is known, and she founded a vibrant convent where her musical plays were performed.

Revival of interest in this extraordinary woman of the Middle Ages was initiated by musicologists and historians of science and religion.

Hildegard’s visions and her music continue to be performed and reinterpreted in many new artistic venues. Her story is one of a resilient spirit and vivacious intellect overcoming social, cultural, and gender barriers to achieve timeless transcendence.  May these images invite you to the greening of a creation/cosmic spirituality we so desperately need.

Feb. week 2 images: Magnolia Bud, Leaf detail, Hairstreak Butterfly, Buckeye Buds.

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February week 1 – mid-tone chants and high pitched yipping

Low guttural sounds, mid-tone chants and high pitched yipping greeted my ears, and there were roaring sounds in the background.  No, I was not at the Super Bowl.  Nor was I re-living my experience at the Women’s March in SF last month at which similar sounds raised heartfelt laments and pleas to the cosmos resulting from actions of our new national leadership.  These particular cries were offered by the annual gathering of hundreds of elephant seals.

The males that are still on the beaches produce deep sounds as they raise their heads before moving toward an approaching male or chasing a female in the hope of mating with her (even if she has just birthed a pup).  From mid-December to mid-February hundreds of elephant seal pups are born on this beach.  After a birth the mother imprints her mid-toned chanting voice on the newborn so it may find her among the hundreds of other mothers and pups around them.  The little snail-shaped furry pup immediately begins yipping back.

The Piedras Blancas elephant seal rookery spreads over 6 miles of beach on the central coast of California. The viewing areas are located 90 miles south of Monterey, 5 miles north of Hearst Castle State Historical Monument in San Simeon. Because the long narrow beaches are separated from highway 1 by sharp-rock inclines neither the seals nor the humans cross into each other’s territories.   The viewing areas are open every day of the year, are wheelchair accessible, free of charge, and get you close to these magnificent creatures. No reservations are required, and there are docents every day of the year.

Our lives are intertwined with every aspect of the earth; and our human species is dependent on the life-supporting gifts of the natural world.  I believe that sometimes we forget that all human beings are still the same species, even though we can be very different in our approach to policy making, nation building and attitudes about human rights.  Unfortunately we are the only species that all too often violently turns on each other in great numbers and builds walls of metal and ideals to separate us rather than gather us into nurturing communities.

We live in a time of great abundance, but, since the earth is so vast, we can be lulled into thinking there will always be more – more fossil fuels, more water, more forests, more polar bears and ivory tusks.  Yet every act we humans take, no matter how seemingly small, has consequences that reverberate and stress the resiliency of the things we depend upon for our survival: enough clean air, enough clean water, enough healthy soils and forests that provide food and shelter.  We depend upon a moderate and predictable climate.

We are connected to every part of the planet.  Although on that Piedras Blancas beach a few of the elephant seals charged one another and trampled over another’s pup, for the most part they honor and depend on each other and the ocean and the air and the rest of the web-of-life.  Too often we humans see others in our own species as enemies, dangerous, unwelcome, scapegoats, and evil rather than as partners.  Most of our systems are products of practices and policies of power over, control and domination enforced by the use of violence, rape, and abuse.

Waxy Caps – Witch’s Hat

We need to raise our own guttural sounds, mid-tone chants and high pitched yipping as we call one another to return to our sense of connection to one another and the earth, our mother. Our lives are indeed intertwined with the earth and one another.

A Native American chant summons us to our responsibilities:  The Earth is our Mother; we must take care of her…  Her Sacred Ground we walk upon with every step we take…  The Sky is our Father; we will take care of him… The Sea is our Sister; we will take care of her…

How we take care of the earth is exactly how we take care of one another!

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