Friday, 20 January 2017

How I plan to spend Inauguration Day

How I plan to spend inauguration day

I’m at work today, so no ability to go out and get drunk, weep, tear my hear out, or other options. So my plan for today is to practice being awake. I will try, best I can, to stay present and in my body all day. If I forget, I will gently bring myself back with some deep breaths and feel my arms and legs. (Try feeling your arms and legs, its awesome!)

With what is likely coming it seems to me we have little room for falling back into dissociation and sleep. Not with ice shelves falling off Greenland, or 2/3 of all wild animals threatened with die-off in the next 30 years. Not with the threat of a Muslim registry, a wall, mass deportation, and the loss of insurance for those with preexisting conditions.

So today, I practice mindfulness, in preparation for days to come.

Sunday, 8 January 2017



It does get to the point where you just don’t want to click to the news or open your email – all those horrors in the headlines and the inbox. This morning, no different. A campaign by Avaaz (a great online activism organization leading campaigns on so many different fronts around the world) popped up about trying to end the practice of bleeding pregnant horses. What, you say, could that possibly be about?

Well, with the demand for meat products high, factory farms producing the cows and pigs that become beef and pork (sealed in nice hygienic packages in the supermarket) speed up production by injecting their animals with the blood of pregnant horses … it helps trigger them to come into heat, thus meaning that breeding cows and sows can be impregnated more often. More cows. More pigs. More bacon. More hamburgers. The pregnant horses are kept hooked up to machines, bled to the point of anemia, and are repeatedly impregnated to keep the cycle going. Pharmaceutical companies sell the blood to farmers.

So much goes into the production of our food that we often fail to recognize. From the patented genetic modifications in our corn that kill monarch butterflies, to the diesel used to truck produce thousands of miles, to the chicken-offal fed to chickens, to the blood of horses.

I signed the petition, of course, and thought I’d post this poem about some horses in Taos, New Mexico where there is (still) a sage-brushy pasture area right next to the public parking lot, just behind downtown. Below the poem is a link to sign the Avaaz petition to EU lawmakers who have a chance to ban this horse-bleeding practice in Europe.

Horses – A Cairn

Three horses draw letters
into the thin crust of snow.

Ginger-color against blue sage, cinnamon
in the wash-green chamisa,
and a salt-flecked roan
near the byre.

Winter-coated, they are haloed
in silver light.

The horses circle --
three horses in a
decahedron night.

They lean into each other,
heads bent to the murmur of water
from the acequia.

When it begins to snow again
they nod, tossing fetlocks,
turn, nod again, beat a hoof-edge
to the ground.

The runes they’ve drawn across the snow
are gone before morning.

Monday, 2 January 2017

At holiday's end

At holiday’s end

Here we are at the end of the holidays, it’s back to work tomorrow and a whole new year to play around in.  I tend to think of the holiday period as lasting from roughly the Winter Solstice through New Year’s, all one long time of celebration, contemplation, and reflection. I’m not a Christian, so to me Christmas is more a cultural holiday, a window back into its roots as a pagan festival for the dark time of the year. I’m not really a Jew, either, so my celebration of Hanukah usually consists of copious amounts of candles and the occasional the desire to make latkes. Over the years the holidays for me have become more and more about the magic that happens at solstice, the cycles of nature, darkness and light, the changing year. It is a chance to both look back and look ahead. And of course an opportunity to indulge in some new books to read and some tasty treats to munch on.

As creation stories go, instead of the breath of God across the waters (though that is pure poetry, admittedly) I’d usually rather think about Coyote, hanging out on a raft in the endless sea, convincing his duck brothers to dive down into the deep and see if there is anything down there that could be used to change things up a little. When the ducks find mud and a root way down there, Coyote has them bring up a bill-full, blows on the mud, and tosses it out to become land. Hooray for land, they all say. They plant the root and all the thousand thousand different sorts of plants begin to grow. The ducks suggest the flat land isn’t very interesting, so Coyote goes about shaping valleys, mountains, streams, and lakes. The ducks are satisfied but Coyote is not. It’s boring, he says, we need companions! And so began the process of creating humans, animals, fish, birds. But even then he isn’t satisfied. We all need something to do, he says, besides sex (he winks). And so he creates dance and music, tools and art.

Coyote’s character is different from tribe to tribe, region to region, but whether he is a fool, a villain, a creator, a teacher, he’s always a bit of a Trickster. He gets in trouble, tries new things, gets jealous, does a lot of stealing, and very often gets bored. But from the scattered chaos that Coyote churns up, come some beautiful things. Like the night he got frustrated and bored with systematically placing stars up into the sky, the way he’d been told to by the Creator. Finally, he got so exasperated with the orderly process that he chucked a whole bag full of stars up at once, making a huge, glorious mess, and the Milky Way.

Gregory Bateson, in his have-to-read-each-page-twice, “Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity,” writes about stories as, “a little knot or complex of that species of connectedness which we call relevance.” He goes on to say that the habit we humans have of thinking in stories does not isolate us form the rest of nature. He insists that “thinking in terms of stories must be shared by all mind or minds, whether ours or those of redwood forests and sea anemones.” He goes on to explain that, for the sea anemone, that story is inherent in the unfolding of its embryology, and again, in a larger context, in its evolutionary development. He states that anatomy is analogous to grammar. Rightly or wrongly, I went on from this to believe that evolution itself was a process of learning. That mutation is an expression of curiosity, or perhaps aesthetics. Like Coyote, we get bored with one pattern after a while, and want to try on different ones. In this way, the dance of the whole universe, its in-breath and out-breath, the formation of all the things of the world, are an act of art, of storytelling.

It seemed appropriate, to me, that on New Year’s Eve afternoon a coyote walked into our yard and stayed awhile. He reared up on his hind legs to eat what was left of the low-hanging apples on the tree outside our door. He snuffed around the giant compost heap, pouncing to catch mice. Eventually he disappeared off up the hillside – a gap between one blink and the next where he vanished beneath the barbed wire. At the birth of a new year with so much uncertainty, coyote seemed the right totem. Trickster, fool, mess-maker – it is through his genius for getting into trouble that new discoveries, new ways of being, new insights, happen. He rattles and shakes the structures of what is so that something new can be built.

It may be a painful process … and its definitely not a predictable one – but that is my hope for 2017.

Can you see the coyote?