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March 2017

Mist, wild ponies, and the animate earth

Commons

"To our indigenous ancestors, and to the many aboriginal peoples who still hold fast to their oral traditions, language is less a human possession than it is a property of the animate earth itself, an expressive, telluric power in which we, along with the coyotes and the crickets, all participate. Each creature enacts this expressive magic in its own manner, the honeybee with its waggle dance no less than a bellicose, harrumphing sea lion.

"Nor is this power restricted solely to animals. The whispered hush of the uncut grasses at dawn, the plaintive moan of trunks rubbing against one another in the deep woods, or the laughter of birch leaves as the wind gusts through their branches all bear a thicket of many-layered meanings for those who listen carefully."  - David Abram (Becoming Animal)

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Today's recommended reading comes from The Center for Humans & Nature:

"To Be Human" by David Abram, answering the question of what makes our species unique

"Recovery," a myth-infused, heart-rending tale about a rescued crow by Michael Engelhard

"The Artist Who Would Be Crow," an interview with Eleanor Spiess-Ferris

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Today's book recommendations, for those who haven't read them already: Spell of the Sensuous: Perception & Language in a More-Than-Human World and Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology by David Abram. Both have been strongly influential texts for me, and I recommend them highly.

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Books by David Abram & Terry Tempest Williams


Loving the wounded world

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"Joanna Macy writes that until we can grieve for our planet we cannot love it -- grieving is a sign of spiritual health. But it is not enough to weep for our lost landscapes; we have to put our hands in the earth to make ourselves whole again. Even a wounded world is feeding us. Even a wounded world holds us, giving us moments of wonder and joy. I choose joy over despair."

  - Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweetgrass)

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I first read Dr. Kimmerer's fine book, Braiding Sweetgrass, two years ago. Since then, my copy has been passed around to friends, and only just returned to me last week. I took the book up to the studio, intending to slip it back onto the shelf (next to her previous book on moss), but I started to re-read it instead...and I'm finding it more insightful than ever now that the Windigo (as she describes the legend) stalks boldly through government halls on both sides of the Atlantic.

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My reading recommendations today reach back to the Braiding Sweetgrass posts from two years ago. Here's Dr. Kimmerer on The Windigo: what it is and, importantly, how to defeat it.  You can also read her thoughts on knowing the world as a gift, on homemade ceremonies, and on the democracy of species -- and listen to her speak on "Intelligence in all Kinds of Life" on American public radio.

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And, of course, I highly recommend the book itself to those who haven't read it yet: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants. It's a beautiful read.

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Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Butterfly Fox by Jackie Morris

There's so much turmoil in the world right now that I'm going to go against the grain of worry and fear to start the week with music that reminds us of the resilience of the human spirit, and the joy of being alive....

Fox Heart drawing by Jackie Morris

Above: "Head Rush" by Jiggy, an Alt Folk collective from Dublin, Ireland. The song begins with "mouth music" from Irish vocalist Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin and Indian vocalist Debojyoti Sanyal, with Mark Murphy on keyboard, Guy Rickarby and Robbie Harris on drums and percussion, and Éamonn Galldubh on Uilleann Pipes. In regards to video above they say: "All people smile in the same language." And indeed they do.

Below: "Happiness" from We Banjo Three, an Irish band consisting of two sets of brothers: Enda & Fergil Schahill, and Martin & David Howley. I love these guys.  Their exuberant video was filmed on the streets of Galway and Galway Market.

Above: "Sultanas de Merkaíllo," an old favorite from the Barcelona band Ojos de BrujoPass, sadness, pass, the lyrics tell us. Though our pockets are empty, our hearts are full - so pass, sadness, pass, in the heat and fire the rumba. Alas, Ojos de Brujo disbanded in 2012 after more than a decade of making great flamenco/gypsy-jazz/punk/hiphop music -- but lead singer Marina Abad is still going strong and doing interesting things.

Below: Let's end with a quieter piece from American singer/songwriter John Legend, reminding us to make the most of every moment in "Love Me Now."

Hare, Fox, and the space between by Jackie Morris.jpg

The art above is by Jackie Morris, an artist/author based on the coast of Wales. Please visit her website to see more of her beautiful and always-uplifting work.


The hound's prayer

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Please come, Lady Spring. Bring sun, soft rain, and mud gentle under paw and foot. Swell the streams and wake the Wild Ones from their sleep. Oh, please hurry and come.

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I am dreamimg of grass river banks and bird song. Of bluebells, stitchwort, pink campion. Of tender young bunnies that I...umm, will not chase...

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...and lambs that I, uh, won't go near.

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I am dreaming of warmth. Doors standing open. Roaming from house to garden whenever I like. Lounging near our front gate and bar- ....umm, not barking at all who pass by.

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Please come, Lady Spring, and bring Summertime with you. She came to us very late last year -- perhaps she's forgottten the way to our hill. So please bring her along, with her sweet peas and foxgloves, her salt sea winds and her cool woodland shade. But if Summer can't come yet, please come by yourself, and I'll keep you good company here.

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Winter was fun, but he's outstayed his welcome, sitting soused by the fire and refusing to budge. Our wood stocks are low, our spirits need thawing, my thick winter coat has now started to shed. Please come roust him out, send him back to the northlands. Please come just as quick as you can.

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I'll show you my hillside, my best spots, my secrets. You can sleep in my dog bed and share all my treats. Your favorite flowers are almost in bloom now, and the Bird Choir is practicing. My People have set you a place at the table. We're ready. I'm ready.

Please come.

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Tilly's prayer first appeared in a post back in March 2013, re-published today with new photographs from a nearby beechwood.


The beauty of bogs

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"As doors to the next world go, a bog ain't a bad choice. It's not quite water and it's not quite land -- it's an in-between place."   - Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children)

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Today's recommended reading: "Love Letter to a Bog" by  Sharon Blackie (Caught by the River).

"A bog doesn’t give up its secrets easily," Sharon writes, "but it calls you to uncover them nevertheless. The lure of a bog-pool, which beckons you over to look down on its bright mirrored surface, the perfect blue of the sky an antidote to the relentless black of the peat. But when you stand over it (if you make it that far) all reflections disappear; there is only you, and the dark. Reach down with your fingers if you dare. Who knows what you might touch? Who knows what mysteries you might uncover? To love a bog is to love all that lies buried beneath the surface, buried in its rich, ripe flesh."

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Further reading: The spring issue of EarthLines magazine is out, filled with wonderful writing, art, and photography once again. Edited by David Knowles & Sharon Blackie, who are based in Ireland, EarthLines is "an active and passionate project to transform the relationship between humans and the rest of the world."

Also, if you haven't yet found your way to If Women Rose Rooted (a study of the relationship between women, myth, and landscape), you have a treat in store.

If Women Rose Rooted & EarthLinesThe poem in the picture captions is from North by Seamus Heaney (Faber & Faber, 1975); all rights reserved by the author's estate.


Water and flow

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"Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down."  - Clarissa Pinkola Estés

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Today's reading recommendation: "If Your House in On Fire," an interview with Kathleen Dean Moore by Mary DeMocker (Sun Magazine). The subject here is climate change, but it's not as despressing a read as you'd think -- and though the piece is from 2012, Moore's contemplation of political and environmental activism couldn't be more relevant now.

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"I don’t pretend to know what a writer’s duty is in these times," says Moore. "And nobody wants to write something that breaks people’s hearts. But I did want to help others see one possible future, a world without owl calls and frog song. If we can’t imagine what probably lies ahead, how will we gather the courage to turn in a different direction? Maybe more writers should tell stories about possible futures, the beautiful ones and the ones that will break our hearts. It’s cowardly to shy away from sad stories. As songwriter Leonard Cohen says, even when our hearts are broken, we have to sing the 'broken hallelujah.' "

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Today's book recommendation: Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America  by Jon Mooallem (Penguin, 2013).

Wild Ones by Jon Mooallem

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