Monday, December 29, 2014

The Muse of Synchronicity: Part I

There is only one way and that is your way, there is only one salvation and that is your salvation. You must fulfill the way that is in you.
—C.G Jung 

The Light at the Core of Darkness, C.G.Jung

The Sister from Below
is delighted to announce that
Naomi Ruth Lowinsky and Lucille Lang Day
are co–winners of the
Blue Light Poetry Chapbook Contest for 2014.

Sisters of the Blue Light
Everything happens at once and forever.
—Lucille Lang Day

Behind this award, dear friends, lies a story of synchronicities. To Jungians, synchronicity is the Muse of Muses, those moments in your ordinary life when you’re touched by forever. You experience a “meaningful coincidence,” something that connects your inner world to the outer world. You’re walking in a meadow, for example, telling your companion about your dream of a coyote, when a coyote appears and engages you in that uncanny gaze across species. Your senses open to the radiant world; you feel touched by the eternal. Whatever has blocked you, whatever you’re stumbling through, opens up and your path is revealed. You can’t explain it rationally, but it is as though you are standing in the center of the kaleidoscope of your life, and suddenly all the fragments rearrange themselves into a new pattern, full of color and light.


That was how I felt when I got a phone call from Diane Frank, Chief Editor of Blue Light Press, informing me that I had won their chapbook contest, along with Lucy Day, who, unbeknownst to Diane, is a dear friend of mine. I had a visionary moment—saw how my path and Lucy’s had been interwoven over many years to culminate in this joint affirmation. I contemplated the chain of synchronicities that had brought us here. Blue Light Press, by the way, publishes visionary poetry. How fitting.

In our causality-oriented culture it is difficult to talk about such experiences without seeming slightly crazy. Jung struggled with this. He was a doctor, loved the sciences, respected causality and the scientific method of “breaking everything down into individual processes.” But, he pointed out, this attitude has the “disadvantage of obscuring the…unity of the world” which Jungians call the “Unus Mundus,” the one world in which everything is interconnected. The Unus Mundus, of course, is an ancient concept. Some call it the Tao, some call it The Tree of Life, some call it Brahman, some call it Grace. Mystics experience it, as do visionary artists. I feel so grateful to have my work published by a press that celebrates such vision.

Only the Blind Can See

Only Blind Willie Johnson
Can sing your way home

—Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

For years I’ve been sending chapbooks—small poetry collections—to contests. Chapbooks are a way to gather poems, often following a theme, into a coherent shape. My poems often demand to be put together in these small books. They want to make their way into the world in a larger form that an individual poem in a literary magazine. I can’t remember how many times I’ve submitted how many chapbooks to how many presses. Sometimes I get a nice note saying my chapbook “came close.” Mostly I get form rejections. You get used to this in poetry land. Over the years I’ve come to understand that this is a function of how many wonderful poets there are writing now. All you have to do is look at the recent issue #22, of Spillway, a fine poetry magazine, edited by Susan Terris. This issue’s theme is “Muse & Music.”

Of course my muse insisted I submit poems and was delighted when my poem, “Only the Blind,” was chosen. It is one of over a hundred poems that make uncanny connections and transport the reader into enchanted realms. Many of them reach that deep place, where ordinary life touches the Unus Mundus. Being a poet in America today is, for me, an exercise in humility. Perhaps there are so many amazing visionary poets writing because in our materialistic, fame-worshiping culture there is a great collective hunger for what only the inner eye can see.

Synchronicities are often inner experiences for me, and catalysts for poems. “Only the Blind” began when I heard a piece on the radio about the early gospel blues singer Blind Willie Johnson, and later that day read about Isaac the Blind, the 12th Century Rabbi who, it is said, first wrote down the oral tradition of Jewish mysticism we call the Kabbala. “Only the Blind can see” was the phrase that beat in me, joined by “You have always belonged to the moon.” Music was my muse in working on this poem as it frequently is. Here’s the poem:

ONLY THE BLIND

You have always belonged to the moon
Though sometimes it leads you astray

Past willows across the swinging bridge
To somebody’s grave by the river

Stuck in the cave of your skull
You grope for the disappeared moon

Down where it’s blue so blue
Only Blind Willie Johnson

Can sing your way home
Only Isaac the Blind can see

The banshee has got your bones
She’s beating her drum with your bones

And you’re stuck in the cave of your skull
No willows no swinging bridge

Who will plant you deep in the earth?
Who will water your toes?

When the banshee has got your bones
When she’s beating her drum with your bones

You have always belonged to the moon

Only Isaac the Blind can show you
That glow beyond the bridge

Only Blind Willie Johnson
Can sing your way home

Blind Willie Johnson

The Muse of Muses

I dreamed I flourished back in drenching turmoils from the land
into ocean of you and my spirit drifted into skies of you

—John Gardner

In my life the Muse of Muses, synchronicity, often graces me with Her presence when I feel stuck, lost, unsure of my path. The story of how I met Lucy Day is a good example of this. It happened 15 years ago. I had returned to poetry after a long absence. I’d been writing seriously, sending poetry out, learning to tolerate rejections, getting the occasional acceptance. My poems are both imagistic and musical and I knew I needed to be reading them aloud to poetry audiences. I also wanted to put together a book. I longed to be part of a community of poets but it felt scary to walk into some unfamiliar place and read my weird visionary poems to strangers. Maybe they’d think I was nuts.

One evening I screwed up my courage, walked into a coffee shop which hosted a regular reading, and signed up for the open mike. It was a scene. The espresso machine hissed and gurgled. All kinds of people read poems at the open mike, some very accomplished, some who seemed to have scribbled some raw deep feeling in a notebook that day. I was moved by the democracy of it all. Anyone who signed up for the open mike could read. The featured reader was a woman with a blaze of red hair named Judy Wells. She had just published a book of poems called Everything Irish, about growing up Catholic. Many of her poems were laugh out loud funny, about nuns, pagan babies, and her second grade class being the cause of their teacher’s nervous breakdown.

At the end of the reading Judy approached me, saying “Don’t you remember me? You and I were in a consciousness raising group together in the early ‘70s.” She introduced me to her publisher, Lucy Day. Lucy liked the poems I’d read. She said she’d decided to start her own publishing house, Scarlet Tanager Books, because so many good poets were not finding publishers. I asked if she’d consider publishing me. She invited me to send her a group of poems.

Suddenly I was in a community of poets with whom I had a history. Judy and I had become feminists together, and Lucy, it turned out, had found her voice in the Berkeley Poets Cooperative in the 1970s, as had I. I left the Co–op just before Lucy joined, but I knew Ted Fleishman, Lucy’s ex. It seems there are nodes in our lives, vibrant centers of connection and energy that resound into our future without our conscious knowledge. I was blind, groping my way in poetry land, convinced I was all alone, and then one night in a coffee shop poetry reading I realized I had a community, I had connections!

Lucy published my first book of poems, red clay is talking, in 2000 and my second, crimes of the dreamer, in 2005. Lucy amazed me, in fact she still does. She is so well organized, so capable. She taught herself the ropes of publishing. She seems not to be overwhelmed by the sorts of practical details that overwhelm me, and I assume, most poets. She is a scientist, a biologist, who for years was the director of the Hall of Health, a Science Museum for children. I know I’m not the only one who is forever grateful to her— she is so generous in her support of other poets.

Another synchronicity—a book came out last year, called The Berkeley Poets Cooperative: A History of the Times, edited by Charles Entrekin. It is a collection of essays by some of us who were part of the Co–op. As Entrekin says, the book is a testimonial “to a way of life that emphasizes beauty and human enlightenment instead of quarterly profits and unequal distribution of wealth. A cooperative way of life. It still seems possible.”

Lucy and I both have essays in this collection. Lucy writes about how she came to realize she is “more a writer than a scientist” at the Co–op. I wrote a memorial to my friend John Gardner, a Co–op regular who, I wrote, “was the first serious poet who took my poetry seriously.” He was an ecstatic, a mystic, a visionary who gave me the courage I needed to follow my own ecstasies. He died far too young.

Song of My Life

Some say a god made us humans out of red clay.
Some say we humans make our gods out of red clay.
Others say, it doesn’t matter who makes whom.
What matters is the play between the human and
divine realms, and the joy of creation.

—Naomi Ruth Lowinsky

Synchronicity is the Muse of Muses for visionary poetry. Both happen in the play between the human and divine realms. Elevated moods, intense feeling states are the context for the experience of synchronicity as well as for the writing of poetry. I remember how such a mood came upon me and led to my writing the poem, “before,” which opens my first collection, red clay is talking. During the intermission at a concert I ran into a colleague. She talked ecstatically about the joys of singing in a chorus, performing the great choral works in her own voice among many. I remember those joys. In college I got to add my voice to the glories of the Brahms Requiem and Bach’s Saint Mathew’s passion. But when my colleague insisted that I needed to join a chorus now, I was surprised at the bolt of fury that leapt through me. I saw myself in my childhood basement piano practice room, toiling over a Bach fugue, afraid my father would come thundering down the stairs to tell me that I was playing it all wrong. I heard myself say to my colleague in an intemperate tone of voice: “I was raised to sing other people’s songs. Now it’s my time to sing my own.” Out of that anger came this poem —my declaration of being a visionary poet— published by Lucy Day’s press, Scarlet Tanager Books:

before

life after life
I stand by the road
and look for a home

—Mirabai

she had been raised to sing
other people’s songs
but in the third morning of the new time
with the wisteria blooming outside her
kitchen window
and the shadow of the earth
about to fall upon the moon
she looked at the sky
the comet had inhabited
saw four geese fly east
toward devil mountain

heard the telephone ringing
the man in her house running
up circular stairs
calling her name

and suddenly remembered
the lips of the one who had sworn her
to silence
in dark waters
                            whispering—
                                                    wait for me—
                                                    one morning when the children are gone
                                                    I’ll call—

                                                    put on your brown sandals
                                                    wrap yourself up
                                                    in your tree of life shawl
                                                    come walk with me
                                                                                  to devil mountain

                                                                                                      singing the song
                                                                                                      we were singing
                                                                                                      before

                                                                                                           you
                                                                                                           were born

P.S. My chapbook, The Little House on Stilts Remembers, and Lucy’s Chapbook, Dreaming of Sunflowers: Museum Poems will be published in the spring of 2015. We’ll let you know when they come out.

To Be Continued . . .



Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Muse of Suffering

I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: 
I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.
Psalm 69


Our Measure of Suffering

Suffering is a powerful muse for poets. Consider the Psalmist, who cries out to God in psalm after psalm, trying to comprehend the meaning of his suffering, and God’s absence. The question of why we must suffer is central to religious thought, to psychology, and to creative work. We turn to the nameless God of the Jews; we turn Christ, to Mary, to Buddha, to Krishna and Ganesha, to the Goddess in all her manifestations, for relief from our suffering. Some of us turn to psychology—we pay attention to our dreams, we try to understand the message in our suffering. Some of us turn to writing, to painting, to dancing, to music.

Jung argues that no life is complete without its “measure of suffering.” He writes, “the opening of the unconscious always means the outbreak of intense spiritual suffering.” This, he explains, is because our rationally ordered world, our known round of days, our walls for safety and our dams to control Nature’s flow, all burst open as Mother Nature seeks revenge for the violence we have perpetrated on her. Jung, who had a strong environmental consciousness, essentially says that suffering, when done in the service of greater conscious, is the way our psyches regain their ecological balance when we have been too one-sided. Suffering is intrinsic to a spiritual path and to a creative path. Our best–laid plans are ripped asunder by storm, by illness, by fate, by death. If you surrender to your suffering, it can become The Way—to a deeper connection to your own nature and to Nature.


But who wants to surrender to suffering? Jung comments: “Because suffering is positively disagreeable, people prefer not to ponder how much fear and sorrow fall” to our lot in life. That’s for sure, especially in our goal oriented and materialistic culture, in which the “pursuit of happiness” is inscribed in our Declaration of Independence. We’re all supposed to “just do it,” and if we do it right our happiness should be revealed to us like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. If we haven’t found the happiness to which we are entitled it must be because we’re not fighting for it hard enough. Surrender is not our cultural mode.

Heartbreak Hotel
Luckily, there are pockets in our culture that hold a deeper wisdom, Rock and Roll for example. I was suffering the agonies of adolescence when I first heard Elvis, that messenger of sexuality and sorrow sing his anthem:


"Heartbreak Hotel"

Well, since my baby left me,
I found a new place to dwell.
It's down at the end of lonely street
at Heartbreak Hotel.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

And although it's always crowded,
you still can find some room.
Where broken hearted lovers
do cry away their gloom.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

Well, the Bell hop's tears keep flowin',
and the desk clerk's dressed in black.
Well they been so long on lonely street
They ain't ever gonna look back.

You make me so lonely baby,
I get so lonely,
I get so lonely I could die.

Hey now, if your baby leaves you,
and you got a tale to tell.
Just take a walk down lonely street
to Heartbreak Hotel.

That song expressed my mood quite accurately. The lonely one in me loved knowing that if I took a walk down lonely street I’d find company at the Heartbreak Hotel. The poet in me loved the deep feeling, the images and word play. However I lived in a cultured family in which Elvis was seen as the lowest of low culture. Taboo. If I wanted access to the power of music to express suffering, why not listen to Bach’s Saint Matthew’s Passion or the Mozart Requiem? I liked Bach and Mozart just fine, but they weren’t sexy, they didn’t dance and grind their hips while they sang about their loneliness. It would be many years before I felt the inner freedom to appreciate Elvis, and follow his lineage back to the Blues where I found so much to love—so much beauty, wisdom and humor in the expression of terrible suffering. Here are some of the lyrics to Howlin Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightnin’” with it’s intense poetic imagery and sound, evoking lost radiance and abandonment.

“Smokestack Lightnin’”

Ah oh, smokestack lightnin'
Shinin' just like gold Why don't ya hear
me cryin'?
A whoo hoo, whoo hoo, whoo

Whoa oh tell me, baby
What's the matter with you?
Why don't ya hear me cryin'?
Whoo hoo, whoo hoo, whooo

Whoa oh tell me, baby
Where did ya, stay last night?
A-why don't ya hear me cryin'?
Whoo hoo, whoo hoo, whooo

Whoa oh, stop your train
Let her go for a ride
Why don't ya hear me cryin'?
Whoo hoo, whoo hoo, whooo

With Rock and Roll and the Blues we have moved from abandonment by God to abandonment by a lover. The “whoo hoo” of Howlin’ Wolf’s cry, is the whistle of the train pulling out of the station, is the wisdom that as we suffer life moves on and we never know where we’ll find ourselves next. 

Sea Glass

Suffering has been a major Muse for my dear friend Gilda Frantz, who, in her late 80s, has just published her first book: Sea Glass: A Jungian Analyst’s Exploration of Suffering and Individuation.


Why “Sea Glass?” Frantz writes:
As a child I had no way of knowing that these gem-like stones were originally broken shards of bottle glass that somehow wound up in the ocean…Were they wine bottles tossed over the side of an ocean liner plowing the wine–dark sea? Were they once carriers with a message a lonely person wrote on a desolate island in the middle of nowhere?… Once the glass was a vessel and now it is only a piece of what it once was… 
When I was casting about for a title for my book, the image of a piece of sea glass came to me. It dawned on me that the process the glass endures in the ocean is not dissimilar to what happens psychologically when a person is wounded, broken, and goes through life’s capricious twists and turns. We either drown in the sea, or if we can get a foothold possibly our fate changes and we can begin to grow consciously…

Gilda is direct, wise, beautiful and very funny. She has been writing all her life, but has never taken her writing seriously enough to gather it into a book. Luckily, she listened to an inner voice who led her to give us Sea Glass—a collection of her essays, talks and interviews, a treasure trove of gems from her long, rich and difficult life. It has been Gilda’s fate to witness the sudden death of several beloved family members. One of them was her husband, Kieffer Frantz, who was a Jungian analyst and much-respected member of the Los Angeles Jung Institute. She writes:
After my husband’s totally unexpected death when I was only in my late forties, I was eaten up by loneliness. For months I felt as though the house had a zipper that shut me out of life, and kept life out of my house I lived in the realm of the dead. 
Gilda, who, had been abandoned by her father as a child, found a relationship to the archetype of the “good father” in her marriage. Now, she was abandoned once again. Gilda has a mythopoetic sensibility and often uses etymological research to deepen the meaning of words. I learned something vital from her comments about the word abandonment:
Abandonment is a fateful experience in which we feel we have no choice. We feel alone, as if the gods are not present… The word abandonment means literally “not to be called.” It is etymologically connected with the world fate, which means “the divine word.”
Sea Glass is full of such luminous moments, bringing meaning to painful experience. It is also full of humor. When Patricia Damery and I began gathering essays for our book Marked by Fire: Stories of the Jungian Way, I knew I wanted to ask Gilda for a piece, because she writes so directly out of her lived experience. We were delighted with “The Greyhound Path to Individuation,” in which she tells the tumultuous story of her difficult childhood with charm and wit. I was pleased to revisit it as the opening chapter of Sea Glass. Here’s an excerpt:
In the summer of 1938, I was 11 years old and being tossed back and forth, like a potato latke, between my mother in California and my father on the East Coast…I was beginning to do what my mother called “develop.” My “developing” worried my mother so much that even though we loved one another, she was tossing me back to my father. One morning she told me, “You are going to live with your father, the rat; I can’t take care of you anymore.”
Gilda is an inspiration to me and to many others in our community. She has learned from her suffering, learned that to “be alone and not lonely…is the treasure hard to attain and the pearl of great value.” It is, she writes “to be in contact with the inner divine; that inner light in which there is no darkness and no fear.” Reflecting on Elvis and Howlin’ Wolf’s songs in the light of her wisdom, deepens my understanding of the power of their work. Recently I had to go through a difficult experience. I found myself clutching Sea Glass almost as a transitional object. Reading Gilda’s voice was a comfort and a blessing.

Suffering has always been a major Muse for me. If I can write about it, I have found, I can suffer it and glean meaning from it. I believe I am in good company here, with the Psalmist, Elvis and Howling Wolf and Gilda. And so I close with a poem about suffering, from The Faust Woman Poems.

Because of What Aches

Because your knee, like the knee of your father before you
prophesies rain

Because you’re as weather beaten as the willow
which creaks in the night

Because your hips are as surly
as a girl at fourteen—fire tamped down and smoking—

Because your knuckles are cranky, remembering
your grandmother fumbling with buttons, with jar lids

Because words have failed with your brother
don’t do much good with your son

Because your neck tries to rise above
an aging tangle of knots

Because you’ve given yourself to the wild ride—chased after toddlers
broken commandments, had words with the owl on the roof—

Because your eyes long for the mountain
Because the old rose still blooms

You’re not ready for ash, or thin air

Submit to the fire your early drafts
your sagas of shame, your lost directions

The truth is—you’re still tied to this ferment—
because of what aches



Monday, October 20, 2014

Owl as Muse and Medicine

                                                           Haven’t you stood . . . naked
                                                           in the gaze of the Great Horned One?
                                                          —Naomi Ruth Lowinsky




Owl Medicine

Dan gave me an owl carved of black rock by a Cochiti Pueblo Indian. It fits perfectly in my hand, just the size of my palm, like those little clay goddesses ancient women held onto when in labor. It is clearly carved by a master—a few deft strokes release the spirit of owl within. I hold the owl in my hand while I meditate. It is good medicine. It calms me, reminds me it is my totem. When I go off into catastrophic thoughts about climate change and fractured ecosystems, about melting glaciers and loss of species, owl speaks to me. Owl, after all, not only sees in the dark, owl knows how to live in the dark.

Owl says:

If human hands can find my spirit in a rock, then human hands can remember what they knew in ancient time, about healing Mother Earth, cultivating her creatures, bringing people back to their senses.

Owl revealed himself as my totem after Dan and I moved from a big urban home, where we had lived with our children, to a house on a ridge for just the two of us. The experience of living in that house cracked open my citified consciousness. It taught me the ways of the sun as it moved from summer to winter and back. It gave me a bird’s eye view of the fog flowing over the Berkeley Oakland hills. Trees were our companions, hawks and falcons. Once an eagle visited with me, sitting on a nearby power pole. I dropped down to my essential nature as a poet in that house. My inner life opened and my Muse began to speak. At night we often woke to the uncanny sound of owls calling across the valley. One night I saw him, the Great Horned One, perched on a corner of our roof. Ordinary consciousness cracked open and I was in the ruthless grip of that raptor’s fierce gaze.

The time came when we had to leave that house. It was too expensive to maintain and not fit for aging joints. The house had a hard time letting me go. It spoke to me in a poem:

Lament of the House

Haven’t I stroked you with fingers of light?
Haven’t I gentled your eyes?
Haven’t I filled you to brimming
with the green world?     How it goes
golden and brown     How it loses

its leaves and goes bare?    Haven’t I shown you
the setting sun     streaked
purple and orange
while white fog     like sea foam
flows over the western hills?

Haven’t you stood on my deck
poured red wine on the earth
said praises?     Haven’t I held
your clay goddesses     your dancing
Ganesha     your Zuni frogs?

How can you tear me apart     empty me out
get me staged to be god knows whose
fantasy house on a ridge?     I who’ve been source
of your source     sacred seat
as clouds form     hawks dive

Haven’t you sat     on that old yellow chair     visited
by poetry?     Haven’t you stood in me     naked
in the gaze of the great horned one?
Will you send your gods into exile
in cardboard boxes?     Will the soles of your feet be gone
                                                          from my spiral stairs?

Where will your enthusiasms go     your wrestling
angels     your love cries?     “Nasty” you called me
when I thrust that redwood splinter under your nail
How else can I say it? You and I
                                                         are inside one another


That house and the Great Horned One, are in me still. Owl medicine speaks to me in the townhouse I’ve come to love.

Participation Mystique

               We have lost our sense of unitary reality, our experience of identity and of
               the sympathy of all things, and as a result we have fallen into solitude of a
               dead and empty cosmic space.
                                                     —Erich Neumann

My stone owl is a creation of a kind of participation mystique, the radical empathy of a maker who can see owl emerging out of rock. This requires a profound “at oneness” with the natural world. A new book of essays from Fisher King Press takes on this rich topic. Shared Realities: Participation Mystique and Beyond is edited by Mark Winborn. On its cover is a powerful painting by Susan Bostrom–Wong of the San Francisco Jung Institute. Winborn has given us many gifts in this volume, not the least of which is the above quote by Neumann, which he cites in his Introduction.


This book helps me wend my way through the confusion of a Jungian conundrum I have long pondered: If we are focused on our own separate path of individuation how do we soften our differentiated edges to feel the pulse of the anima mundi—the world soul? How do we listen to Pachamama—our Mother Earth—and respond to her suffering? How, as climate changes and species disappear, do we deal with our own “solastalgia” (pain caused by the state of one’s home environment), and our collective “nature deficit disorder?”

Jung wrote powerfully about experiences of oneness with the natural world:
At times I feel as if I am spread out all over the
landscape…and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing
of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that
come and go, in the procession of the seasons.
But Jung was deeply conflicted about participation mystique. He understood that western consciousness was limited, and he was influenced by Indian, African and Native American forms of consciousness. Yet he often wrote of participation mystique as a regressive, infantile state in which one is not differentiated from others or from objects in the natural world. This point of view is still dominant in the Jungian world. Jerome Bernstein writes an illuminating essay about this, “Healing Our Split: Participation Mystique and C.G. Jung.” Bernstein argues that despite himself, Jung was trapped in the lens of the Western psyche, its cosmology, its logic, its language. He didn’t understand the world view described by Sioux Indian author Vine Deloria Jr.: “that although the Native feels communion and relationship—even soul connection—with the tree, he does not see himself literally as the tree.”

Bernstein traces Jung’s struggle with this conundrum and his growing recognition of what Native people understand, that we are intertwined with Nature. Jung, after all, was eloquent in his lament of modern culture’s severance from its "primitive" roots. Listen to Jung words:
Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos. He is no longer involved in nature…Thunder is no longer the voice of a god, nor is lightening his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no tree means a man’s life, no snake is the embodiment of wisdom, and no mountain harbors a great demon…
Bernstein is graphic about the danger we are in. We are “being threatened with species suicide as a result of over–specialization of our inflated organ of consciousness. Global climate change, weapons of mass destruction, rape and pillaging of the earth as if it didn’t matter…are the result of that creative genius.”

Owl Transport

On a writing retreat on Kauai Dianne Braden had a terrifying middle of the night experience that knocked the wind out of her “inflated organ of consciousness” and rendered her as “small as the most vulnerable creature on the forest floor.” She woke to the feeling of a strange presence. In her essay, “Songs Never Heard Before,” she writes:
I was suddenly completely taken up by a strange awareness that there was life teeming out there around me, life that was simple, wild, and on the hunt just outside my window…at least I hoped it was outside…The intensity of this awareness was only outdone by the simultaneous understanding that I was surely losing my mind.
Braden was given a dose of owl medicine. In her powerful essay she tracks the effects of this dose of nature on her life and her clinical practice. She comes to understand that “losing” her mind cracked her open to an experience of participation mystique which revealed new territory in her thinking. She writes:
I was unprepared for…the power of such a “spirit of place,” an energy belonging to the land and its creatures. It’s clear that the spirit of place seeps into consciousness through psychoid gateways opened for us, or left unattended, luring us deeper into the dark tropics of soul.
With Braden, I believe that we need to “lose” our minds, take owl medicine, know we are prey as well as predator, in order to find our way back to our senses, to our place on earth.

Theodore Roethke, the father of ecopsychology, understood that our psyches are organized around a core “ecological unconscious.” So did Jung.
We have increasingly divided our consciousness from the deeper instinctive strata of the human psyche…Fortunately, we have not lost these basic instinctual strata. They remain part of the unconscious, even though they may express themselves only in the form of dream images…
Roethke and Jung show us how to awaken the inherent sense of environmental reciprocity within us. It is our task to bring our native gift for participation mystique to consciousness. One practice to support this is the poet’s path. We write our way back to our senses, to our ecological unconscious. David Abrams, the philosopher and environmentalist, author of The Spell of the Sensuous, understands, as poets do, that poetry reaches down to the carnal nature of language, to the physical ground of our being, through the way “words feel in the mouth or roll off the tongue…—the taste of a word or a phrase, the way it modulates the body…” Poetry, says Abrams, weaves together poet and listener/reader in a sensuous web of mutual experience. Poets are the makers of “wild, living…language.”
Actual, living speech is…a vocal gesticulation wherein the meaning is inseparable from the sound, the shape, and the rhythm of the words…It remains rooted in the sensual dimension of experience born of the body’s native capacity to resonate with other bodies and with the landscape as a whole.
What Abrams understands is that poetry is a kind of participation mystique. The poem, says poet Charles Olson, is “energy transferred from where the poet got it…all the way over to the reader.” Don’t forget, poetry begins with the chant of the shaman. And Owl was the shaman’s familiar.

Owl is a good familiar for an aging poet with an arthritic neck. Owl has a neck than can whirl around and see behind, above, below. Owl can see the big picture, can see other worlds. Owl vision helped with this poem, in which I wrote my way out of my grief for the house on the ridge, and into the wisdom of the ancients:

Where Coyote Brush Roams

Well they’d made up their minds to be everywhere because why not.
—W.S. Merwin

We were high on the sky when we lived on that ridge   high
on the red tailed hawk    high
on the long green rumps of the hills going yellow
while the sun did its dance from winter to summer and back   high
on our ridge after work while the fog flowed over
the darkening hills we poured red wine on the earth   high
on escape from the city’s exhaust   high
on the song of the frogs in the pond
some man had made
                                                 never mind

that the pines and the cottonwood trees
knew they didn’t belong up there     never mind
that electrical towers asserted their rights
that coyote brush said the land was its own
that the ridge wanted fire and we did not
we weed whacked    cleared    cut down those pines    never mind
that we heard their cries in the night
though they never belonged up there    never mind
that the frogs went away one day and so did we…

The ancient ones who walked these lands
who made their arrows from coyote brush
knew not to make one’s home on a ridge
for a ridge will insist on fire

            home is in a valley
            by a river among cottonwoods

We live in the valley now where once there was a river
                                        where frogs once sang in spring

                                                                                                     never mind

(This poem was published in The Book of Now: Poetry for the Rising Tide)

Yogine Riding Owl
Owl, like any good muse, is a mode of transport. Here is the South Indian version—a yogini riding her owl. She has her fingers in her mouth because she is about to emit an ear splitting shriek. Her name is “She Who Makes A Loud Noise,” rather a good name for any visionary artist riding her night visions. We all need to be making a loud noise speaking for Mother Earth, her creatures and what the ancients knew.

* * * * *

Owl invites you to a daylong writing workshop in the spirit of Owl Medicine: “Wounded Earth, Wounded Psyche,” at the Jung Institute on November 15th 2014.

* * * * *

More News from the Muse

Naomi’s paper “Self Portrait with Ghost: The Art of Lament and Redemption” with glorious photos of her grandmother’s art, taken by Ryan Bush, has just been published in the Jung Journal.

Naomi has two poems in the current issue of Ginosko, online.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Muse of the Wild in Eastern Oregon (Part Two)



Malheur Wildlife Refuge, Steens Mountain in background


Summary of Part One

Possessed by the Muse of the Wild, Dan takes us on a car trip to Eastern Oregon, considered by many the “middle of nowhere.” We are encouraged to explore an improbable mountain, The Steens. When I hear there are wild horses in those parts my muse gets engaged. Though the wild horses never show up we find ourselves gripped by the magic and beauty of an ancient landscape.

In Part Two we go to the original source of our interest, the Malheur Wildlife Refuge.

The Local Historian

Malheur Wildlife Refuge is named Malheur—misfortune in French—because of the misadventure of a French Canadian fur trapper, Peter Ogden, looking for beaver and otter and finding a lake with undrinkable (alkaline) water. Had he gone around to the south side of the lake he named Malheur, he’d have found the fresh spring water the Paiutes drank, where the headquarters of the Refuge is now located.

Pete French's Round Barn

We are told by the locals that on our way to Malheur, it is essential we stop at Pete French’s Round Barn and talk to Dick. “He’s our historian,” our hostess Corinne tells us, “Comes from three generations of ranchers.” Dick—Richard Jenkins—is a fine old man who owns the ranch on which Round Barn and visitor center sit. He presides over a treasure trove of Western style clothing, leather and gifts, as well as a large selection of books about Oregon’s high desert, its history and its wild life. Since we are traveling by car we are at risk for buying books. I ask him for Mark Highberger’s guidebook. “Out of print” he says. Turns out he knows Highberger well, and agrees with me about what a fine writer he is. Dick had asked him to write about the life and death of Pete French, whose turbulent life shaped the story of these parts. That book he has in stock. That book (Untamed Land: The Death of Pete French and the End of the Old West) we buy.

Dick also knows E.R. Jackman, the man Highberger keeps quoting, whose words I keep writing down. He was a professor at Oregon University, whose big coffee table book (Steens Mountain in Oregon’s High Desert Country) Dick highly recommends. We buy that one too. It’s full of history and beauty.

When we tell him we are on our way to Malheur Refuge we get an earful. Dick is critical of the current administration of the Refuge. Back in the day, fifty years ago, according to Dick, the ranchers and Refuge management worked together. They got rid of noxious weeds and did other maintenance tasks in exchange for grazing their cattle there. Now the Refuge prides itself on keeping cows out. Dick is angry with the “so–called environmentalists” who want to “leave Nature alone, to do Her thing. But they don’t know Nature. Now, we ranchers, we really have to be environmentalists because our livelihood depends on it.”

Dick tells us that noxious weeds now overrun many parts of the sanctuary, and that the Sandhill Cranes, which were hatching many young 50 years ago, hatched none last year. He shows us a book about an alternative approach to environmental issues, by Dan Dagget, (Gardeners of Eden: Rediscovering Our Importance to Nature.) We buy that book, too.

Dagget argues that humans once filled an important niche in the ecosystem, serving as predators, foragers and cultivators. We were hunters, gatherers, small farmers and gardeners, who “benefitted the ecosystems of which we were a part in much the same way beavers, bees and wolves do.” But now we live on Earth as aliens, and get our food from “a system of extractive technologies more characteristic of aliens than of a mutually interdependent community of natives.” He urges us to become Native again. His work includes developing an approach to conflict resolution involving environmentalists and ranchers.

His book comes at an interesting time for me. I will be giving a presentation, "Earth Angel and the Tohu Bohu" (on ecopsychology and environmental issues) in Cleveland on September 19th. Working on this has roused an ongoing inner argument between my Muse of Wildness, who rhapsodizes the ideal of wilderness, and my creative Muse who steps in and says, “Hey, humans are by nature tool making creatures. Even the Paiute Indians who wandered The Steens and Malheur, used bows and arrows. Close to 10,000 years ago their ancestors used spears to hunt big game animals. There is growing evidence that ancient peoples cultivated the land.” It reminds me of the argument between Wendell Berry, the farmer poet, and Gary Snyder, the mountain man poet about these very issues, which Leah Shelleda recently blogged about.

When I ask Dick about the wild horses of Kiger Gorge, hoping for the inside dope on how to see them, I see his passion turn to rage. “Those horses lost me my land and my cattle. I was in court with the government for years getting it back. Those horses aren’t wild, they’re feral—formerly domestic animals my grandfather released one winter because he couldn’t feed them.” Dick is on a roll. He had looked the wild horses up in a horse encyclopedia. (I remember that horse encyclopedia from my wild horse days.) “It says they are Kiger Mountain Mustangs. Those are no mustangs,” Dick said, “They’re Morgans with a bit of Welsh Pony thrown in. And you show me where the Kiger Mountains are!”

The Muse of Malheur

Hat made of Egret Feathers

Entering Malheur Wildlife refuge, I thought about what good fortune the refuge has been for the herons, grebes, swans and egrets whose feathers were worth their weight in gold back at the turn of the 20th century. Ladies coveted them for their hats, and bird populations plummeted. Theodore Roosevelt, an ardent environmentalist, created the Lake Malheur Refuge to protect those birds. As we drive the gravelly, narrow roads of the refuge near Benson Pond, at the wrong time (midday) and the wrong season (late summer), we are afraid we might suffer the Malheur of seeing no wildlife.

Benson Pond

But as our minds and hearts slow down, as we get out of the car and walk in the heat and humidity, we are enchanted by cat tails and deep green marsh grasses, by a green island in the middle of the pond, by graceful egrets and a blue heron—or is it a Sandhill Crane—standing in silent meditation in the water. The middle of nowhere turns into the center of the great wheel Mark Highberger quotes E.R. Jackman describing so eloquently, where one is “the hub of a vast, visible universe, and…the link between God and all these thousands of square miles below.”


Once that link is made, all sorts amazements happen. A Swainson’s Hawk, perched on the top of a tree, takes off, showing its elegant tail feathers. A hawk of some other kind, with reddish wings, flies ahead of us as if to show us the way. Magpies swoop and dive. A woodpecker poses for a picture. Mule deer lift their eloquent ears and watch us. A storm cloud gathers above and breaks, showering us with heavy rains, scaring us with thunder and lightening. No wonder the nearby river is called Donner und Blitzen, thunder and lightening in German.

Rain over Malheur Wildlife Refuge

A Corral for Wild Horses



We do get to see the horses, the next day. Mike and Corinne, our hosts at the Sage Country Inn, explain that the Bureau of Land Management also manages the horse herds, culls them and bring the overflow to a large corral outside of Burns. These horses are available for adoption. The wild horse girl in me is horrified at the idea of corralling wildness. Yet I long to see the horses. A beautiful rain has cleansed the air of heat and stickiness. It is still drizzling as we drive past the “wild” horses. Even from the car, even behind metal bars, they are sobbingly beautiful.

There are mares and foals, golden palominos, pintos, chestnuts with dark manes and light manes. They arch their necks and prance, wheeling away from Dan’s camera, reminding us of the elegant lines of horses in cave paintings.

Cave painting 

Eastern Oregon surprised us—difficult, conflicted and sad as it often is. We were touched by how open and real the people are, and deeply moved by the ancient beauty of marshland, high desert, gorges and The Steens. We learned that it is far from the middle of nowhere. It is the middle of somewhere profound and magical.

Steens Mountain

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Muse of the Wild in Eastern Oregon (Part One)

Sandhill Cranes

The Muse of Wild Country


In the beginning this was Dan’s Muse. Years ago, in the days before Power Point, Dan and I were invited by Verneice Thompson to attend a lecture and slide show by her husband, Jim Hammond. Only Verneice could have persuaded us to go to a slide show presentation about someone’s trip to see birds in Eastern Oregon. She was a brilliant and vital woman, a social worker, psychotherapist and leader of Tavistock Groups—a mentor to each of us,in different ways. She died way too young, in 1993, leaving a deep imprint.

Verneice Thompo
We went to Jim’s lecture, sometime in the mid 80s, out of respect for Verneice. But Jim made a strong impression on his own. He inspired our journey some 30 years later. I can see him still, a bird man, flapping his great wings in his passion for the Malheur Wildlife Refuge and the birds it protects, especially the sandhill cranes. He had slides of cranes flying, trumpeter swans flying—flocks of large white wings. His stories remained with Dan, inspiring him to go into the wild, unexplored parts of Eastern Oregon, where the Wild West was only yesterday.

One of Dan’s creative expressions is trip planning. Recently he decided the time had come to follow the promptings of Jim Hammond’s ghost. But there was a problem—me. Dan likes adventure on vacation. I like to vacate, contemplate, write. I like good beds, fine food and wine. But there is no charming town near the Malheur Refuge. In fact, there’s no town to speak of for miles. Dan had to persuade me that long hours in the car would be worth it. He has a way of coaxing me out of my comfort zone, getting me to go places I never knew I needed to go.

So it is that we fly to Boise, rent a car and drive 188 miles (3 hours and 40 minutes) to Burns, Oregon— the gas, food, and overnight stopping place on the way to Malheur—which is another 40 miles. Dan has promised a lovely place for lunch on the way out of Boise. The Cottonwood Grille is unexpectedly elegant, and the food delicious. The Maitre D’ asks where we are headed. “Burns,” we say. “That’s in the middle of nowhere.” He wasn’t kidding.


The long drive through strange volcanic mountains tinged with mosses is stark, broken up only by the occasional river valley. We see few other cars. Then suddenly God’s fingers in the form of dark rays reach through the clouds to touch our road and the countryside. Later we realize that the haze from many wildfires intensified the effect. Maybe you have to be in the middle of nowhere to experience such sights.

Burns is now a truck stop, but with a complex history. The main drag offers fast food joints, a Dairy Queen, The Sands RV Park, Eddie’s Truck and Auto Center, John Deere Tractors, Les Schwab Tires, Glory Days Pizza and The Knotty Pine Motel, vintage 1950, which is for sale. So, it seems, is half the town. Though Burns is frequented by firefighters as a rest stop, it is in fact named for the poet Robert Burns, beloved by the town’s founders. I don’t find much poetic about the town until we arrive at the Sage Country Inn, a lovely B & B where we stay in “Kathreen’s Room.” Dan has found us a treasure.

Sage Country Inn, Burns, Oregon

Sage Country Inn front yard and visitor

It’s not “nowhere” when you can sit on the front porch of a fine old mansion, dating from 1907, and watch the evening light fade. You feel you are somewhere quiet and profound. A great blue spruce and ancient poplars dominate the front yard and protect you from the sight and sound of the busy main street with trucks and Safeway. Mike and Corinne, who run this gracious inn, are generous with wonderful breakfasts and stories about the town and it’s environs. Corinne makes soaps and lotions, which she sells in the front parlor. Mike maintains the large property and trims the trees himself. We feel we have arrived in another time.

The Muse of Wild Horses

At breakfast we meet Donna and Ken, who live in Ashland but stop in Burns often on their way to visit a daughter and grandchild in Idaho. Were we planning to see The Steens, they wondered. I have never heard of such a place. Dan knows enough to think it is too far away and the roads are too rough for a rental car. The Steens, they tell us, is an amazing mountain in the middle of the high desert. You can drive to the top, almost a mile above the high desert. You will see great gorges created by glaciers during the last ice-age. If you are lucky you might catch a glimpse of the wild horses of Kiger Gorge. Wild Horses? My muse is all ears. I was a wild horse girl as a child. The wild horse is my totem, my animal guide into the wilds of poetry. I want to go to The Steens.

North Road to Steens Mountain

It is a very long drive. The high desert swoops down to marshland, back up to desert punctuated by long flat stretches—the road as straight as a ruler until it lifts into shimmer. After 60 miles of Dan driving, me going in and out of a logy trance, we arrive at Frenchglen, a tiny village at the beginning of the gravel mountain road. Frenchglen has an old hotel and Mercantile Store. A big burly guy in a Pendelton shirt, despite 90° weather, stands in front of the store and watches us get out of our car. As Dan pushes his car key button the guy says: “Did you lock that car?” and snorts, contemptuously, “No car’s ever been stolen in Frenchglen!” Turns out he runs the store. He’s been away for 25 years. He’s come back because “If I got to die, I don’t want to die looking at city people.” I say, “You are looking at city people.” “Not when I sit on my bench, smoke my pipe, watch the clouds” he responds. “Then I know it’s worth it.”


Steens Mountain sneaks up on you. You’re driving on a gravel road that makes a slow ascent through juniper and scrub. You don’t realize it’s a mountain because you’re not approaching it through foothills or seeing a peak. At the top it’s fifty miles long. E.R. Jackman, in a beautiful book about the mountain (Steens Mountain in Oregon’s High Desert Country) describes it as a “fault mountain,” a “lonely mountain with no close relatives.” Up and up we drive. When we reach the outlook for Kiger Gorge we gasp at the sight— a wild slalom of green that runs down the gorge and up again. This is where great glaciers flowed through the basalt of Eastern Oregon. On one side of the gorge a rocky steep slope rises to a long rock wall of green.

Kiger Gorge

On the other side we catch a glimpse of the Alvord basin, which is extremely hot and dry. This was all Indian country before the white man came. The Northern Paiutes called themselves “Nomo,” “the People.”

Steens Mountain captures the passing weather. Clouds build up on the western slope, bringing cool rain, mist and winter snows. This keeps the mountain lush and cool. The mountain, standing alone in the middle of this high desert, creates extremes. Somewhere, unseen by us, there is a herd of wild horses…

I found a beautifully written guidebook in the reading room of the Sage Country Inn (Steens Country: An Explorer’s Guide to Oregon’s Steens Mountain Area) by Mark Highberger—appropriate name, given his subject. He writes of the wild horses:
The herd stays strong in this high desert world, where on a wind–scoured hilltop the road now plunges…the bunchgrass waving in the wind…Any moment they could emerge from the slope’s crevices and come galloping along its crests; any second they could step from the shadow of the junipers to lope through the grass. And if they do, even if they remain at a distance, you’ll know them when you see them. How?
 “How do you know the wind is blowing in your face?” says Ron Hardy, the man who found the Kiger Mustangs. “You can’t see it. You just feel it.”
It has been hot all day during our excursion to The Steens. On the way back to Burns we watch a white cloud’s belly grow dark, throwing out flowing fingers, until finally, at Dan’s urging—“We love you, we need you”—the cry of rain starved Californians—we see, hear and smell the delight of falling rain.


[Image of Rain on Desert]

To Be Continued... 

Other News

I’ll be giving a lecture and workshop for Jung Cleveland about eco-psychology on Sept. 19th and 20th. If you’re in the vicinity please consider joining us.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Muse of Freedom

Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me
And before I'd be a slave I'll be buried in my grave
And go home to my Lord and be free

—“Oh Freedom”



Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964

The freedom train is coming, can't you hear the whistle blowing
Its time get your ticket and get on board
Its time for all the people to take this freedom ride
Get it together and work for freedom side by side

—“Freedom Train”

Recently Dan and I watched Public Television’s searing documentary, “Mississippi Freedom Summer, 1964.” We were both flooded with memories of a powerful time in our lives, years before we met each other, when we were twenty-somethings, on opposite coasts, both married young with babies. We each remember our shock and horror at the vicious murders of the three civil rights workers James Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman. When I saw Andrew Goodman’s face in the documentary I gasped. He looked so much like Dan did in photos I’ve seen of him in his twenties—a smart, idealistic, dark haired Jewish boy from New York. He even went to Queens College, as did Dan.



Dan tells me that Freedom Summer was “the thing I missed.” He had wanted very much to go to Mississippi that summer, wanted to make a difference, to take initiative in registering voters despite what was a brutal and difficult environment. He knew about the atrocities and the disappearances, about Medgar Evers’ assassination, about the lynching of Emmet Till. He knew the meaning of the song “Strange Fruit.” He was already a civil rights activist; he had helped organize boycotts and picketing of Woolworth Stores in support of the first sit-ins, had participated in the 1963 March on Washington, had opened his home to strangers who came from afar to March for Jobs and Freedom. The March reinforced his feeling that he was part of something bigger than himself. He was working with the American Friends Service Committee on a project to end discrimination in housing in the Washington, DC suburbs, He saw Freedom Summer as an important next step in the Civil Rights movement. He supported the strategy of sending young black and white civil rights workers south to register African Americans to vote. He knew it would be dangerous and with a young wife and a new baby daughter he decided not to go.

Free Speech Movement, Berkeley 1964

I'm walking and talking with my mind
stayed on freedom
Hallelu, Hallelu, Hallelujah.
Ain't nothing wrong with my mind
Stayed on freedom


Many young Americans were initiated in the fire of that summer. Mario Savio, whose courage would touch my life, was one of them. He came to Berkeley after volunteering in Mississippi to raise money for SNCC, only to learn that the University was banning political speech and fundraising. I was an undergraduate at Berkeley at the time, with a husband commuting to medical school in San Francisco and a baby boy at home. I participated in the Free Speech Movement and was moved by Mario Savio’s passionate speech:
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!

But I did not join my fellow students to sit-in at Sproul Hall. I wasn’t really cut out to be an activist, though I didn’t know that at the time. I did know I was a writer and that I wanted to be part of my generation’s big experiences. Like Dan, I felt the powerful surge of historical change, but having taken on adult responsibilities young, I had to think of my child—I couldn’t risk jail.

Free to Be You and Me

Come with me, take my hand, and we'll run
To a land where the river runs free…
To a land where the children are free…
And you and me are free to be you and me


Who might Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner have become had they been blessed with fifty more precious years of life? Their terrible deaths have cast a long painful shadow over this country. They were denied their freedom to become themselves. Freedom is complicated, has consequences, requires forethought, ethics and integrity. Janis Joplin expressed Freedom’s shadow elegantly when she sang “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.”

We were in love with freedom in those years, sexual freedom, women’s freedom, African American freedom, students’ freedom to gather and protest. We were determined to express ourselves, become ourselves, love across ethnic and racial boundaries, expand our consciousness, follow our stars. Freedom is, after all, America’s muse—muse to the French and American Revolutions, muse to Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence, muse to Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, muse to Dan’s father, a music loving seventeen year old who stole himself out of the anti-Semitic Polish army, muse to my family who stole themselves out of Hitler’s Europe to the “land of the free.” We on the left claimed freedom as our muse in the 60s. It’s interesting nowadays, to see freedom as the darling of the right who seem focused on the freedom to bear arms and the freedom of the wealthy to spend a fortune to support their politics.

The long view from maturity reminds us that freedom can be fickle and dangerous. As a student writing for the Queens College student newspaper, Dan recalls mocking a speech by the president of the College who said, “There is no freedom without restraint.” Yet, just a few years later he understood the need for restraint by not going to Mississippi for Freedom Summer, despite wanting very much to do so. In the long view it’s clear that he made the right decision. It was part of his nature, part of becoming himself. Dan has always been a family man, devoted to his children, as well as an activist, mixing a pragmatic and realistic streak with his idealism. Just a few years later he was able to go to Mississippi to make a difference as a trainer for the Child Development Group of Mississippi, a statewide Head Start Program. He learned how freeing and empowering it could be for poor African American parents to get engaged in their children’s schools. This inspired him to become an activist for parent involvement in his own children’s schools.

The long view has taught us that the freedom to become oneself is a meander, dependent on luck, fate and plodding perseverance. It is the inner capacity to follow one’s truth and passion free of the tyranny of collective attitudes but with respect for the truth and passions of others. I feel blessed to have lucked into a line of work—Jungian Analysis— that supports people in the process of freeing themselves to live full creative lives. The etymology of the word ‘free’ is telling. Roots in Old German and French associate freedom with love, friendship and safety. Dan and I are lucky to have found the freedom to be ourselves with each other.

The long view has given me the freedom to see the consequences of my youthful passions, to see their shadow side. I expressed this in a recent poem “Demeter Beside Herself.” It is one of three new poems just published in the online journal Stickman Review. The poem is in the voice of the goddess, whose daughter “is off becoming /someone I’ve never been.” This daughter “wants power,” wants digital devices,” “wants electricity all night long.” All this has thrown her mother “out of orbit.” I am that mother. I am that daughter.

Retirement has freed Dan to do his good works in our community for free. Working less has freed me to write and publish more. I’ve been lucky in my long meander as a writer, to have wandered into the world of Psychological Perspectives, a wonderful journal published by the Los Angeles Jung Institute, which has so long supported my freedom to follow the weird wild places my Muse takes me, by publishing so many of my poetic essays. They’ve just done it again. The latest issue of Psychological Perspectives includes my essay “Abracadabra Tongue: On Poetry Magic” in which my poems and active imagination with dream figures lead me to fly on a magic carpet with the Muslim Solomon, and to an encounter with the Queen of Sheba, the beautiful dark Queen of Ethiopia, who reveals the lusty “old black magic” version of her rendezvous with King Solomon. I hope you’ll read all about it.