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The sweet breathing of you, me, a raven in a tree
Journal | Week of December 5, 2022
For those new to this e-community, I offer my readers weekly snippets from my daily writing (tidied up a bit ;-)
December 5, 2022 | Monday
Strange facts are winged things in the mind.
This morning a raspberry, rolling across the butcher block counter, leaves a pink footprint in the wood. As I lift it to my lips, I think of an Anna’s hummingbird, a local year-round neighbor, the stain of red on that shimmery head and throat. She is the weight of this renegade raspberry, or if male, even lighter.
You’d need about 4 raspberries or tiny birds to equal the weight of one human soul—21 grams—or so a physician concluded in 1901 after measuring the mass of 6 dying patients. He wanted to study dying dogs, too, believing they didn’t have souls. Alas, he couldn’t find any, so apparently killed healthy dogs to prove his point. Not very soulful.
Why do we need proof of soul or spirit? Ultimately, he was wrong, or at least, he proved nothing.
Popping another raspberry in my mouth, the subtle crunch of unseen seeds catching in my molars, proves that bitter and sweet coexist. That’s enough for me.
Secretly I’m hoping he was haunted by dog ghosts.
December 6, 2022 | Tuesday
What is soul? What is spirit?
Awakened before 5 am by two cats galloping across hardwood floors, then playing shuffleboard with a gift under the Christmas tree, I’m thinking, That’s what we should have named these kittens, soul and spirit.
Soul—the origins of the word, meant coming from or belonging to the sea. It’s a hand-me-down concept from the pre-written-history peoples of Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The sea was the end of their world, a literally deep mystery.
Spirit—from old Latin, a different people, meant a breathing, or alternatively, the breathing breath of a god.
Water, air, yes, these are the main ingredients of what it means to live.
Don’t we all belong to one vast sea? When was the last time you looked at its surface, smiled, and realized what a sweet breathing you are?
December 7, 2022 | Wednesday
Tonight, a full moon will rise. Well, it will appear, with the turning of the earth, so we can see it.
Cycles are grounding. Cycles hold hope made real.
When you know the moon that disappeared from late November’s skies will reemerge as a glowing arc, a curved crack in the purple-black room of forever, then you can endure whatever darkness surrounds you, knowing it won’t last.
As you watch the slender crescent fatten and grow into a full, round luminous face looking down from the night, so bright you can hike a path looking for banana slugs at 2 am, then you know—all those shadows mean you are held by something real and enduring.
Thinking about the native peoples, tuned more deeply to cycles and natural phenomena, I wonder what they might call tonight’s moon.
I ask the sage called Google, landing on the phrase, ‘The Frost Exploding Trees Moon,’ from the Nêhiyawak people, better known as Cree. Having lived where ice does seem to explode trees, sounding like shattered glass bombs as it brings down limbs, I imagine a Nêhiyawak child, restless in her moonlit sleep, the cold crashing into her dreams.
Then up pops an artistic clip from an organization called Raven Spirit Dance Company. I’m a raven-lover. I have to look.
There an indigenous woman dances, interpreting The Frost Exploding Trees Moon. She’s traveling her trap line, finding a place to set up camp and create her temporary home. Underlying it all, these questions: How does one house one’s spirit? What keeps us close to earth and what makes us long for stars?
Thank you e-universe for the gift of connecting me to another way of being, and an unexpectedly moving two minutes and fifty-four seconds.
December 8, 2022 | Thursday
The Frost Exploding Trees Moon, was also a Light Exploding Sleep Moon. Tired today.
No, let’s call it what it was. Young Bear Surprised to Be Discovered Raiding the Birdfeeder Moon.
If you can’t sleep, you might as well enjoy the antics of a teen-like, awkward bear, startled by a woman and two crouching cats pressed against the other side of glass a few feet away. His face wants some suet and seeds, while his hind feet stretch down feeling for ground, the front paws holding on, then letting go.
Bye, Young Bear, I hope you bounce.
December 9, 2022 | Friday
The moon is wearing a shawl.
That sentence wakes me into a glowing room. Damn, the curse of being a poet who dreams words.
Looking out the window, the universe has left on a porch light. No shawl, more a veil tossed over a bulb.
Eventually giving up on sleep, I take a cup of tea out onto the chilly-damp deck, smelling rain in the air, coming soon. Thin clouds open and close sections of sky. Teasing, then clear.
The waning moon outshines most stars, but Orion still lies on his back waiting to loose his arrow. At least he can get some rest.
All I want to do is look up, my neck cranky as my head stays tipped back for long moments. Above, dark and light commingle.
How far does it all go? What is beyond?
Three satellites slip across separate parts of the the sky. I am a child, seeing this scene for the first time then telling this story to the returning clouds.
“The moon had the face
of a worried mouse, wanting
to be safe in trees. The stars floated
so still in purple sea, except for three,
that swam slow and all alone
until they sank, not lost, just free.”
December 10, 2022 | Saturday
If storms have animal spirits, then last night was an angry bear trying to rip the roof off, a tantrum of fir and redwood branches flying everywhere, windows pelted with pebbles of water, his breath full of static, a palpable electricity making the tiny hairs on arms and paws stand up, severing the house’s energy, every mechanical hum or light struck silent and dark.
Wake, sleep, wake, sleep, wake. Gusts and bluster. You could hear intense wind-waves coming at you, a distant roar raging through tree tops, passing over, shaking-loud, so very loud, then away. You felt very small. Little human beast in its sheets, glad to be spared in the fray.
I loved every moment of it. The way wind and water, which can be soft as a caress, became pure power and ferocity.
What if each spirit or soul could be so fierce? I thought, slipping back into sleep.
Waking at last into a mostly calm morning, a mess of tree litter and toppled deck chairs waiting outside, I notice a nightlight is on. Normal again, I think, then, what is that line about fear and power?
Feeding the cats who look as wild-eyed as me after the tempest, I find it. “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” It’s from Marianne Williamson, spiritual writer, activist, and unlikely presidential candidate.
In robe and old slippers, I step out into the space between one storm and another coming later. There’s a Dark-eye junco twisted limp and soggy among a pile of redwood cones.
Oh, Unlucky Bird, tell me, what should we humans do with our power beyond measure?
December 11, 2022 | Sunday
Ravens with their swaying gaits are walking around in storm debris, looking for something. What? Beaks polished, shimmery, turn over sticks and leaves.
A group of ravens is called an ‘unkindness.’ They’re oblivious to such labels, so I take umbrage on their behalf.
They rock on their birdy feet, dragging their tails. One has made the letter W in some rusty, wet redwood needles. Clever corvid. Now can you make a K?
Another flashes purple and deep green, turning to look my way before stretching wide her black wings, pulling herself up with a few kicks and thrusts high into a redwood nearby.
Then the sound of water sporadically dripping in a deep canyon. No. It’s raven-talk.
Listen. She’s trying out her sounds, a metallic-rattle, a kwawk, a fake jay’s call. I try imitating what she’s saying. Am I making some meaning in the mind of this raven? She responds.
Are we two women, one feathered, one fleshy, just having a Sunday conversation? I can’t really tell raven gender. Doesn’t matter. We kwawk and babble to each other, on and on until we both go quiet.
“Thank you, Raven,” I whisper in plain English.
A grieving women, who reached out recently on Facebook, suddenly comes to mind. “I feel alone and abandoned,” she wrote, her loved ones wanting nothing of her grief. “Sometimes,” I offered, “it’s strangers on similar journeys who become your kindred spirits.”
Who says that can’t include a raven? “Thank you, Raven,” I whisper again.
Two other ravens, one with bright, chartreuse lichen stuck on the tip of his bill, wobble side-by-side down the path toward the compost pile, quiet as friends so close they need to say nothing.
Among this ‘unkindness,’ I feel only kindness.