Page 1

Written River is a literary journal published by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature and our relationship to it. Published quarterly in digital format, we strive to encourage the discipline of ecopoetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Ecopoetics is poetry in which the energy of the ecosystem flows through the poem, creating a written river of words which ebbs with the creativity of the entire Earth community. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed.

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR WRITTEN RIVER Written River is accepting unsolicited submissions. Our Journal primarily publishes Poetry (any form as long as the verse is theme relevant), nonfiction, (essays, autobiographical stories, and travel writing), interviews and book reviews. Please send a short cover letter, biographical statement and a Microsoft Word document (.doc or .docx) attachment of: y Up to 5 poems not exceeding 15 pages. Please send a query letter and an excerpt if you would like a long form poem to be considered. y Nonfiction work of 5000 words or less. Please email submissions to: We prefer electronic submissions. If necessary, however, you may send your proposal by post to: Hiraeth Press Attention: Written River P.O. Box 416 Danvers, MA 01923 We usually respond to submissions within 4-6 weeks. The submitted works should be previously unpublished. We are open to publishing a limited number of poems or essays that may have appeared in print or online, but the author must hold sole rights to the work. We do accept original artwork/photographs. We request that images be scanned with a resolution of at least 300 dpi and attached it to the query email, which should also contain a cover letter. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. However, we ask to be notified promptly if your submitted work is accepted elsewhere. If your work is seasonally themed you should consider our issue deadlines: Winter Solstice Issue: November 20th Summer Solstice Issue: May 20th

Photo: Copyright © 2010 Jason Kirkey


8 Π{photograph} Sun and Stone

20 Π{poem} Instructions from an Old Growth Forest 21 Π{poem} Who Will Eat This? Jason Kirkey

10 Π{poem} Doe, A Deer 11 Π{poem} Be-loved Gaia Jamie K. Reaser

22 Π{poem} I Haunt This Wood, It Haunts Me 22 Π{poem} Wild Hedge Judy Longley

12 Π{preview} Cosmosophia Theodore Richards

23 Œ {poem} Autumnal Evening 23 Œ {poem} Summer’s Passing L.M. Browning

5 ΠLetter from the Editor

14 Π{poem} Eno River Walking 15 Π{poem} Appalachian Native Jenn MacCormack 16 Π{poem} Landscape Loved by Wallace Stevens 16 Π{poem} Real Estates Mary Harwell Sayler 17 Π{poem} Lieder 17 Π{poem} Temperate Place Leonore Wilson 18 Π{poem} Borders 19 Π{poem} Appalachian Autumn Womb Theodore Richards

24 Œ {poem} Snow on the Ponderosa Pines 24 Œ {poem} The Heart of the Prophet T.E. Pedersen 26 Œ {photograph} Poems 28 Œ {q&a} Jamie K. Reaser Jenn MacCormack 31 Œ {essay} Human and Humus Adrián Villasenor-Galarza 38 Œ {photograph} Grand Embrace 39 Œ Contributor Biographies

20 Π{photograph} Corpus 42 Π{photograph} Land's End

SUBMISSION GUIDELINES FOR HIRAETH PRESS Hiraeth Press is accepting unsolicited submissions. We primarily publish full-length works of poetry and nonfiction (autobiography and travel writing are acceptable as well). Please be sure to review our current publications to ensure your submission is appropriate to our press. Please also read these guidelines in full. We are only interested in poetry and non-fiction projects which explore themes of ecology or contemplative works with an ecological sensibility. Although we appreciate hearing from our readers and prospective authors, postal mail requires a lot of packaging, paper mailing materials, and fossil fuel to ship. If you absolutely need or want to send us something through the post you may do so. However, we strongly prefer electronic submissions and correspondence. If it is absolutely necessary you may send your proposal by post to: Hiraeth Press P.O. Box 416 Danvers, MA 01923 Please include in your poetry proposal: y A cover letter y The first 25 pages of your manuscript y A brief biographical statement and prior publications or relevant awards Please include in your nonfiction proposal: y A cover letter y A complete synopsis (1 – 2 pages) y An outline or table of contents with detailed chapter descriptions (5 – 10 pages) y Three sample chapters including any introduction and two other chapters of your choosing (chapters need not be consecutive) y A list of similar or competing books y A detailed biographical statement including author credentials and prior publications (if any) Submissions may be emailed to as a Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx) or PDF attachment. Important! We accept submissions during the following months: February, April, June, August, October, December You can expect to hear back from us by the end of the month succeeding the one in which you submitted (if you submit in February we will respond by the end of March). Any submissions sent during our offmonths will be deleted and you are welcome to re-submit according to the calendar above. The submitted manuscript should be previously unpublished. A limited number of individual poems or excerpts may have appeared in print or online, but the poet must hold sole rights to the work. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. However, we ask to be notified promptly if your submitted work is accepted elsewhere.


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Dear Readers, In our first issue of Written River I wanted to explore what it is that we mean by “eco-poetics.” We cast the net wide and have come back with poems, photographs, and an essay which all explore the topic from various perspectives. It is my hope that through Written River we can foster a community of artists who are all engaged with asking how our art can transform our relationship with the Earth. Before I introduce you to some of our contributors this issue, I want to say a few words pertaining to the mission of Written River and why we feel it is important. In his poem “Bread and Wine,” Hölderlin asks us, “What use are poets in times of need?” I’ve been haunted by this question ever since. Can poety change the world? This is what I wanted to know. Poets in the widest sense are not only those who write and speak poetry. They are storytellers, mythmakers, philosophers, scientists, teachers, musicians, artists, and shamans—those involved in the ongoing creation of culture. The use of poets in times of need is that they are cultural therapists and, in the words of John Moriarty, are “healers who, healed themselves, heal us culturally, heal us, or help to heal us, in the visions and myths and rituals by which we live, and to do this effectively they must in some sense be…temporary ones, not eternal ones, of the Dream.” The Dream is what the Poet communicates and creates. They change the way we not only think but also our very way of being in the world. In doing so poets give birth to a new story that speaks to the needs of the time. So what is the new story we want to construct? That is still an open ended question but I believe that its fundamental attribute must be that it integrates us into the wider Earth community. This integration must begin at the level of the watershed. The watershed is the organizing principle of the life community. We cannot know our place in the universe if we do not know our place in the watershed—our local and situated place. We cannot know the universe story if we don’t know the smaller stories, poems, and folktales which constitute our personal story and the story of our place. Every drop of rain that falls and seeps into the land is drained into the watershed and travels out to sea. It takes about two million years for a single drop of water to make the complete circle from rainfall to groundwater, to river, to ocean, to cloud, and back to rain again. All the water, every single molecule, makes that journey. This is why the care of our water is synonymous with the care of the local Earth community. The watershed defines the community of life which grows up around it and marks the boundaries of the region. Each watershed has its own Way, distinct to its personality. It tells a story by its “being.” To follow

6 the Way of the watershed is to the follow the Dao. The watershed freely manifests in alignment with its deep principles which naturally follow the course of the Dao—“the flow, drift, or the process of nature,” as Alan Watts describes it. The Dao is the principle pattern or energy which things naturally follow. Poetry is the language of the Dao. It is spontaneous but cultivated and disciplined; free-flowing but shaped as form—poetry is wild. Writing, speaking, hearing, or reading the poetry of our place can help us discover the entry point at which we find our own particular way of belonging. One of the images I’ve discovered which relates deeply to this process of integrating into the ecosystem is the peat bogs of Ireland. The bogs represent, in their dynamic natural processes and their ecological functioning, the new way we must find to belong to the Earth. Peat is the product of the decay of organic matter—the bogs a kind of naturally occurring anaerobic compost heap. Through the phenomenon of the bog we can learn about the ecosystem of the bog and through the dynamics of the ecosystem we can learn what it means to be a human being within the Earth community. The bogs also represent a more storied way of being. Beneath the surface of the bog the peat contains artifacts of the past both literally and figuratively. Swords, books, and bodies have all been found well preserved in the peat. More figuratively the sedimentary layers of the bog represent layers of history, layers of the past, layers of the psyche into which it is necessary for us to inscend. By sinking into the peat we can come into contact with our own Precambrian minds. These two stories co-mingle together in the decaying humus beneath the surface of the bog. When peat is burned for fuel it’s like burning the memory of the Earth. The peat holds the succession of Ireland’s forests and the subsequent degradation of the landscape which formed the bogs. It holds the rain, the moss, the heather. It holds the bones of the past with little concern for whether it is human or Earth history it records. In the bog it is all just bog history. Bog-deep in us, are we too still just the decaying compost of Earth matter? We can think of poetry as feeding directly into the energy cycles of cultures, which are interconnected with the energy cycles of ecosystems—it re-invigorates them, heals them, constructs them, dreams them, and sometimes even destroys them. The use of poets in times of need are to descend into the composting bog of our cultures and reinvent them in a way which enlivens and sustains us by re-dreaming them and passing on that dream to rest of the culture. In the 21st century, at the edge of the Cenozoic, this means it is the task of the poet and culture worker to, as Thomas Berry said, “reinvent the human—at the species level, with critical reflection, within the community of life-systems, in a time-developmental context, by means of story and shared dream experience.” I think we have a great issue for you to curl up with this winter. Scattered throughout you’ll find some beautiful photographs taken by James Liter, who we are hoping to release a book of poems from in 2011 with a photo book to possibly follow. His photos have really brought this issue alive in a way I could hardly imagine when it was first conceived. We also have an excellent essay from Adrián VillasenorGalarza, a Ph.D. student of Integral Ecology at California Institute of Integral Studies, which examines the relationship between composting and alchemy. We’re also featuring several poets: Leonore Wilson

7 is publishing a collection called Western Solstice with us next year. Jamie K. Reaser, who released Huntley Meadows last August, submitted poems from her new collection called Note to Self which you can expect to see in the spring. Jenn MacCormack, in addition to being a featured poet, also conducted a question and answer session with Jamie about Huntley Meadows. L.M. Browning (my co-editor at Hiraeth Press) and I also contributed some new poems that we hope you enjoy. We also have poetry from Theodore Richards along with a preview of his upcoming Hiraeth Press book, Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth which is due out on February 25th. Whatever your tastes I think you’ll find something in this issue of Written River to inspire you and perhaps even change the way you see the world. Yours from the estuary, Jason Kirkey

Copyright Š 2010 James Liter




DOE, A DEER Jamie K. Reaser Doe, a deer, a female deer standing in ironic be-wild-er-ment amidst a still-screaming clear cut. Have you seen the big yellow monster that destroyed her home? Blades that have never known the ethics of a Ninja. She now has PTSD and is too numb to grieve, to dash, to join the stumps in their collective shrieks of amputation. My eyes catch a glimpse of a single flower that made it through— Podophyllum peltatum— Mayapple. Eternal hope. I’ll ask you again: “Have you seen the big yellow monster that destroyed her home?” It dwells within you, you know. The Destroyer— That part of you that takes more than you need.

That takes everything you need. Look! She’s moving, shifting her head so that her big brown watery eyes meet your eyes. She can See that you are human, but she just doesn’t get it. And neither do you – And neither do I – despite the long practiced walk and talk. How is it that even those of us who have awakened to the consequences of our actions still largely partake in hypocrisy? It’s all about the fuel that goes into the Big Yellow Monster of You and Me: Insecurity, Fear, Loneliness… These things drive the harvest rates of that which is Beautiful— both within us and outside us. So, it is time All that we call for an alternative energy source: Compassion, Love, Unity…

We start not by monkey-wrenching The Destroyer, but by bringing The Destroyer into ecstatic relationship with The Creator. I’ll say it again: “We start not by monkey-wrenching The Destroyer, but by bringing The Destroyer into ecstatic relationship with The Creator.” Her udder is becoming painful as it swells, and there will be no relief. The twins were dismembered and disemboweled as they did what ancestral memory told them to do— place your lovely white spots in the glitter of leaf-sieved sunlight and be still. Two Mothers will mourn and someone else will refer to these and other casualties simply as “negative externalities” of Progress.

Jamie K Reaser Intimacy is the fingerprint of the fully present witness, and I know Her body well enough to read the pigeon-feather spray of a Cooper’s Hawk hit, the rise of a toad’s gastric passing in garden mulch, the Monarch caterpillar’s inscription on late-season milkweed leaf. Oh but the grief. Someone has been here before me. All these wounds… I leave no such mark on my Lover’s body.

Copyright © 2010 James Liter

Look within. Go within. Redefine Progress for yourSelf and for our species before you fuel your next outward step.




Cosmosophia Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth


Theodore Richards … takes us on an epic journey ... It is his journey and it is our journey. It is humanity’s journey and though it necessarily includes the misery of cruelty and oppression, there is wisdom at work as well … Things could be so different. We wandered away from our African origins so many millennia ago, and though we have become lost and confused, the universe leaves clues everywhere. A new beginning is possible, a new feeling of the interconnectedness of all things is before us. Richards takes us on a journey into the edge of the universe which is the edge of the human being which is the edge of God. —Brian Swimme, author of The Universe Story, on Handprints on the Womb



in the modern world have come to the conclusion that

his coming year, on February 25th, Hiraeth Press

we are at a turning point in human history. Cosmoso-

will proudly release the much-anticipated title,

phia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a New Myth

Cosmosophia: Cosmology, Mysticism, and the Birth of a

offers a fresh approach to the crisis of the modern

New Myth by Theodore Richards, author of the poetry

industrial world, emphasizing the worldview that pro-

collection Handprints on the Womb. Speaking to hu-

vides us with our core values and basic assumptions

manity’s current ecological crisis and religious quanda-

about reality.

ries there are few books more relevant to our current days, than Cosmosophia.

Cosmosophia takes the reader on an extensive historical journey through the ideas and worldviews that have

Confronted with global warming, economic injus-

shaped the West, as well as a journey around the world

tice, and a profound sense of meaninglessness, many

to explore the various mystical traditions that could pro-

13 The story of the Universe is the story that ends as it began: the spark of the Big Bang is in each of us; we have, at this moment, through our creativity, the capacity to create anew the Universe, to become compassionate to the whole of creation. Chaos—and surely we live in chaotic times—is the mother of creative transformation. Even as our individual interiority emerges, our imaginative capacities allow us to return to embeddedness in the cosmic womb. This return requires more than new knowledge, but a new myth, a way of connecting us to one another, to the rest of Earth and to the cosmos. The new myth will not be created by science or philosophy, but by the collective creativity of humanity. We will need more than mere ideas; to be remade and renewed from our very roots, to become “pure and ready to climb to the stars,” we need poets like Dante. We are, at this moment, like my unborn daughter, putting hand prints on the edge of our world, our womb—not unlike the earliest humans did on the interior of the cave—unsure what lies beyond. —Excerpt from Cosmosophia vide alternatives to the Western worldview. Ultimately,

in which the members of a culture understand their

it is argued that the unique challenges of today’s world

relationship to the world is defined not by facts about

cannot be solved through a return to the ideas of the

the world, but the story we tell about it. A story invites

past—or even through mere ideas at all—but by a deep

us to participate. The mythmaker is the artist who tells

mystical re-connection to our world and the creative,

these great stories. Using the most recent insights of

imaginative process of telling a new myth that inte-

science as well as drawing from various mystical tradi-

grates our mystical traditions and modern science.

tions, a new myth is proposed based upon the symbol-

This book develops a new discipline, “cosmosophy,” which seeks to reconcile the individual and the whole through the wisdom of the cosmos. Central to this work is the notion that wisdom is not the creation of the human, or deposited into the world from above, but the way the Universe creates meaningful, compassionate relationships. The human is called upon to find the specific human expression of this wisdom at this moment. From this discipline, a new mythic and symbolic framework has been created, “cosmosophia,” which integrates the insights of the cosmologies and mystical philosophies of the wisdom traditions and modern science. Any worldview is based on certain basic assumptions about reality that a particular culture makes. In modernity, these assumptions or core metaphors have led us to see our world as corrupted or dead. Cosmosophia is a new set of metaphors upon which a worldview can be created that treats the cosmos as ensouled, alive, or sacred. Finally, Cosmosophia begins the process of telling a new myth. It is central to the argument that the way

ic framework of cosmosophia. —By L.M. Browning and Theodore Richards

™ THEODORE RICHARDS is a poet, writer, and religious philosopher. He is a long time student of the Taoist martial art of Bagua and hatha yoga and has traveled, worked and studied in 25 different countries, including the South Pacific, the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Theodore has received degrees from the University of Chicago, The California Institute of Integral Studies, Wisdom University, and the New Seminary where he was ordained. He has worked with inner city youth on the South Side of Chicago, Harlem, the South Bronx, and Oakland, where he was the director of YELLAWE, an innovative program for teens. He is the author of Handprints on the Womb, a collection of poetry. Theodore Richards is the founder and executive director of The Chicago Wisdom Project (www. He currently resides in Chicago with his wife and daughter.


ENO RIVER WALKING Jenn MacCormack This place with birds calling to one another, the slow whir of river walking upon age-worn rocks from another life, red clay sinks down, accepts, slides, green thorns covered with promises of spring, snow like winter’s ghost melts into the earth. The river runs and walks, then runs again, as quiet eyes of trees observe passing of time passing of years dropping their leaves down sap rising budding shooting forth into fullness the color and splendor of death as falling leaves come anew. But now, now their blood, their heartbeat pumps stronger after long, unconscious sleep. The deer have eaten at bark and branch during winter’s starving bite, but now, now from roots spread forth green blades, speared desires for sun and air. This place is open and intimate the pebbles and small shells mingle together like brothers and sisters at the river edge, each stone a story past, each shell a life long gone. This place with its tall trees, buckeye and oak: white, blackjack and laurel. This place with holly, rhododendron, sycamore, white ash, maple and beech, the trembling beech, walnut, pecan, wild thorn, alder and dogwood, sourwood and ironwood, honeysuckle,

a thick array of river birch, cedar and hemlock. This place with grasses, grasses and grasses, moss and lichen, ivy, sumac and creepers, shooting bulbs wild with spring’s coming day. And pine trees, who could not mention the pine trees, short-leafed pine in bunches with loblolly pine drooping down, long-leaf pine that needs fire to seed, fire to be freed, ancient giants that covered this place long ago, pine-cones everywhere before deciduous trees took root. A sparrow peers at me now, querying my intentions in this place, then carries on, moves along feeding off the ground, dancing with a hop in his step, his lover nearby, their white breasts glimmering beneath brown wings and gleaming eyes. I am breathless, breathless at this place, at its rolling sides rising up into blue sky, this valley, this river course, this place of cosmic lineage, about to awaken to Spring again like all other years — yet unlike ever before. The joy that fills me reminds me of home, tells me I’m home, tells me to walk softly on this clay, to slip with it and slide with it, to feel the leaves, the bark, the dead grass, new grass, smooth stone, volcanic etrusions, woodpecker in the distance amidst creaking trunks.


I know this place in my dreams, have known it for many years, but this place is real, this place breathes, it lives, carries with it memories sinking in, sinking into me, seeping in like blood and breath, like scent on the wind. In this moment, there is no me. Woods, river, birds, shore, the silent white-footed mouse staring at me from his hole as he melts into grey rock light, blurring his edges, not mouse, but stone, not stone, but mouse. So too I melt dissolve blend into hues of green and brown. I am earth and wind, murmur of water as it kisses stones, tree-creeper hopping, moving up bark paths, wren in the distance shrieking his warning, rising rocks emerge from the hillside, winding their way along a river’s long walk all this I am, all this flows in me and through me, the Eno River walking and running, then walking again, part and whole, whole and part. This place is real. This place is home.

APPALACHIAN NATIVE Jenn MacCormack Into the Appalachian wilderness, no rules but the rule of the wild, no god but the god of presence. My nest is amidst dead leaves where-ever I stop for sleep, wandering all day to feed on nuts, bitter fruit and sweet mountain waters. Shedding my shell, shedding the shackles of all I thought I knew, here the human creature sinks back into the soil, merging into bark texture, mushroom, green leaf and bird. Plans rot down, expectations wear away like riverbanks, while a mountain of thoughts transform into trees.


LANDSCAPE LOVED BY WALLACE STEVENS Mary Harwell Sayler If you could fly over \ yards and yards of green lace lining the Gulf and Space Coasts, you would see low-lying bands of land seeding the sea with pockets bluebeaded with water, and you would wonder how one more word could fit into the shellshaped pattern, stitched with canals, and not unravel beneath the hem of so many people pushing the delicate fabric, poking the intricate design, picking at flaws not found in winter-bound spools of wool.

Copyright Š 2010 James Liter

REAL ESTATES Mary Harwell Sayler And the hills that climbed us puffing for breath exchanged their wildflowers for houses, big houses, brick houses that consumed our landscapes and resumed the kiln-baked earth.


LIEDER Leonore Wilson

TEMPERATE PLACE Leonore Wilson The suburb’s motion is mandatory, will nail down this rustic landscape no doubt, but for one more year it shimmers in the spoors of the old rooster’s croak, the phlegmatic hedge of stubborn cattle, the possum in his farewell tremor flitting on the sidewalk, in the magpies’ clamor, the cobwebbed canal water smooth as a bed sheet, the monologue of the recluse looking for his lost slippers, complaining about the rainy weather as the mother on the veranda in her starched cotton blouse buttoned up to her chin, finishes her last cup of tea, while three of her children ring her skirt like choleric quail. Remember this when sickness sharpens your features, when dusk becomes your scruffy neighbor, the one with bad breath and patched up trousers, who bikes the lumpy path to your house, only to hand you a half-eaten bag of sour apples.

Photo: Copyright © 2010 James Liter

In advent you find their half-wreaths Of sleep like underground springs; here They once quieted their lissome limbs, Pawed the soil clotted with moisture, A musky grammar heard by the owl And field mouse protesting and the vole Urinating and you occasionally sinking Like a stone to sleep when that quizzical Plethoric neighing anticipated the grum Of fungi and frost, the frenetic day When a noble fir would be sought, Chopped down and heaved over The threshold and through the pomeScented halls like a lugubrious bride. Slowly the snow Spreads over the meadows, powders the mountains Like sugar or manna and you wonder where The forest daughters now hide with or without Their brood, where is their warmth, Their somnolent succor, until one evening late Crossing your bridge from errands in town You see under a hard batch of stars Two stags disappearing up the canyon’s ravine, Crossing the minute creek, foreign To any portent you’ve witnessed thus far; Their tremulous breath, small bluffs of fire, Racks splendid as diadems, and you know As you burrow into bed with the one you desire Those you’ve missed will be drenched In the libidinous scent of recognition too, Raw as bitter orange, or husked winterberries— Bruised Eden’s perfume of the divine.


BORDERS Theodore Richards Far before I reach the border, Landscapes and languages begin to change. English is spoken only occasionally; In the dusty plains of south Texas— A place that prides itself on its Americanness, Not realizing That the Spanish-speaking people Make it so— Mexico comes gradually, Long before the border. The snakes and the birds tell me, too, That I have already reached a place far different From the one I have left, Even before I have gotten there. The world we have paved And drawn lines upon In our fear of its vague and subtle Grayness. Its slow fade From one land to the next In stark contrast to the comforting abruptness Of guards and currency exchanges. Do they Consider the birds of the air… The lilies of the field, When they draw those lines, Even as they hold Bibles (Written in English) in hand? The birds fly past those borders, The lily-seeds find fertile soil on both sides. We tell ourselves that the lines between nations Are real As if we know what the real really is. Is it real because it exists on paper, And in concrete walls built by men, And in still harder, higher walls in our minds? The snakes and birds, then,

Must not be real, For they pass over and through with ease. And people, in spite of our ideas, Pass through, too, Following the money on which we all depend For survival. These people must not be real, then: Who move silently through the desert, Searching for work from which others hide; Who pick our vegetables and in their struggles Make them cheaper. We seem not to care That they speak strange tongues As we gorge ourselves In the bloated supermarkets of entitlement. Do we taste their suffering In our grapes? Their struggles In our greens? In this backward world In which borders are crossed daily, Even on city buses, In which money is real value And lines on a map, So allusive on the dusty borders of Creation, Are more real Than the dust itself.



I drive eastward out of Upstate New York, smoking bidis. The dull monotony of interstate gloom turns abruptly into rural joy; small mountains replace the small, depressed cities of post-industrial New York. Cows are seen more often than people. Small farms dot the landscape when there is a break in the roughness of the topography. Most of the rural routes are lined with stone fences barely visible through the tangled brush, a reminder that people had once come here to conquer the land, chopping down the forests, using the abundant rocks they found when trying to farm as walls. The forest has returned, its thickness a testament to the strength of nature; the presumptuousness of those walls a testament to humanity’s hubris. I pass by tourists Who take pictures of the landscape. Green countryside turns to orange, brown, and yellow. But I enter her, take long walks in the woods, assaulted by the colors, above, below, and on all sides. I fast for days in this forest womb of ambient color, the long Autumn shadows and ever more barren trees a soft reminder of the cold winter ahead, a reminder that nature celebrates death as well as life.

These tourists cannot see That while the forest is pretty From the roadside Its true beauty Is found within.

Copyright © 2010 James Liter


INSTRUCTIONS FROM AN OLD GROWTH FOREST Jason Kirkey This life will take some time to build like the slow upswell of breath from earth— one day: an old growth forest. Start with seeds sailing toward soil— white pine red cedar carried by the currents of all that you love. A rain of needles to blanket the loam of flesh calling to dream-flesh. Let whatever lives within your branches live— don’t dream of oak and moss. Let your shade be a shelter for ferns and grazing deer. Be patient with the perching of birds— the fox and coyote will come. A community gathers slowly in the chorus of frogs or mosquitoes on the humid breeze. Oak and hickory moss and mushrooms shade and dappled light— the mature smell of decay. Scattered leaves rotting: This life will only grow when you’re ready to give it away.


WHO WILL EAT THIS? Jason Kirkey This compost from which I came, to which—like lines of poetry that feed the culture fed by water and plants, the winged and legged— I too feed the earth and decompose, break down, rot, fertilize, decay. So much for the summer sun, apples on trees, or the dew hanging like crystals on leaves. All things return to you— not a thing will be spared: not the oak, maple, and pine; neither wren, robin, or crow; not the fox and deer; not this poem— not even the woman I love. Everything is forfeit to the damp fungal mycelia of soil, rich with earth-scent, the voice of the dead still speaking. The rain falls upon the detritus of de-composed lines: once flesh and bone and singing, drips from the branches and leaves— a baptismal for the holy fruits to come, spoken in the common tongue of mushrooms and moss; sorrel and sprouts. Even as the ink of this poem sinks into the page the paper fades, dampens, decays— What vegetables will it become? Who will eat this? Who will drink the vitality of change? Who will fruit, flower, and seed? What use are poets in times of need?


I HAUNT THIS WOOD, IT HAUNTS ME Judy Longley A shrunken acre of maple, oak and ash, a fistful of pens scribbling arboreal history on the parchment each dawn unrolls, shading the surround of Monopoly board homes. A reminder of the immeasurable forest our naked hungry selves could not reach the limits of, where we enacted our grave industry of hunter and hunted in deepest shade, sleeping under starry eaves, our predators pacing the snow pack, slit eyes slanted upward. Each day I enter the story, my fingers explore bark’s rough Braille, a wood thrush trills, pierces the cacophany of city walls, traffic’s gutteral exhaust. Deer swim from their margin of brush, five gray ghosts... or two...or three...

My dream body captures glittering paragraphs bold against the sky, crows explode into a flight of arrows. With night’s winged descent I dance among dark pillars, my legs grown long, stemmed, each phosphorescent step releases old moons, the wind saturated with ancient vowels wolves blow from the edge of time.

WILD HEDGE Judy Longley A scarlet blur bursts through the understory becomes cardinal in image darting through my lens into the tidy parlor of consciousness: my mother’s voice lifting me to a farm house window crying red bird, red bird! A yellow swallowtail undulates along the perimeter where wood, garden, my unpruned heart converge, weaving vine to grasp my mother’s delicate wrists, the wingspan of her fingers against glass.


AUTUMNAL EVENING L.M. Browning The acorns fell like heavy rain future giants falling to Earth as newborns, one day to stretch between the worlds.

SUMMER’S PASSING L.M. Browning Sparks from the fire were cast into the sky-for a moment able to live as red stars of the Milky Way.

The chipmunk chirped like cardinals back and forth at one another as they raced along the ledges of the channeled slate walls.

The balance tips and we pass into the darkness. The days of long daylight spent.

Bees hovered in mid-air with Zen like peace. While the crickets chanted their mantra unto the full Harvest Moon.

The trees surrender their leaves, laying themselves bare-exposed nakedly unto those who dwell around.

The red kernels of the burning oak log smoked blessing those that stood around, witnessing the cremation of its century-old life.

The clinging leaves ripped away violently from their mother bough-orphans falling to Earth; some to wither where they fall, others to have their mulchy ashes spread across the four directions-borne away by the gushes of wind unto a new shore.

The trees shed their leaves blanketing the path ahead like flower maids spreading golden pedals before the bride as she walks to her union-before me, as I walk deeper into this wood and offer myself as a companion to the spirits in the surround.

Copyright Š 2010 James Liter


SNOW ON THE PONDEROSA PINES T.E. Pedersen Out walking in the brisk morning air, I look up, and on the pine trees I can see the snows from the night before still clinging to the boughs, as if presenting their white beauty to the red chalk spires. I am dressed warm, and so am enjoying the cold air, that is still the surprise of the season thus far, early in the autumn, and I marvel for a few moments at the white blanket of the landscape, the steely clouds that are gifting the occasional flake. I walk and I look, observing the quiet as much as the land or the trees or the trailway underfoot. There is a vibration here that stirs the soul. In my heart I am giving humble thanks to God, for nothing more than snow on the Ponderosa Pines.

THE HEART OF THE PROPHET T.E. Pedersen There is an indescribable wonder, a fair elegant halo of invisible light, streaming from a grove of aspen, or leaping from off the pines, coruscating subtly from a group of mountain larch, or rising up from the earth, dripping from heavy clouds, as drops of dew condensed into the tips of flowers, that then emanate upwards, in naked glory, from their roots in the wetted dust, to turn with sun-bleached lips and slowly re-open themselves after the tender touch of recent rain. This indescribable wonder is as ever a transparency to the spirit, that might nevertheless be seen of the senses as a palpable glimmer in the air, a sunshade of lingering rainfall, the shimmering pristine that tells the heart of the prophet, and speaks poignantly to us of the Ineffable that trembles and flourishes in the leaves and the trees and the flowers, is present in the skies and the waters, as the sign of the transcendental Soul.


Copyright Š 2010 James Liter




Q&A WITH JAMIE K. REASER Jenn MacCormack 1. Huntley Meadows is a place-centric collection of poetry. How did you first encounter Huntley Meadows?

multiple layers of meaning and they Work me for days, months, even years after “coming through.”

4. Can you define and explain the term “soul task” A friend of mine, Dr. David Wilcove, invited me that you use? How was Huntley Meadows a soul to go for a walk at Huntley in the late 90s. David is task? currently a Professor of Public Affairs and Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University’s “Soul task” is a term used in the context of the Woodrow Wilson School. He wrote the foreword Soulcraft work of Animas Valley Institute—where I have been a guide for several years. A soul task for the book. is a process—usually undertaken in a Nature-based 2. Each poetry piece is written as though a journal setting—to encourage soul initiation, unfolding, and entry. What gave you this idea and how did it in- dialogue. At its core, it is a practice for coming into conservation with and expressing the deepest, most fluence your process? authentic Self. This collection was written in 2001 as a “soul task” that I assigned to mySelf. At the time I was living 5. By using the word “naturalist” in the subtitle, in the pathologically lawned suburbs of Springfield, you set a certain tone for the poems. What do you Virginia and working amidst the frenetic urban mean by “naturalist,” and what does this reveal landscape of Washington, DC. The daily grind and about the way you relate to nature and the wild? lack of emersion in Nature were leaving me feeling depleted, disconnected, and down trodden. Enough I have a doctorate in biology and so could have apwas enough. I decided to create a weekly practice of proached the book from a more scientific perspec“walking meditation” upon the trails Huntley Mead- tive. For the purpose of the process, it was imporows Park, and to record my inner and outer observa- tant that I didn’t. I was intentionally letting go of the linear, rational mind and inviting the deeper, tions in poetic form. creative aspects of mySelf to have a conversation 3. What role did your “walking meditations” with nature. For me the terms nature and naturalist around Huntley Meadows play in your personal cannot be contained by scientific vocabulary—they reach beyond what we know and explicitly invite a life as well as in the development of each poem? relationship with the unknown, with Mystery. My time at Huntley Meadows was literally grounding. Each trip enabled me to get out of my head and 6. The way in which you include the voices of birds, into my body and to reclaim experience through all frogs, and other inhabitants of Huntley Meadows of my senses. I was literally en-livened. None of my feels as though the place itself has co-authored the poetry is “developed” in the sense of intellectual poems. Why do you think it is important to inapproach. I merely try to get down on paper what clude more-than-human voices in art? shows up in my awareness. Often the words convey

29 I perceive “art” as something different from “craft.” Art is a relatively modern concept that involves a relationship with an object from a rather disassociated, observer perspective. Craft, however, is a term that describes an intimated relationship that humans have had with the world since ancient times. It is a celebration of a sacred in the mundane. The poems emerged out of my relationship with all of the spirits of the place, and their relationships with each other. It was merely my role to help the sacred take its place on blank pages—those within me and those within my hands. 7. You have included practices at the end of the book. What were you trying to communicate by juxtaposing poetry with practice? I didn’t start this project with the intent of writing a book. It was a very personal exploration into relationship and renewal. I offer the practices as a means of encouraging and enabling other people to embark on similar journeys wherever they live—to engage in their own “soul tasks.” 8. How do art and poetry help us contribute back to the Earth Community, both local and global? The soul speaks through the arts (crafts) and to fully engage our authentic Self, or to reach another person at their core, we must engage the language of the soul. We contribute by fully showing up in dialogue with the Earth Community and inviting a cocreative process to emerge and evolve.

HUNTLEY MEADOWS is available now from HIRAETH PRESS!

Copyright © 2010 Jamie K. Reaser





An Alchemical Approach to Composting Adrián Villasenor-Galarza Photo: Copyright © 2010 James Liter

AS SOMEONE WHO HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH COMPOSTING, I STAND WITNESS TO ITS SEEMINGLY MIRACULOUS transformations and effects. Years back, a friend and I started a small business that involved compost making and its commercialization. We employed an aerobic and thermophilic method that had the advantage of accelerating greatly the decomposition of the materials from a few months to a couple of weeks. The difference in time had to be paid for in labor; it was hard work, especially for city people like us who are not used to intense physical work. Shoveling, carrying, mixing, dung collecting, and being constantly smeared with a fragrant mixture of fermenting substances was the order of the day. The particular process was also characterized by the close attention one had to pay to all the factors involved in the composting, such as temperature, water, size of the particles, aeration, quality of the components and their harmonious integration. It was a matter of finding and gathering the appropriate materials (local, organic, and generally considered wastes), then transferring them to our headquarters to commence, monitor, and maintain the compost process, package the end product, and finally deliver it to our clients. We managed to get compost of fairly good quality, but because of our limited staff (my friend and me) and a lack of funding to start with, we didn’t make a lot of profit. However, what we got out of the experience was a different kind of profit, a knowledge of the kind that’s not possible to buy, an intimation to the wisdom inherent in Nature and its cycles. We knew all the theoretical information necessary to undertake a successful composting process, but as * I would like to thank Sean M. Kelly for his valuable feedback on earlier drafts of this paper.

32 alchemy are one and the same—the individuation process. In other words, the integration of the conscious and the unconscious aspects of the psyche is by nature alchemical. For the reader not familiar with Jung’s work, this may require further explanation. I allude to Jung because it was largely through his work that alchemy was reintroduced to the West by linking it to psychology. Jung saw that the psyche is composed of three main parts: the conscious, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The conscious is the part of ourselves that defines us, that delimits what the “I” (the aforementioned ego) that we so much talk about and refer to, is. The personal unconscious is formed by contents that we were once aware of, such as feelings, habits, and memories that are now repressed or forgotten. The collective unconscious is our ancestral and communal psychic heritage that informs the other two aspects of our psyche through archetypes, images, and symbols. It is important to say that the unconscious aspects of our psyche are only unconscious relative to the ego and that the collective unconscious is so vast ALCHEMY AND THE SOUL that the ego is like a star in the vast firmament of the unconscious. The unconscious is where gods, The ostensible goal of alchemy is to change base dreams, and the stuff that spirituality and religions metals or lead into gold. Seen from a psycho- speaks of dwell. Having clarified this, it may be spiritual perspective, this goal can be likened to the easier to relate to the alchemists’ task of converting transformation of our current state of being, largely and integrating the unconscious into our everyday based on a restrictive structure loosely referred as lives: “Taken as a whole, alchemy provides a kind of the ego, to one that is consciously held in unity and anatomy of individuation” (Edinger, 1994, p. 2). As wholeness by what Jung calls the Self. Accordingly, a result, we can say that individuation, the fusion of changing lead into gold within ourselves assumes the unconscious with the conscious, is an alchemical that we begin with a determinate inner state that will transformation in which we find fulfillment, joy, transmute into its ultimate expression, represented and self-realization. by the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, through Although the particular means toward the creation a process that Jung called individuation. Thus, it of the Philosopher’s Stone can be as varied as people can be said that the goal of Jungian psychology and in the planet, the early alchemists envisioned four we were to find out, it’s an entirely new world when you see and participate in the process. Composting demands a transformation of all the beings involved, whether bacteria, soil, human. I would dare to say that even if I had limited myself to observing, the transformation would still have taken place within me. This deep change that shows its subtle presence to the observer was propelled by the interaction and integration of the external odors, textures, and varied materials we used with our own bodies and psychological states, a particular kind of participation mystique. Quite a few times while watching the compost heap transform, I often thought to myself: “This is just pure magic.” It didn’t take me long to arrive at the conclusion that the compost heap was indeed a living entity, full of its own needs and developments. It is in the overall development, cycling, and recycling of the “compost heap being” that we can find great similarities between its unfolding and what past sages have termed the Great Work (Magnus Opus), or the art and science of alchemy.

distinct stages. These stages were associated with the colors mentioned by Heraclitus: melanosis (blackening), leukosis (whitening), xanthosis (yellowing), and iosis (reddening). However, the process couldn’t commence without finding the prima materia. The prima materia or original matter was a mysterious substance that every alchemist was in search of. Ironically, it is all-pervasive and constitutes the original chaos or sea that bathes all matter. It is possible to say that the discovery of the prima materia, or at least some aspect of it, is like the realization of the soul’s existence and its deep longings. It is the “aha! moment” that informs us that there’s something more to us than we are normally willing to embrace consciously. By consciously, I am referring to the workings of the ego. This realization can make a person feel reverence and gratitude for the discovery that adds enormous depths to one’s life when he or she reflects on how much was previously taken for granted. An entire inner universe (or universes) opens up to the one who has found the prima materia. But with this the work is just about to begin. That person might realize that some of the psychic elements in those universes that he or she has unveiled (and will continue to unveil) are gross and coarse and, at some level, want to be relieved of their heaviness. It is as if the telos or purpose of those elements is imprinted in the mute but powerful cries of the soul that call out for their purification and refinement. Once we begin to observe the gross psychic aspects largely derived from the ego’s habits, we begin “cooking” them—we maintain those aspects in our field of awareness. It is then that the first stage of the work, the blackening or nigredo, becomes manifest. Photo: Copyright © 2010 James Liter

34 COMPOSTING ALCHEMY The entire composting process is driven by the breakdown or decomposition of organic matter. The end product of the bio-chemical transformation, hopefully present in a fine compost, is a relatively stable compound called humus. Humus is highly esteemed by farmers, gardeners, and the like because of its many beneficial properties. It is largely responsible for the fertility of the soil, retains moisture, contributes to the formation of good soil structure, aids in the exchange of gases and charged molecules that enhance nutrient availability, and greatly increases the diversity and richness of the soil’s microbiota. Because of all this, humus is regarded as the carrier of chi or “life force” of the soil. In many respects, humus is the most refined expression of organic matter, the ultimate “goal” and state of being of organic matter. Thus, there are great similarities between organic matter or “waste” (from a human perspective) and the ego, on the one hand, and between the individuated Self and the philosopher’s stone and humus, on the other. Just as there are stages in the alchemical process, there are different ways of classifying the transformations that organic matter undergoes during composting. In one of the most common classification systems, we find four main phases that are largely driven by the temperature present in the compost heap. These are mesophilic, termophilic, cooling, and curing. In composting, the “wastes” that my friend and I scavenged and gathered can be seen as the initial gross prima materia. This was the organic matter that people had disposed of because they saw no use for it (the stone that the builders rejected). In fact, they saw this matter as quite the opposite—it was unwanted stinky stuff that needed to be out of their sight. People found it humorous and odd when we

went to collect fresh cow manure with our shovels and sacks, sometimes waiting while the cow did its business to shovel it into the sack. It wasn’t that we enjoyed this experience that much; we just knew that the longer the manure was subjected to the sun’s rays and lack of moisture, the more it would denature and the less microbial diversity would be present. Microbial diversity is crucial for a successful decomposition of organic matter and the creation of rich compost. Knowing this, we shoveled the fresh and warm manure with particular joy. We needed to plan and closely observe the sources and disposal places from which adequate wastes would come, similar to the mindfulness it takes to encounter our soul and its longings. Once we observed and gathered the wastes (similar to maintaining the gross psychic elements in our field of awareness), the composting process per se could begin. The Nigredo (blackening), the first phase in the alchemical transformation, is a stage of decomposition. Sometimes referred to as “blacker than the blackest black,” this stage represents a visit to the depths of the underworld, in which darkness, formed by all that is not properly acknowledged and honored in ourselves, reigns. A sense of loss accompanied by melancholy, chaos, inner struggle, and a variety of difficulties, signals that one has entered the nigredo phase. What is dying is the old nature, the gross psychic materials, the “common” human and most of the elements that are dear to the person in question. For a person too fixed in the conscious aspect of its psyche, the depths of the underworld can have a devastating effect, “an ego-crushing invasion of archetypal symptoms and impulses” (Chalquist, 2005). These happenings bear resemblance to the ones that occur in the first, or mesophilic, phase of the composting process. The mesophilic stage of decomposition is carried

35 out by mesophiles, or moderate-temperature organisms, that rapidly break down the soluble, readily degradable compounds such as carbohydrates and proteins. The metabolic activities of these beings combine carbon with oxygen and release carbon dioxide and energy, some of which is given off as heat. Interesting to note is that many mesophilic organisms found in decomposing organic matter are human pathogens. It is a composter’s dictum that the compost heap has to exceed at least 40 °C (104 °F) to eliminate all possible pathogens and to kill off unwanted seeds that could end up germinating later on. Also, if this temperature threshold is not passed, the entire composting process is significantly longer. As mentioned earlier, the nigredo phase is when we face unwanted and often harmful aspects of our psyche. A similar process occurs during the mesophilic stage. In both the nigredo and mesophilic phases of composting there’s a need to transform the prima materia (egoic states and organic wastes), refine it, and kill off unwanted elements so as to give way for the new. The high temperature in the compost heap causes the microorganisms to perish, giving way to the second phase, the termophilic phase. During the termophilic phase, high temperatures accelerate the breakdown of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates such as cellulose and hemicellulose, the major structural molecules in plants. Termophilic organisms can thrive in extremely high temperatures (above 100 °C) and are found in thermals, geysers, and deep sea hydrothermal vents. They are said to be among the oldest beings on Earth; in fact, they represent the common bacterial ancestry of all life on the planet. My friend and I had to pay special attention to the high temperatures in the compost heap in order to avoid killing the

microdiversity of the thermophiles that were doing the breakdown in order to have an end product full of beneficial organisms. During most days, we performed the turning of the massive heaps twice a day to lower their temperature, aeration, and further mixing of the materials. Deep in nigredo, one finds whiteness or albedo, the second phase of the Great Work. The whiteness encountered after being in the dark depths comes with an understanding of the source of everything, the volatile Spirit of our true nature, and the proof that darkness does not last indefinitely. The encounter with the volatile Spirit characteristic of albedo can be echoed by the presence of the termophiles in the compost heap. Seen as the planetary ancestors of organic life in the planet, thermophilic organisms are present in each and every living organism, and from a biological-evolutionary perspective, they can be seen as the source of life, closely linked to processes of refinement and purification. Albedo is compared to the coming of dawn after a long night. Understandably, it is often accompanied by feelings of rest, hope, and joy and a sense of increased wisdom, derived from having found the way in which to transform the past coarse state of the psychic components into a more positive and pure psycho-spiritual state. Albedo is often related to the anima, which is the “soror” or “wife” of the alchemist. The anima, being the feminine aspect of our psyche, is released at the death that occurs in the nigredo phase and returns in white to bring about the resurrection of the “new” psychic components. Accordingly, it is said that whereas lead is the metal of nigredo, silver, transmuted from lead, is the metal of albedo. At this stage in the composting process, the appearance of the organic wastes is quickly transforming into finer particles that resemble the “new” psychic components brought about in the albedo

36 stage. Both the termophilic and albedo stages have to do with the source of life and its regenerative effect. The third stage in the alchemical process of individuation is the yellowing or citrinitas. Whereas the albedo is represented by the female (the moon), citrinitas is referred to as masculine and compared with the sun. The emergence of opposites or pairs of opposites such as day/night, good/evil, and light/ darkness takes place, and it is the alchemists’ final task to integrate them through a “chymical wedding.” This occurs during the fourth stage, or rubedo, which many sages after the 15th or 16th century merged with the yellowing phase. Other authors merged citrinas not with rubedo but with albedo. Either way, once the inner light (albedo) is discovered after having descended to the depths of the unconscious (nigredo), it should be fixated or coagulated. The wisdom and insight obtained through the metamorphosis needs to be made present in our conscious psyche. The marriage of opposites or coniunctio oppositorum occurs when the ego (conscious) folds itself into the soil from which it grows and relinquishes total control of our being by acknowledging its deeper unconscious nature and its hidden contents. The result is a resurrection, “a divine birth ... characterized by a coniunctio oppositorum and which anticipated the filius sapientiae [son of wisdom], the essence of the individuation process” (Jung, 1958, p. 172). Finally, the philosopher’s stone has been created, and with it, the base metals (the contents of the soul) have mutated into their purest essence, materializing the divine essence in human form. The alchemist has triumphed. As the high-energy compounds of the compost pile break down, the temperature gradually decreases and mesophilic microorganisms take over once again. This stage (cooling) is generally dominated by

fungi because their spores are equipped to withstand temperature extremes along with lower moisture levels and are able to utilize lignin. The initial organic matter has undergone a radical transformation, and some of the more resistant organic elements are further being decomposed, largely by the fungi but with the aid of various microorganisms. It is in this stage that humic compounds begin to be more ubiquitous. The cooling stage is followed by the curing phase, in which a further decrease in temperature occurs together with the formation of more humic substances and the overall stabilization of the compost heap. The previous rotting smells, hard and coarse elements, and the unevenness of the heap give way to a harmonious mix of fine materials, mostly dark brown, with a pleasant “virgin dirt” smell. It is here when the sought-after humus becomes apparent. A process of deep breakdown and a “beast-tobeauty” transformation of the organic matter occurs. Starting out as “waste,” considered undesirable and gross refuse as it goes through the nigredo phase, the organic matter is renewed in the termophilic (albedo) phase. Organic matter’s deeper nature is revealed. Then, in the third phase or yellowing, the realization of organic matter’s deeper essence and ultimate telos—humus—arises. But still, the breakdown process hasn’t been fulfilled and there’s a duality present within the compost heap, the emergence of the opposites: organic matter and humus. Afterwards, the final phase of maturing or curing finally completes the emergence of the spongy, amorphous structure, the dark child of gold, humus. Humus is referred to by many as “black gold,” resembling the gold of the alchemists and achieved in the final two stages of the composting process. Humus can also be equated with the philosopher’s stone in terms of their longevity and permanence, since the latter

37 is said to bestow immortal life, while the former is unfolded. In other words, the participation mystique known for its remarkable stability for thousands and of composting was an intimate process in which the transformative nature of the world was disclosed by thousands of years. its numinous interrelatedness. ALCHEMY AND THE WORLD If we dare to entertain the notion that the alchemists sought a psycho-spiritual transformation It is clear to me that the dance between my psyche and that included or somehow was intimately related that of the compost being occurred at a multitude of to the physical transformation of metals, we enter levels (both in and out of my being), some of which uncertain territories. By translating the non-dual I still try to unravel from the depths of my psyche. birth of the philosopher’s stone to our everyday Yet, in Jung’s many works—especially in the first half world, we would have to admit that the archetypal of his writings—there’s a tendency for restricting dimension of the universe goes all the way through the alchemical transformation of the philosopher’s matter, and it is here, also, that we can grasp and stone to a psycho-spiritual level, as a “projection of experience its deep wisdom: the unified self” (quoted in Cavalli, 2002, p.46). This view can lead us to psychologize the alchemical For the alchemist, the universe, nature, every process and somehow relieve it of its full agency and phenomenon is a concrete presence of the meaning by denying the involvement of the physical powers that governs it. The Hermetic art of world with all its other-than-human inhabitants. alchemy is then the raising of a symbol into its It could also prevent us from fully embracing the living angelic archetype. But this is not just an message of our little excursion. inner act; it is a reality (Bamford, 2007, p. 42). Faithful to the kind of Great Work that I have so briefly narrated, Nature’s secrets appear infinitely While my friend and I produced compost after more complex than we can comprehend when exploring, observing, and interacting with the we restrict them to binaries of psyche and nature, compost being, we caught glimpses of the nature of the exterior and interior, spiritual and material. The philosopher’s stone. The holistic alchemy of human compost being and my own psyche might appear and humus becomes apparent in the composting to be two distinct entities, but at subtler levels of process, and our consciously participation in it, reality, that may not be the case. In so far as I appeal prevents us from flattening life’s mysteries into to my experience, the wrappings of my ego appeared specific categories of human knowing. It provides to peel and allow for the cyclings and recyclings us with avenues for the transformation of the world of the compost being to directly inform me to the while making compost out of the coarseness in our point that, at times, a compound of human-compost soul. emerged. Its journeys were my transformations. The conscious becoming of the common substratum of human and humus appeared to follow a certain rhythm and seem to acquire increasing clarity as the breakdown and refinement of organic compounds

REFERENCES Bamford, P. (2007) “One the All: Alchemy as Sacred Ecology.” In: P. L. Wilson, C. Bamford & K. Townley Green Hermeticism: Alchemy and Ecology (29–46). Great Barrington, MA: Lindisfarne Books. Chalquist, C. (2005). “Cooking for the Collective Unconscious: An Alchemically Enlivened Recipe.” Alchemy Journal 5 (4), from http://www. Cavalli, T. (2002). Alchemical Psychology: Old Recipes for Living in a New World. New York: Tarcher/ Putnam. Edinger, E. (1994). Anatomy of the Psyche: Alchemical Symbolism in Psychotherapy. Peru, IL: Open Court. Jung, C. (1958). Answer to Job. New York: Pantheon Books.

Copyright © 2010 James Liter


CONTRIBUTOR BIOGRAPHIES ADRIÁN VILLASENOR-GALARZA holds a bachelors degree in Biology and Ecology, a Master’s in Holistic Science from Schumacher College, UK, and is currently a PhD student of Integral Ecology at California Institute of Integral Studies. He has given many lectures and workshops internationally under the Bioalchemy initiative and is the founder of Living Flames ( Both of these projects are dedicated to a deep transformation of humans and the Earth. His main interests include: Embodied Spirituality, Integral Ecology, Holistic Education, Ecopsychology, North–South Dialogues, and Alchemy. He is passionate about the conscious weaving of nature, psyche, and spirit, and the implementation of a more wholesome education for all. JAMIE K. REASER has a deep fondness for the wild, intimate, and unnamable. She received a BS in Field Biology and Studio Art from the College of William and Mary and her doctorate in Biology from Stanford University. She has worked around the world as a biologist, international policy negotiator, environmental educator, and wilderness rites-of-passage guide. She is also a practitioner and teacher of ecopsychology, nature-based spirituality, and various approaches to expanding human consciousness, as well as a poet, writer, artist, and homesteader-in-progress. Jamie has a passion for bringing people into their hearts, inspiring the heartbeat of community, and, ultimately, empowering people to live with a heart-felt dedication to Mother Earth. She makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Visit her poetry blog at: JASON KIRKEY is the founder of Hiraeth Press. He grew up in the Ipswich River-North Atlantic Coastal watershed of Massachusetts. At the age of twelve he began his long apprenticeship to the earth. Jason holds a Bachelor’s degree from Naropa University where he obtained an interdisciplinary degree in Contemplative Psychology and Environmental Studies and a Master’s in Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness from the California Institute of Integral Studies. His work is influenced by the myriad landscapes in which he has lived—the temperate forests and old mountains of New England, the red rocks and high desert of Colorado, Irish mountains and rivers, the Pacific coast and redwood trees of California—as well as Eastern philosophy, ecology, and the Celtic traditions of his ancestry. Jason is the author of three volumes of poetry, Portraits of Beauty, Songs from a Wild Place, and The Ballad of the Sea-Sweet Moon and Other Poems. His prose book, The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality won the silver medal in the 2010 Independent Publisher Book Award in the mind-body-spirit category. After many years of travel Jason is reconnecting with his home watershed. His website is JAMES LITER is an American photographer, poet, and artist. From his first training at the Kansas City Metropolitan Museum of Art, expressing creativity has always been a part of his life. James has a volume of pub-

40 lished poetry as well as paintings which are on exhibition in France. With lifelong experience in art ranging from poetry to painting to web design, James has now turned his attention to the medium of photography. Coupling his deep love of imagery with his concern for nature and the human condition has convinced him that nothing is more powerful than images to express and ignite the feelings of passion, beauty and love needed to bring a new vision into the world. His website is JENN MACCORMACK is an anthropologist at heart, but is training to work as a psychotherapist. For four years, she made her home in North Wales, UK, where she studied Welsh language and literature before returning to live in her beloved Eno River watershed. Jenn discovered written language at the age of 3--and has been writing ever since, merging her love of people, places and psychology together in the form of poetry and prose. As a bioregionalist and ethnoecologist, she is concerned with the nature-human relationship, and how the language and stories we use influence our dreaming, thinking and behaving. Through writing, Jenn examines this nature-human relationship in an experiential and personally transforming way. JUDY LONGLEY has four books of poetry: My Journey Toward You, Paraellel Lives, Rowing Past Eden, and A Women Divided: Poems Inspired by Georgia O'Keeffe. Her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Poetry, Western Humanities Review, and Southern Review among many other journals. Poetry editor five years for Iris: A Journal for Women published by the University of Virginia, and Tough Times Companion, published by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, she currently teaches a poetry workshop at WriterHouse, Charlottesville, VA. L.M. BROWNING grew up in a small fishing village in Connecticut. She began writing at the age of 15 following what she describes as “a profound spiritual awakening.” Mankind’s relationship with the sacred, is at the center of this young poet’s themes. Raised a Catholic, she studied the history of this faith and it’s doctrine thoroughly; however, it was not long before her spiritual search eventually crossed the boundaries from Catholicism into the other religions of the world, compelling her to investigate her family’s Judaic roots and her own interests in Tibetan Buddhism. In 2004, Browning made one of the defining choices of her life when she decided to move away from world religion as a whole; taking the few truths she felt to be absolute as she followed her heart in search of personal answers. This period of redefinition lasted for over five years. it was during this period that Browning wrote her contemplative poetry series that is being released by Little Red Tree Publishing over the course of 2010: Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith, (May, 2010), Ruminations at Twilight: Poetry Exploring the Sacred (August 2010), and The Barren Plain (December 2010). In the Summer of 2010, Ms Browning became a partner at Hiraeth Press. She is an Associate Editor of the biannual publication Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics. Continuing to reside in New England, she is currently studying for a degree in Philosophy through The University of London External Programme, in conjunction with Yale University; while simultaneously working as a Teacher of Special Education.

41 LEONORE WILSON has always lived on a sprawling 1200 acre ranch in Napa, California that has been in her family since 1915. She attended the University of California, Davis where she received her M.A. in Creative Writing and English. She raised three sons who are now in their late twenties. For the past twenty years, she taught literature and writing at various colleges and universities in Northern California. Her main purpose now is to keep the land a sanctuary for wildlife as well as protect it from outside encroachment. Leonore has been nominated for four Pushcart Awards in poetry. She received fellowships to Villa Montalvo Center for the Arts, University of Utah, Vermont Studio. She received numerous Poets and Writers grants for her teaching. Her work has been in such magazines as Quarterly West, Poets Against the War, Third Coast, Nimble Spirit, Wild Apples, Laurel Review, Madison Review, Pedestal, and Poet and Critic. MARY HARWELL SAYLER began writing poems as a child but, as an adult, wrote almost everything except poetry. Her publishing credits include 25 books of fiction and nonfiction for all age groups and over 200 poems in journals and e-zines. She also works with other poets through The Poetry Editor website (www. Away from her desk, she and her husband might be found hanging out by the pond or taking a woodsy walk down their unpaved road where the only honking traffic comes from sandhill cranes. T.E. PEDERSEN grew up in Sonoma County, California. He spent the last three years living and writing in the northwesternmost corner of the state of Montana. At present he again makes his home on the West Coast, in Redwood City, where he works and lives. THEODORE RICHARDS is a poet, writer, and religious philosopher. He is a long time student of the Taoist martial art of Bagua and hatha yoga and has traveled, worked and studied in 25 different countries, including the South Pacific, the Far East, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America. Theodore has received degrees from the University of Chicago, The California Institute of Integral Studies, Wisdom University, and the New Seminary where he was ordained. He has worked with inner city youth on the South Side of Chicago, Harlem, the South Bronx, and Oakland, where he was the director of YELLAWE, an innovative program for teens. He is the author of Handprints on the Womb, a collection of poetry. Theodore Richards is the founder and executive director of The Chicago Wisdom Project ( He currently resides in Chicago with his wife and daughter.



Copyright Š 2010 James Liter

We are passionate about creativity as a means of transforming consciousness, both individually and socially. We hope to participate in a revolution to return poetry to the public discourse and a place in the world which matters. Of the many important issues of our times we feel that our relationship to the environment is of the most fundamental concern. Our publications reflect the ideal that falling in love with the earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We believe that art and poetry are the universal language of the human experience and are thus most capable of transforming our vision of self and world.

Written River Copyright Š 2010 Hiraeth Press All poems and essays copyrighted by their respective authors. Photographs Copyright Š 2010 James Liter except where otherwise noted.

P.O. BOX 416 DANVERS, MA 01923

Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics Vol 1 Issue 1  

Written River is a literary journal published bi-annually by Hiraeth Press which focuses on poetry and non-fiction prose exploring nature an...