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S U M M E R 2012

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Written River a journal of eco - poetics

A Hiraeth Press Publication

VOL. 3 ISSUE 1

Featuring poetry by Wally Swist, Maureen Epstein, Nina Pick, Jenny Angyal, Lowell Uda, Michael Salcman,

Gwendolyn Morgan, Sonya Deulina, J.K. McDowell and Jamie K. Reaser. Essays by Daniel Becker, Jenny Walicek, Greg Hlavaty, Daniel Robinson, Greg Graham and Treasa NĂ­ Chonchobhair. With a preview of Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life, a forthcoming poetry collection by Jamie K. Reaser and a look at the photography of James Liter, T. Parker Sanborn, L.M. Browning and Eleanor Leonne Bennett. Also featuring a profile of New England poet and wildlife artist L.M. Browning.


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Written River a journal of eco - poetics

Volume 3 Issue 1 Summer Solstice

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 eco-poetics and return the voice of the poet to the body of the Earth. Eco-poetics 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 commun­ ity. Written River marks the confluence of many streams and many voices as they flow back into the nourishing ground of the watershed. Lead Editor:

J. Kay MacCormack

CMYK Change

Founding Editor:

Jason Kirkey

Founding Editor and Issue Designer:

L.M. Browning

Written River is published by Hiraeth Press.

We pub­lish a range of poetry and non­fic­tion ded­i­cated to exploring our rela­tion­ship with the earth. Our titles reflect our mis­sion to par­tic­i­pate in the re-​​creation of our cul­ture in full par­tic­i­pa­tion with the earth com­mu­nity. Our non­fic­tion titles rep­re­sent a diver­sity of per­spec­tives on the topic of ecology, spir­i­tu­ality, and place-​​based lit­er­a­ture. Each of our poetry col­ lec­tions, in their own way, ask “what use are poets in times of need?” answering in voices of rivers and stones. Our books are food: come browse our col­lec­tion and nourish your­self. 2

© L.M. Browning

Hiraeth Press is a pub­lisher with a mis­sion. Poetry is the lan­guage of the Earth — not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the light­ning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, com­mu­ni­cate the being and meaning of things. Our pub­li­ca­tions are all poetry, whether they are poems or non­fic­tion, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of rev­ol­u­tionary and that through our rela­tion­ship to wild nature we can birth a more enlight­ened vision of life for the future. We are pas­sionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the poly­phonic chorus of the wild.


Contents The Dory - by L.M. Browning Letter from the Editor A Note from Editor Jason Kirkey

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Great Blue - A Poem by Wally Swist Blessings - A Poem by Wally Swist

|8 |8

Plovers - A Poem by Maureen Eppstein Sanderlings - A Poem by Maureen Eppstein

|9 |9

Animalcules An Essay by Daniel Becker

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The Pine Flute - A Poem by Jenny Ward Angyal Litany of the Nearly Lost - A Poem by Jenny Ward Angyal Red Face - A Poem by Lowell Uda Whale Song - A Poem by Lowell Uda

Below The Passion River Station - A Poem by Michael Shorb

| 32

Going to Water An Essay by Greg Hlavaty

| 34

A Preview of Fireflies at Absolute Zero by Erynn Rowan Laurie

| 38

Willapa Bay, Ecotones - A Poem by Gwendolyn Morgan Crow Feathers, Early August, Arch Cape A Poem by Gwendolyn Morgan Gray Fox - A Poem by Gwendolyn Morgan

| 42

| 13

...Dream Form. - A Poem by J.K. McDowell

| 42

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Newmills by Eleanor Leonne Bennett

| 43

| 14 | 14

Dancing with the Daffodils in a Densely Woven World An Essay by Greg Graham

| 44 | 47 | 47

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Texture of a Prayer Word - A Poem by James Liter

Tree - A Poem by Sonya Deulina She Eats - A Poem by Sonya Deulina

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Atrium - A Poem by Nina Pick Devoured - A Poem by Nina Pick

| 22 | 22

Shade Garden at Dawn - A Poem by Carol Shillibeer Equinox at the Beach - A Poem by Carol Shillibeer

Trumpet Vine and Wetland by Jamie K. Reaser

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Remains An Essay by Jenny Walicek A Preview of Sacred Reciprocity by Jamie K. Reaser Lady Toad by Jamie K. Reaser The African Elephant - A Poem by Jamie K. Reaser

| 41 | 41

Night Thoughts at Casson Point - A Poem by Michael Salcman

A New England Poet and Wildlife Artist: A Profile of Author L.M. Browning

Gold and Green by T. Parker Sanborn

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| 48 | 49

Cornerstone of Wisdom: Poetry, Permanence and Wildness in Gaelic Polytheism An Essay by Treasa NĂ­ Chonchobhair

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Autumn on the Mogollon Rim - A Poem by Mark Petrie

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Fire Scenes An essay by Daniel Robinson

| 56

| 29

Path Down to the Shore by L.M. Browning

| 60

| 30

Contributor Biographies

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Š L.M. Browning


Š Jamie K. Reaser

6


Letter from the Editor A Note from Associate Editor Jason Kirkey “When you’re finished up there I want you to come to our coordinates. There’s something I want you to see,” came the voice over the radio. We had just finished measuring an aspen stand so thick that our feet barely ever touched the ground for all the downed trees and debris that littered the forest floor. It was tough bushwhacking through grizzly habitat, especially when you’re trying to thread a measuring tape through the thick branches as straight as possible. We followed the GPS to the coordinates we were given. I couldn’t tell what it was lying there on the ground when we first broke through the trees into a clearing from a game trail. A layer of fluff covered the ground around which the rest of the field crew was gathered. As I got closer I recognized it as fur. There was a pile of it on the edge of the clearing and a trail of it leading deeper into the stand. It hung like cobwebs from twigs and the low lying branches of shrubs. Closer still and I could make out a leg, a paw, and finally the remains of a jaw. It was the carcass of a coyote, lying on its back, its hide completely intact but its flesh and bones removed with almost surgical precision. Looking down at the animal I could see that it had been lying on his or her back when it was killed. The throat had been ripped out; the body left to decay until a grizzly—most likely—happened upon it and dragged its flesh away. There are wolves in this system and they don’t get along with coyotes. They routinely rip their throats out and leave them to rot. Like a Tibetan Buddhist depiction of a wrathful deity, sometimes wildness doesn’t give a shit about your plans to stay alive. Days earlier we had a more gentle reminder of the wildness of this ecosystem. We were measuring plots deep in a thick aspen parkland which had burned a few years earlier. Fire changes the chemistry of soil, causing aspen to shoot up at an increased rate. The thick understory provides perfect cover for elk cows to bed down their new-born calves while they forage. Standing several meters from the center of the plot, waiting to reel in the transect tape, I heard an alarmed voice, “there’s an elk calf over here!” A crew member had almost stepped on her. She didn’t run—at that age they can’t move very nimbly and so their defense against predation is to just stay still and hidden. We lowered our voices, photographed the calf for documentation, and moved on before her mother came back. That’s the other side of wildness. It can be remarkably vulnerable. Wildness encompasses the whole spectrum of nature—from what we find traditionally beautiful and awe-inspiring to its violence and decay, its vulnerability, playfulness, and defenselessness. In this issue of Written River we celebrate the theme of “becoming wild.” When I returned from my trip to Canada I had a lot of ideas running around in my head about wildness. My work as an ecologist explores this and my research indicates that wildness requires three functioning processes to maintain ecosystem structure: predation, disturbance, and migration. But there is a still-deeper kind of wildness that is more like the Chinese concept of the Dao—ultimately there is no diverging from it. Even that which seems the most domesticated, or the most artificial and contrived, is still subject to the shaping and evolutionary patterns of wildness. Like a dammed river, that which holds wildness back is—on a geologic scale—merely temporary. The final lesson of this wild landscape of grizzly bears, wolves, coyote carcasses, and elk calves is that every place is a wild place when you get right down to it. The real question is whether or not we’re willing to go along with that wildness and let it enact itself both on our environments and on ourselves. Here is a journal full of writers, artists, and photographers who have let themselves and their words be shaped by wildness. Such work gets to the heart of what I think eco-poetics is all about: becoming more wild through the process of engaging with a more wild language. I hope that these words and images help you rediscover some deeper wildness within you. Yours from the mountains, Jason Kirkey

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Great Blue Wally Swist When the great blue heron appears through the leaves of the trees lining the banks of the Farmington River, I think of all that is marginal in this life compared to those slow, powerful wings, rowing the air

into the water of the river’s swift current, cresting its banks, flowing with the rush of the insistent June rain. And I think of you, and wish you had been beside me to see the great bird, that sacred vision, rowing the air, and searching the heart of the river. So, I think, is this why I am alive, that being with you is like stepping into the sunlight after days of rain, and to know that you are opening in ways you have never opened before? I think, as the great blue heron flies out of sight, that I row the air above the river of your heart, neither of us being able to comprehend those powerful wings, unable to gauge that the vision of the epiphanal would be a reason anyone standing on the banks would want to break into song, and might even propel the heron further into following the strong current of you, surging past the low-hung tendriled leaves. 8

© L.M. Browning

above the river’s heart. The plumed head looks to the left, then to the right, as it cranes to peer

Blessing Wally Swist A pair of mourning cloaks drift among the white flowers of wood anemones and the runners of blossoming wild strawberry. Fiddleheads begin to unfurl on the slopes, and trillium, nearly gone past, now resembles its nickname, Stinking Benjamin, its dried and wrinkled three-pointed boutonnieres having been pollinated by flies. On the dusty April trail, far too dry for this time of the year, a horse’s hooves have fractured stones along the path that litter the rise to the summit, leaving some of them broken in the shape of a heart. Clusters of Quaker Ladies, in shoals of blue petals, amid their golden yellow centers, ripple beside the trailside in a rush of wind. Hillside after hillside of new foliage, not quite green, begins to leaf out across the breadth of forest, sloping over the ridges, among the pines, from the view at the fire tower from Greylock to Monadnock. Creaking in the wind like the unoiled iron hinges of a barn door, and returning back into the nothingness from which it came, a raptor’s call issues across an amethyst sky.


Plovers

Maureen Eppstein A dozen plovers invisible until as if by standing still a shape shift upslope from tumble and tongue of wave bleached bull kelp tangles on dry sand as if suspended between being and not being to witness

Sanderlings Maureen Eppstein

No sound but the white hush of the sea and the wick-wick-wick of sanderlings that flow in such numbers on their rippling legs they become the foam that fringes the wave. Nothing is precise or separate: the birds, the sand, the water-laden air. No boundaries visible, all that is and was feels holy.

Š James Liter

motion of small speckled birds intent on shelter and food


© Jamie K. Reaser

Animalcules An essay by Daniel Becker

A

ntony van Leeuwenhoek was a scientist of the 17th century with no formal training. Residing in Holland, he sold cloth for a living. But London’s scene of scientific inquiry inspired him, especially Robert Hooke’s phenomenal Micrographia, the first book to describe and illustrate the everyday world through the lens of the microscope. Micrographia contained observations detailing subjects obscured by the limitation of the bare human eye—the minute aspects of minerals, sponges, ferns, fish scales, the stinger of a bee. Replicating his contemporary, Leeuwenhoek began his own observations, sending letters to the Royal Society of London, the scientific center of the day. December 25th, 1702, Leeuwenhoek described the world he viewed in a drop of lake water from the Dutch countryside. Unlike Hooke, Leeuwenhoek saw not only aspects of the natural world veiled by our eyesight, but also organic bodies in motion. These forms, he wrote, “began to stick their tails out again very leisurely, and stayed thus some time continuing their gentle motion: which sight I found mightily diverting.” Leeuwenhoek’s creatures would later be categorized as species of protozoa, the anomalies of today’s taxonomy and modern phylogenetic tree. The biological terminology comes from the Greek protistos, “the first.” Without exception, protozoa are unicellular, but in having a nucleus, Leeuwenhoek’s organisms are more related to an armadillo, to eels, to a fern, than to the closer-in-sized bacteria or archaea. While evolution and genetics have empirically proven this relationship, Leeuwenhoek came to the same conclusion through microscope-enhanced sight alone, using the title of “animalcules” to label the beings, literally meaning “little animals.” Some hunt like predators and capture prey. Others masquerade as plants and photosynthesize. Each is a microcosm to the wider eukaryotic domain.

I

n describing the structures of organic form through his microscope, Hooke depended on metaphors of the visible—often human—world around him. In describing the scales of fish, Hooke sought the language of roof tiles. He utilized the termi-


increasingly visible and clear, enchanting. Looking through the microscope today, little animals still roam, twirl, spin, envelop smaller organisms. Technical language helps make sense of it all, but also contains the potential to strip the original mystery and aura from these invisible forms with which we remain taxonomic kin. Leeuwenhoek’s language—this marriage of casual and technical—was a model we would be good to recall in our modern experience with this connection.

L

eeuwenhoek’s late December observation described over twenty ciliates of the genus Vorticella. Covered in short hairs, the creatures are bell-shaped, twist and stretch as the Dutchman described. Another such genus is Tetrahymena. Swimming among water in a petri dish, I’ve watched the organisms envelop and consume particles of algae and purple ink. The magnification of today’s technology is higher than the devices used by Hooke or Leeuwenhoek, but the sight remains similar. Textbooks explain that through the process we call phagocytosis, the organism absorbs nutrients into its vacuoles. Although true, it is equally captivating to watch their world unfold as the ciliates dart or inch around and absorb the green and purple masses, now visible through their transparent bodies. They bump into one another, avoid a neighbor, compete for food. They could be elephants grazing.

© Jamie K. Reaser

nology of pipes to explain the inner workings of plants. And to articulate the details of a cork, he took inspiration from the rooms of monasteries and coined the term “cell.” In contrast, Leeuwenhoek, although armed with a more powerful optic device, found this use of mechanical language and analogy unfulfilling. Instead, his descriptions of moving form, leisure, and beauty seemed fitting, appropriate for a world he pioneered. Like him, I struggle with the words to describe what my cornea cannot see on its own. Biology gives us a language, a naturalistic and mechanical template, with which to replace these comparisons and emotional responses. It gives us terms such as vacuole, flagella, cilia, sporangia, phagocytosis, chloroplasts. They explain and identify—they also set limits on what is appropriate. Observers in Leeuwenhoek’s time couldn’t—and perhaps refused to—see a divide between the casual and the technical, between the mechanical and the sensory. In this spirit of awe, they continued to use adjectives like beautiful, delightful, wondrous, the kind of words that first come to mind, in addition to the growing linguistic shift of the scientific era. Perhaps this was the draw of the magical space—phylogenetically or aesthetically—these little animals occupied in the popular and scientific imagination. Through the technology available to us, worlds have become

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The Pine Flute Jenny Ward Angyal

The Mi’kmaq people of Nova Scotia name the pine trees by the sound the wind makes in their branches one hour before sunset in the fall. And the names change: the ten fingers of the wind play the pine flute and the Mi’kmaq hear the tremolo, the trace of acid rain along the needle’s rim, the rasp that echoes distant smoke. What if we all had ears to hear such subtle alterations in the wind, or the deep pulse of the humpback’s song out of the ocean’s throat? What if we opened the doors in the soles of our feet and heard the bass, ground-running voice of the elephant rumbling his warning or his grief? And what if we listened just that close to our neighbor digging a well in the desert— the shudder of stone, the buried gurgling of hope? Even the blind mole-rat deep in his burrow feels the seismic echoes in the earth, and turns toward home. What if we’ve lost our way? When a priest heard that the Mi’kmaq revered a certain healing pine, he cut it down. What if we pierced the shell of his frightened heart with needles of sound so fine that only the leaf-nosed bat can hear them?

Litany of the Nearly Lost Jenny Ward Angyal

Listen: their names carry news of the places they live: Tooth Cave spider and Virgin River chub, Red Hills salamander and Bliss Rapids snail, Eureka Valley primrose and Lost River sucker. Maybe once, before they vanish, they will rise up out of their subterranean caves, come down from islands in the sky, leave forest pools and relict prairies, leaping, swimming, sidling, soaring, scattering seeds and petals over the knotted highways and into the halls of Congress— the map turtles leading the way. Tumbling Creek cavesnail. Kneeland Prairie pennygrass. Peter’s Mountain mallow. Delhi Sands flower-loving fly. Slithering, sliding, crawling, gliding, let them come, singing with one voice This land is our land— Let it not vanish away. Laguna Mountain skipper. Ash Meadows sunray, Salt Creek tiger beetle. Santa Catalina Island fox.

What if we heard the sound of weeping, and awoke?

© L.M. Browning

And what if we folded all these sounds into a bundle under our pillows until they keened like thrusting root hairs into the dry soil of our brains?


Whale Song Lowell Uda —For Joan Abandoning behemoth’s marshes and reeds for leviathan’s ocean floor, I search for myself where life is electrical and flashes in an instant, to recover you. Warm-blooded, yet able to dive to great depths, I echo the ocean’s vast canyons and find my way, never lost, my memory banks hungry for more. So much hidden in darkness, to learn things present and long ago, who we are down here, away from clamorous day. I call with profound water sounds, yearning for the extraordinary, log beside you, to bear children who bear children, and discover joy in the common. I know myself in you, my singing partner. Every song we hear, we vary, our creations traveling thousands of miles, telling all we sought the faraway and found healing hidden in the seas of our common life. We rise from water’s pull to startle and amaze, slapping the surface, rolling, ready to share all we’ve examined of our seas’ heart: The ocean is our mother, vast, mysterious and beautiful. Return to her, and wash in the waters from whence we came. In late twilight of our blue time, red in the west and pink blush in the east, together logged, we sing our blue song. 14

Red Face Lowell Uda You, Flatirons! I want to speak to you. How long did you lie under water, thickening and hardening, waiting for some prompting, some movement from some other sheep in God’s many folds? After how many millions of years did those sheep awaken and say, “I am the Rocky Mountains and I am rising out of these waters!” After how many millions of years did you then leap out of your bed, somersault, and greet the new air. Red, red is our complexion as I scale your face looking for your eyes!


A New England Poet and Wildlife Artist

L

a prof i le of au thor L . M. Browni ng

.M. Browning grew up in Stonington—a small bluecollar fishing village in southeastern Connecticut. A longtime student of religion, nature and philosophy these themes permeate her work. Accomplished at a young age, Browning is an award-winning author, publisher and wildlife artist. In 2010 she made her debut in the literary world with her Pushcart Prize nominated contemplative poetry series. The first title was Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith. Oak Wise is a collection of Celtic-themed narrative poetry exploring the old wisdom of Celtic Shamanism. This collection is approachable to the curious seeker just beginning their exploration of the Old Ways; while at the same time remaining insightful to long-time path-walkers. As a preface to her work, Browning offers her readers an introduction to the central beliefs of Shamanism, then proceeds to her poetry, where she descends with the reader into an intimate account of one seeker reflecting on the “Biological Mother” [the earth] while communing with the ancestral consciousness to which we each are connected. In this, her debut work, Browning brilliantly reintroduces the ecological sensitivities of the old Earth-based faiths, which are profoundly relevant in this current age of environmental crisis. A few months after the release of Oak Wise Browning followed with the release of her second title, Ruminations at Twilight: Poetry Exploring the Sacred. Rumiantions is an intimate version of the archetypical prodigal child story, transcended from its limited catholic parameters to become a story of humanity itself.

Asserting that the sacred lives in what is ordinary and the Divine is found amongst the green of nature, the poems within Ruminations at Twilight bring a message of appreciation for the worth of what surrounds us. Relevant, insightful and candid, the verses within this collection give a unique perspective on the age-old questions. As the final title of the series Browning penned, The Barren Plain: Poetry Exploring the Reality of the Modern Wasteland. The Barren Plain examines the difficulties of maintaining one’s consciousness, in a world of sedating diversions and maintaining one’s proper perspective of reality in a world of widely-accepted illusions. As author Frank Owen called it in this review, “The Barren Plain is the poetic equivalent of “taking the red pill,” in which the blissfully ignorant perceptions of the matrix of modernity evaporate before a painfully clear vision of the actual reality of our shared condition....” In this final volume of her Contemplative Poetry Series, Browning explores the emptiness inherent to our lives in this modern age. Throughout her previous titles in this series Browning touched on this subject; however in The Barren Plain she confronts the issue head-on, culminating to bring about a relevant, blunt and insightful commentary on modern society that is sure to bring a moment of pause to those who read it. In the summer of 2010, on the heels of her poetic success, Browning was approached by Jason Kirkey {author and Founder of Hiraeth Press} with the offer of a partnership as he took the press to the next level. After an auspicious meeting in Boston the pair discussed their literary vision and found 15


they were of kindred mind. In the course of one year the pair doubled the scope of Hiraeth Press; making Hiraeth one of the most-respected new indie publishers on the market. A year later Browning spearheaded the launch of Homebound Publications—Hiraeth’s sibling press dealing in contemplative fiction. In late 2011 Browning moved into a new literary genre, celebrating the release of her first full-length novel: The Nameless Man, which was co-authored by Marianne Browning. The Nameless Man was released with great success. The premise of the novel is as follows: Traveling through the Holy Land, eighteen strangers are forced to take refuge in Jerusalem during a militant attack. Kept in close quarters in an abandoned building, over the course of four days this group of strangers begin a dialogue, discussing love and evil, religion and god; finding amongst their number a mysterious nameless man who poses a revolutionary perspective on these age-old questions. Journeying on his own pilgrimage as he attempts to come to terms with the violence, betrayal and condemnation of his past, this nameless man reluctantly steps forward to share the realizations he has gathered over the course of his borderless life, leaving those who listened forever changed by the radical transition of perspective his revelations bring about. Browning viewed the release of The Nameless Man as a turning point in her literary career; the message of the book had personal significance to her. She explains, “For several years I felt compelled to enter the religious debate. I went around and around in unending circles getting my view out, defending that view and trying to open the minds of those I encountered. The Nameless Man was my “final word” on the matter. When the book went to the printer I felt the desire to argue and debate spirituality leave me. I felt I had said what I wanted to say and I am now free to explore new topics or even rekindle old passions such as my artistic endeavors.” After the release of her novel in November 2011 Browning made the decision to shift courses a bit and revisit her childhood passion of art. “When I was a small child, my first dream

was to work for the Walt Disney company as an Animator; later, as a teen, I wanted to be an architect. In high school art was my primary focus. If you looked at my schedule you would find more art courses than core courses. This had to do with the fact that I had an outstanding art teacher and that I was more interested in art than any other subject, even English, which obviously has been my passion as an adult. “You see, I never did well in high school. I struggled with reading comprehension. It wasn’t discovered until two weeks before my graduation that I had dyslexia. After graduation I worked to overcome my reading disability and eventually became a writer; however, it was art that got me through my early education. A poor student, throughout high school I put all my efforts into my art. I graduated with National Art Honors and even saw my artwork hung in a few galleries. But upon my graduation art fell to the wayside as I struggled with family dramas and other hardship. Eventually my struggles led me to pick up my pen and I went the path of the poet. I have no regrets in my chosen profession but it does indeed feel good to be able to revive that old passion. For me, art is calming; furthermore, my gift of drawing has a precious place in my heart seeing as it is an inherited gift passed on to me by my mother.” Browning assures her readership that she isn’t swapping the brush for the pen. She currently has two novels in the works as well as a poetry collection. In the future she hopes to find a way to merge or two passions into one project. “The ideal project would be a collaboration of my pen and my brush [writing and artwork]. In the future I would love to do a book of my wildlife sketches with journal entries, short stories, poems etc. I grew up flipping through the collections of Robert Bateman and Audubon. It would be satisfying to compose a sketch journal of my own and set it on the shelf beside those I so admire.” Indeed Browning is well on her way to achieving this aspiration as you can see by the selection of her portfolio we were able to include in this feature. To purchase her work go to: http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/1-leslie-m-browning.html


Now Available from Hiraeth Press Border Crossings follows Ian Marshall on his journey over the International Appalachian Trail, which runs from Mt. Katahdin in Maine up through New Brunswick and out to the tip of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula. Countless books have been done to chronicle the individual’s communion with nature, from the classics written by naturalists such as Henry David Thoreau or John Muir, to the more contemporary offerings such as Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer and A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson; however Border Crossings stands out as unique among its fellows. Composed of Haiku and contemplative prose Border Crossings is book of braided styles: poetry, prose and travel writing. This style, as the author explains, is akin to that of haibun — a style of writing made popular by such Japanese poets as Matsuo Bashō that merges poetic and meditative prose, literary criticism and cultural meditation.

T

here comes a moment on a backpacking trip — not on the first day, but maybe on the second or third — when, for just a moment, the weight on your back disappears. You start out walking fully aware of the pack at every step and your internal monologue fully preoccupied with it and other similarly weighty matters. Geez, that’s heavy, you think — what do I have in there? Anything I don’t need? Ought to loosen the shoulder strap some, so it doesn’t pull so hard. How far have I gone? How much farther to go? Geez, that’s heavy. But eventually there comes that moment when you’ve found a rhythm beyond the litany of complaint, when you’ve been gliding along, taking in whatever lies along the trail — a nameless flower blooming and not seeming to miss the name — the intricate pattern of bark on a pine — a cloud sliding out from behind a tree, as if the tree’s canopy had detached and drifted away — another one of those flowers — and you are caught up in the rhythm of the walk, unaware not only of the weight of the pack on your back or the thud of each step on the trail but of any conscious thought at all. In that moment the boundaries between self and world dissolve. The cloud and the flower, and your movement and the cloud’s are all part of the same flow. We call it oneness, but it could just as easily be called nothingness for there is suddenly no you that exists separate from the world around you. Maybe it’s everythingness. That is the moment of what I call “packlessness.” Of course, as soon as you realize that it has arrived, as soon as you say to yourself, hey, for a moment there I forgot about the weight of the pack, I forgot about everything in fact, even about me, myself, and I . . . well, in that moment the weight is back. And you walk on. You walk on thinking about the metaphoric implications of the pack, that it is all the things that weigh you down, an unfinished task at work, an unsatisfying exchange with a colleague, the things you should have said but didn’t, the things you did say but shouldn’t have. Deadlines. Things to do. And then in the middle of thinking of all that, there’s another one of those flowers, five petals, yellow, darker yellow in the middle, you’ll have to look it up later in the field guide, and then the weight is gone again, but then you realize it’s gone so it’s back. And you walk on.”


Sleeping with the Universe Beyond the action of creation lies a great repose. You can see this in a wildflower – the closing of petals in tight lashes against a lidded night – or in the breaths between a burst of bird– song: this lull unknown to highly cultivated peoples, places, plants. You can see it today in the falling away, overnight, of leaves from the live oak, exposing an amazing maze of boles, terminal buds, and holes for nesting in the dark. You can see this in the gardenia – its leaves cold-snapped into crackling paper curled to protect the tender growth – or in the dust flecks resting on the pocked marble-top table or in the hush of the porch rocker or in the sag of a telephone wire or in the pulsating of a star. All attest to this universal need known to artists, children, poets, who, poised in mystery, must watch and wait and wonder.

Now Available from Hiraeth Press

This collection connects us to ourselves, each other, and the earth. As an important part of our own environments, we’re also part of the complexities of nature, including human nature and those odd thoughts and moments that bring humor, wonder, perplexity, and prayer.

Mary Harwell Sayler and her husband live in rural North Florida where a variety of wildlife and poetic topics abound. Her career as a freelance writer has focused on fiction and nonfiction for all age groups with twenty-five traditionally published books.


Texture of a Prayer Word James Liter My new home is my old home, a change of textures, nothing more; sometimes a change of language, easily, easily heard, and the remembered scent of wind on my skin: the land’s caress of my soul always known. The texture of welcome: roses on black wings, scolding of jays, prettybird, the melody of red, the texture of life in the flitting of finch nothing more than a whisper of this one tribe, past, present, nothing more than a whisper, so I listen to the wind all night, lest I miss a second, or something else, again. So let die the mundane prayer, only a witness, nothing more, of textured branches of thought – instead I become the weather - a singer of great lakes, we are now one body, fluid, reaching out in finger streams to embrace across the land – the chorus of frogs becomes the chanting of our prayer. I’ve been all night down in the marshes, listening to the wind; the chorus of frogs wooing me into water with their words of prayer, the objects of forgetful sérénité.

© James Liter

My new home is my old home, my prayer word evermore.


Atrium Nina Pick

In the forest clearing, the light rode down on petals of snow. The trees beyond this luminous circle were darkbrown and wet to their beating marrow. On Mt. Tamalpais, I saw heart clovers the size of a chandelier, their arachnoid limbs dangling over the chasm, aortic roots pummeling soil. Great, dank drops fell on giant bodies. I felt I had wandered into Narnia, or just America primeval. Here, the pleasure is in the miniature, in the quick chill of a stillness, a low hill, the two miles I walk before coming upon a house, the light of the television like a house on fire, and two people watching in awe and silence, as their life burns on around them.

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Devoured Nina Pick

If I could leave my thoughts in the blue loam on the mountain, let them stream down its side, in the wet and purple arteries, the gathering, filtering deluge I could be, as it says in the holy book, an empty vessel, a waiting beyond all ends and edges, being echo merely and salt. The hollow of me would yawn slowly open, its shuddering, kaleidoscope lens turning in rivulet light. In my body as a grazing mouth, churning its languorous saliva, I imagined the long, hard arm of poetry coming, drop by drop.


Š Jamie K. Reaser


Gold and Green T. Parker Sanborn

The day wanes the shadows wax and a golden essence sifts softly through hallowed green halls Solace serenity and silence settle in everlasting…ephemeral…empyreal All things appear in simplest form the whole of being too finite for the full measure of meaning Soon my soul dissolves in a pure elixir of chlorophyllic sunlight

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© T. Parker Sanborn

Understanding forms Only time remains


Remains © Jamie K. Reaser

An essay by Jenny Walicek

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he first rainstorm sloughs the hills of dead leaves and dust, filling the dry channel below our home with a muddy rush. The creek charges another hundred yards and then under the street to spew into a secluded pond, where its boisterous entrance blurs the delta with silt. By spring the soil has settled, and the pond’s reappearing shoreline sprouts new blades. Cattails bloom in spiky, rust-tipped stands. Great white egrets wade at water’s edge, their long necks arced in graceful question marks. Ducklings trip and tumble through the weeds. In long ago springs when my children were little, we would walk to this hidden idyll with bags of crumbled bread to feed the birds. Now that my own nest has emptied, I honor those memories by picking up trash at the pond, a small good deed that costs me only time. But one day early last spring, it nearly cost my life. I hadn’t been to the pond in several weeks, and I was irritated to see that it had been desecrated, its waters wreathed with the artificial shimmer and glint of accumulated trash. I spent the afternoon stuffing a large garbage bag with logoemblazoned cans and bottles, gingerly picking up shards of glass, and yanking fishing line out of the mud. “What were they thinking?” I seethed aloud to the ducks, picturing the thoughtless tosses of midnight teens and dawn fishermen. Had they even momentarily considered the effects of throwing refuse in the water? Of shattering glass with bullets or against boulders? I imagined the bleeding gullets of crows,

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the festering hooves of deer, and the wounded paws of bobcats, coyotes, and dogs. The bag was almost full when I saw a glint of plastic where the shallow creek, now quiet and clear, trickled peacefully into the pond. A half-gallon Gatorade bottle had come to a garish rest on a slender, leaf-covered isle. I rolled my eyes and stomped over to the shoreline. Intent on removing the plastic blight, I failed to notice the creekbed’s curious height – the water usually ran eight feet below the bank – or to think how an island had grown where I’d never seen one. I leaped across the creek to the island, and sank to my waist in black, foul, liquid earth. It’s quicksand, I thought instantly—no, quickmud—a winter’s worth of silt. Not an “island” but a hump of malodorous sludge. I twisted around and tried to clamber out, but instead sank to my shoulders in the mire. I half-laughed, half-gasped at my predicament. I was glad no one could see me, and the next second I was terrified no one could see me, because I was going to die here, having given my life to retrieve a piece of trash. My posthumous future flashed before me. In an instant I saw that the police would be called, posters would go up, and teams of searchers would scour the mountains for me. But I would have vanished into the earth. My grieving family would never have closure. The alluvium would harden over my head and I would be discovered by archaeologists centuries from now, a bog mummy to


the trap had been reset. I shuddered to think of the doomed animals caught in its pull, and the carcasses causing its nauseating stench. At the same time I laughed with relief that I had not become one of them. I clambered to my feet and staggered through the woods, dripping black mud from neck to toe like a Jewish golem, and shuffled across the street as fast as my heavy sweats would allow. I was glad that I lived so close by, glad that our neighborhood was so vacant in the daytime, glad that my worries had been so drastically reduced from the prospect of death by drowning in rotten mud to that of merely being embarrassed. When I crested our steep driveway and descended into the privacy of our canyon home’s front yard, I stripped and hosed off all the fetid muck. Everything I had worn, I threw away. Nothing remains but the memory and the tale—and a Gatorade artifact wedged in the now rock-hard clay.

© Jamie K. Reaser

be dissected in laboratories and discussed at conferences. My instinct was to flail, but I held still, remembering having read somewhere, perhaps in an H. Rider Haggard novel, that struggling hastens sinking—that one should get on one’s stomach instead, and scoot. I didn’t stop to think how this was done. I thrust my hips upward and over the mud in a panicky surge, keeping my arms in the air and wiggling my way to shore. Unlikely thoughts imprinted themselves in this moment – how funny this would look to someone else, how stupid I was not to realize the creekbed was high, how grateful I was to my mother for making me read. I slogged ashore and lay on my back in the weeds to catch my breath. The hood and pockets of my sweatshirt were filled with putrid ooze. I looked down at the creek bed, where the sediment had already closed over the impression that my body had made. There was a slight disturbance in the leaf litter where I had landed, but the camouflage was sufficient;


© Jamie K. Reaser

From Jamie K. Reaser author of Note to Self, Huntley Meadows and the Courting the Wild series

Forthcoming from Hiraeth Press August 2012 Tsze-Kung asked, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not Reciprocity such a word?” ~ Confucius

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was first introduced to the concept of ‘ayni,’ a Quechua word, in November of 2000 by mystic don Americo Yabar as we traversed the Andean landscape, visiting Peru’s sacred sites and engaging in ceremonies that had been passed down to contemporary indigenous peoples by their Inca ancestors. The essence of ayni is sacred reciprocity. There is no way to directly translate or conceptualize ayni from the perspective of what has come to be known as ‘western culture;’ our cosmology is largely goal-oriented with a focus on tangible outcomes, while ayni emerges out of a universal perspective in which importance is placed on the relational flow of energy as a process of establishing and maintaining balance. Ayni is enacted through the energies exchanged in gifting and receiving, and it knows no bounds – ayni can be established among people, between humans and all other beings, and between all beings and the animate Cosmos. Ayni can be seen as a code of conduct – a sacred agreement to engage in a balanced exchange between self and other. You give, I give in return. I give, you give in return. What is given may not be anywhere near as important as how it is given. In ayni, it is the heart that counts. Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life is a poetic reflection of my daily practice of embodying anyi as a core life principle. Each poem arises out of a conversation between my soul and something greater than my Self. I listen, process, reply, and begin listening again. In this book the poems themselves represent my ‘give back’ to Nature and the greater Cosmos for breathing life into me through tangible and intangible relationship. I choose the word ‘courting’ because it describes an expressive exchange between two would-be lovers; love being the energy with the most creative potential. The word ‘beloved’ appears in the title and in several of the poems as a manifest of the sacred energy that unites all aspects of the universe at the Source. And, since the beloved permeates everything, it is a shapeshifter in this collection – sometimes appearing as an aspect of Self, a plant or animal or element, a notion, a heavenly body, and frequently as the Great Mystery, unknown to even the poet. …from the Introduction to Sacred Reciprocity: Courting the Beloved in Everyday Life — Jamie K. Reaser


Summer Rain Jamie K. Reaser

It seemed as if even you longed to surrender to the Other’s most deeply sculpted longing.

You came like a long absent lover at the end of a parched day,

But then,

gentle at first –

How could you?

Fully present, I thought, this will last the night.

So soon you departed!

Oh Welcome! But then, Such fervor!

We are left feeling unquenched. Do you hear? Lips merely brushing past each other can say nothing of a kiss.

I wondered in that moment if it was our desperately wanting you that had unbridled your thunderous passions.

Jamie K. Reaser has a deep fond­ness for the wild, inti­mate, and unname­able. Her writing explores themes related to Nature and human nature in this magical, yet challenging, time of the Great Turning. She is the editor of the Courting the Wild Series, as well as the author of Huntley Meadows: A Naturalist’s Journal in Verse and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out. Jamie is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. She makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Visit her Talking Waters poetry blog at http:// www.talkingwaters-poetry.blogspot.com, or through Talking Waters on Facebook.

Lady Toad Jamie K. Reaser

Lady toad, the color of Virginia red clay, Buddha-squats in my driveway silently inviting the sun spent rain coalescing in ever greater stream flows to rush under her pinking pelvic patch and quench her newly emerged thirst.

© Jamie K. Reaser

I adore and admire her – perfectly suited to expose herself to these passionate elements for long nights of meditative solitude intermingled with moonlit love making amidst equisetum stalks at pond edge. Did my soul long to inhabit her form but incarnate in the consolation prize? 29


The African Elephant Jamie K. Reaser

There is no recourse but to pause and gasp, besieged by wonderment, when you realize this love-challenged world of ours, still, still, is holding space for such raw and aged magnificence. I couldn’t have dreamed him, not even if I were the most gifted of dreamers – Dreams are humble enough to know when they are best left in in a pillow’s shallow cup. He’s what makes reality worth visiting. And, in this moment, sigh, if Amboseli offered to write my name in her salty dust, I might be inclined to stay for awhile… Barefoot, A woman remembering what it really means to be wild. A maiden in the bush. I’ve met elders before;

Their palms are so worn from story telling with their hands that their lifelines take up residence in their eyes. This one too. And on his hide, the intersecting valleys and ridges of a thousand parched wrinkles collect in drapes and folds at belly and ankle. In concentric circles they cascade down the length of his long, thick trunk to its sensitive tip where he explores and reasons unreasonable things. These places that generations of red-billed oxpeckers have used as perches and swing sets, gravity employs to record time, and wisdom earned. He understands what a day is for. Perhaps this savannah wouldn’t be so dry if we all understood. Sometimes the vervets climb into the acacias and tell his story. He collects their gossip in the flap of his ears and lets it bounce a bit.


Sometimes it comes closer to the truth that way.

Before he wondered if his last breath would be seized by bullets and saw blades.

None of them were there to see.

Certainly,

For them, the horizon lines have always been a place of emptiness. He re-members herds so large the earth was a bed of rolling, hoof-thundering clouds. This is what gave the Maasai their sense of rhythm and inspired them to take joyous leaps of faith. This was before the free ones were called “game.� Before there was a price tag on his tusks.

This would disappoint the dung beetles, he muses. Still, being loyal to ghosts is a wearisome task for the yet-living. How do I convince an elephant that we can learn? Might he be inspired to hope? If I asked, Could he tell me where we went wrong?

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Below The Passion River Station (Peten, Guatemala) Michael Shorb There’s nothing there: a trading post, two bars hewn of rough-sawed wood and corrugated plastic, cerveza bottles iced in a metal tub scrawny roosters walking the premises like shriveled kings. An hour out by canoe along the southern fork of this misnamed river, sun-drum and musty jungle shade pulling us northward into Peten’s universe of green distance clocked by one-celled movement in shoreline moss mud-flecked alligators in Mayan slumber. In the second-largest rain forest of the hemisphere we hike and crash, hacking through fisted hunchbacked trees crunching shells of nameless beetles mocked by unseen howler monkeys.

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Not even eight month seasons of sheeting rains flooding logging roads can save this jungle. Cedar and mahogany logs come streaming out like scaled giant fish from salty interstellar depths. Homeless tribes driven from coffee fincas follow, fleeing tired plots of grave-earth to creep into the bounty of Mother Forest. So the Kekchi pray with fire brands of swaying motion to the jungle life they must ravage. 60,000 hectares vanish yearly into settlements like Sipens, a baked ashgray holocaust of open space decked by thin fields of scrabble corn, huts propped on charred logs, plastic sheets for windows.


Š T. Parker Sanborn Š Jamie K. Reaser

Smiling children play in shade as petty judgment chokes inside my throat.

They know this as well as any stranger nothing to say in any language.

These gentle predators are safe here for a shallow time from social structures from machine gun massacres lice-scarred maize and helicopter gun ships. Man cannot destroy the force of life, burn the pillars that sustain the world.

They smile again thin fishers sowers fathers children from a stone oven smells of corn become a deafening song an evaporating cloud of love.

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Going to Water © T. Parker Sanborn

An Essay by Greg Hlavaty

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s an adult runaway, I sought the mountains of western North Carolina as the site for a form of penance, a prayer repeated in daily work that would drown all sorrow in sweat. While I squatted at the put-in to the Nantahala River, I watched the separate manmade and natural flows converge to form one swift current. The river cut through a gorge colored with dark green and brown tangles of rhododendron, and through it all filtered the morning’s mist soon to burn off when the sun crested the mountain. Water crushed on stone, and in that breaking, I could feel some fragment of myself quiver as if it wanted to dislodge and rush downstream, but as a newcomer to this place, my damaged part remained untouched by the river. I needed some new way to cut those splintered parts loose, some ceremony that modern self-help books did not offer. Like some ancient Cherokee, I’d instinctively gone to water to heal a sickness my will alone could not conquer. By some accounts, dipping one’s body in water with a shaman chanting over you was the original way to go to water, but I had no cultural background for guidance; where I’m from, you either medicate or hide the illness through faked smiles and long days. I’d tried the latter method and failed. I had only my desperation, which led me to work for the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), a local rafting outfitter, and my ritual began the day that I first went to work by the river. On that day, I didn’t submerse myself in the Nantahala’s current, that fifty-degree water whose chill both shocks the swimmer awake and later numbs the fool who drifts too long. Instead I fitted metal nozzles into the valves of a large grey raft, kicked the blower on, and asked no questions. The raft inflated slowly, a plodding process that allowed me to stand back, stretch, and contemplate the urban life I had fled. Some people wanted those reflective moments, but for me, such restful idylls invited only self-doubt and memories of failure, those parts of myself that I had come to these mountains to kill. Before I’d fled the city, I had read about being in flow, a well-known phenomenon defined by psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly as a state of “optimal experience.” His research showed that enjoyable experiences, rather than being happenstance occurrences given only to the lucky or divinely favored, actually consisted of some basic principles that, when followed, merged awareness and action. The result: greater enjoyment and a loss of self-consciousness. For a depressive, losing focus on myself seemed a great promise, but what really struck me was that flow did not require a divine hand or my waiting for grace to descend. It was an actual state of being that I could enter if I was willing to work for it. And I was. The raft swelled and hardened until even my full weight could not dent it, and I spun the valves shut, flipped the boat off the truck and onto a pyramidal stack where shining d-rings protruded from black rubber bows. Some days I’d feel so low--a depressive habit of the old self I’d come to cleanse--that I’d shut off the blower and move to the ground where I could see only grey rubber eclipsing mist-laden bluish peaks; the storied smoky mountains that I moved there to commune with would be hidden, and I’d sweat without much spirit. On this good day though, I was energized, lifted off the ground by the blower’s high34


pitched whine, a mechanical shaman chanting sounds I could not comprehend but implicitly trusted to heal. When I’d blown the rafts, I edged between stacks of inflatable kayaks, what we called ducks, and my arms spun in a blur of blue hoses. As the small tubes filled, I twisted one valve shut then shifted the nozzle to the duck’s floor. The other tube hardened and I opened the thwart, the small centerpiece that serves as a backrest, which quickly inflated and seemed to holler in its filling faster! faster! Challenged and really flowing, I flipped the thwart’s valve closed, tucked the loose hose beneath my arm, and shoved the nozzle into the duck below. I didn’t think; I just worked. Thought gave way to constant action and that was just the way I wanted it, just the reason I had come to work beside the water. If only thought would disappear forever, get washed downstream and emptied into Lake Fontana where it would sink to the bottom with the abandoned homes and never bother me again, then I’d stand and smile and let the sun warm me without regret. I ripped the blown duck from the clingy slime, twirled it to the gravel, and already the next duck was almost full. I bent to close its valves and felt doubts push at me—you’re not fast enough, you shouldn’t be here—but the duck filled quickly, a type of mercy that existed in challenge, and the boats stacked up fast. Once in rhythm, my hands moved from valve to hose to toss with no time to stop until the whole rubber tower threatened to topple. At day’s end the work was done and I was empty; I stood in blower’s silence and listened to the river. The Nantahala, moving endlessly over uneven ground, shifted, formed eddies, and re-circulated in hydraulics, but for all its trickery, the current never really stopped. The river constantly refreshed itself, which is how the mind should flow too, thoughts arriving but moving always downstream with no attachment, nothing rough to cling to. I wanted that river mind, but it was spring and I was new and not an adept yet. Still there was work to be done.

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s a teen I’d taken a raft trip on the Nantahala, and years later, when I found myself sweating and lost in some singlewide trailer in Athens, Georgia, I recalled illegally sleeping by the roadside just to be near the river and how I’d woken up shivering with the cold air that came off the water. At first light I had jumped the guardrail, dipped my head in the water, and felt fully alive for the first time, a sense of waking that I came to equate with the mountains and river. Like many runaways, I thought a new place could save me, and as an adult, I again woke up shivering, but this time from a promise of heat and a life with purpose. It’s funny how synchronous events aligned. With a chance

grab at a kayaking magazine, I learned that Payson Kennedy, co-founder of the Nantahala Outdoor Center, helped found the company to create a place where he and his friends could spend most of their workday in flow. I felt cold water break on my face and wanted to be broken too, gifted with a hole in my center through which all past failures could exit. Once emptied, new water would fill that vacant space and I’d accept that liquid gift without question. So I decided to go work by the river, to sweat and keep the cleansing water close, and when the time came to enter the stream, all I’d have to do would be to let go and lose myself in the current. My family believed I sought a vacation, I think, but what I wanted was a type of death, the death of my self-obsessed thinking mind, this obsession with self being the basis for depression. For those who’ve never experienced it, depression’s sameness feels like a thick cloak thrown over the head; it’s heavy and slows the movements, it’s difficult to pierce, and worst of all, it’s cliché. It’s a private suffering that is tiring to hear about and even more tiring to live. Even in the mountains I couldn’t always pierce this cloak, for the mind can hide beauty behind repetitive thoughts that keep the vision focused inward rather than letting the senses feel the immediate environment. On the worst day I can remember, self-doubt ran its constant internal chatter and no challenge, no great mass of boats to blow, pushed me into flow, so I walked to the point where the Nantahala’s natural and manmade flows converged and I floated in a chilling eddy. I watched the current carry all those people who laughed without resistance as the river took them, the type of people that I daily served. Every day I helped carry their boats to the water and shoved them into the current, but I couldn’t give myself up to it. The sense of letting go was just too great, the end not guaranteed, and I feared perhaps my will would fail as it had once before, and arms flailing, my mouth would fill with water and the only thing left to do would be to drown.

T

his concern for the future denied a basic requirement for achieving the flow state: acting for the joy of it rather than the outcome. This characteristic defined an “autotelic” person, Csikszentmihaly’s term for someone who had many optimal experiences, not because he was lucky, but because he approached each new challenge, however mundane or frightening, with the attitude that he would let go of expectation and just try. If downstream was the future and upstream the past, the only place flow could happen was in that small space my body warmed in water. Maybe the river was teaching me something. As summer progressed, the likelihood of staying in flow seemed a distant dream, and the more I read of its required 35


components, the more I gave up looking for the treasure of rocks jutting from the riverbed. I sometimes felt as if I’d been “optimal experience” and just immersed myself in work. If breaking daily over rocks and only when summer was ending I drowned in sweat, I no longer cared. I moved too quickly and the crowds dispersing could I reflect on that breaking and for any useless thought to enter, and even better, through breathe. I didn’t fear that stillness anymore, those moments of sweat I excreted all doubt and sorrow that over the past reflection that in the past would have given way to self-doubt. few years I had accrued through inaction. A passive attitude Maybe I had passed the point where my old self had shattered had stuck to me in my stasis, my turning to grab another on rock, and I had finally come together, rearranged and hastily book and watch as life passed me by, and through depresglued, further downstream, my mind smoothed over by exposion I’d morphed into some weakling who could not even sure to water. decide to get out of bed and see what the day might bring. I climbed down from the truck and followed a short path The blower did not care about through the woods, picked through my self-obsessed idiocy, my a patch of jewelweed, its orange pods habit to watch my every move bursting as I brushed them—New life! and sit in crippling fear of the New life! New life!—and squatted in least mistake. My mind chatthe shallows. At the time I was still untered but the work progressed, aware of the native Cherokee’s ancient If downstream was the future and as I looked away from inritual of going to water, but through flating rafts, those once-soft some impetus I cannot understand, I’d and upstream the past, crafts, misshapen and slimefollowed my own version of this praccoated from neglect, groaned tice that required ritualized work folthe only place flow could happen as the blower forced them to lowed by cleansing in the river. grow and harden to the touch. When I’d first arrived at the NOC, By summer’s end I had worked my orientation leader had advised us was in that small space hard and looked away from to sit by the river because it released myself long enough to let my positive ions. Later, whenever someone my body warmed in water. soft body change the same. went on break, we’d joked, “Why don’t How nice to think I’d you go get some positive ions?” but healed myself through physiprivately I knew, ions or no ions, that Maybe the river was cal exercise and by following all summer I had worked by the river a psychologist’s advice, but I’d and it had changed me. Yes, I’d often teaching me something. done these things before in been in the flow state for three months places where I could not get and was in great physical shape, but happy. I had also experienced the river was the missing piece, I think, flow at the fast-paced restauand the reason that regular jobs could rant job I’d fled, but at the end never break my self-obsessive thinking. of the workday, I had returned Although I knew of no scientific proof to my apartment and slipped back into the same old depresof why a river could heal, I’d seen a thousand hurried frowns sive mental ruts. Restaurant work had at least kept me from run the Nantahala only to exit and turn to smiles, and those thinking about my situation, but I didn’t feel healthy and I people knew, as I know now, that the river can change us if we certainly wasn’t happy. Something changed when I went to give ourselves up to its influence and pull. water, something the ancients knew that we have forgotten. n the day the sorrow flowed from me, I leaned over inflipped the last raft from the truck, switched off the flating ducks and felt their red skin harden beneath my blower, and stood in the sun. With the blower’s whine hand. I didn’t even have to watch their progress anymore. To quieted, I could hear the breeze pick up and grip the top feel was enough. My eyes traced the skyline, a nearby hemlock, of tulip poplars, flip their leaves to flash silvery undersides. the gravel path leading to the river. It’d been three months and There was another sound beneath that breeze, a sound that these mountains had become my world. After working a full had become a baseline: the river. Water coursed over stone, season, my arms had swelled and belly flattened to a physique and at steeper gradients, it picked up speed and broke on that did not match the soft whiny self that had come to the river

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© T. Parker Sanborn

seeking redemption. In the midst of the blower’s whine, I glanced quickly around and realized that the inner voice I now heard was silence, the sound of not thinking about myself and the life I’d lost. That incessant self-obsession that marked the depressive personality was gone. Wind gusts tore the sycamore’s large browned leaves through air so clear its movement over me felt like a tonic. Somehow my sadness--I can call it that now without flinching--exited like a long exhalation, and into that empty space flowed that cold mountain current that my heart now warmed. The river and the work had opened me so I could fill and take on some new shape, a stronger form I never would have thought I could inhabit. And maybe I dreamt just a little bit in the whir of the blower’s motor; maybe the filling duck was my emptied self fit to bursting with some new forced-in feeling. That’s why my hand sought that skin; it steadied itself on the soft part that hardened. That kind hand, the part that reached down from above and controlled all that was running into me, waited until I’d been rightly filled to remove the hose, as if to say, “You’ve had enough now,” then shut the valve and pushed me into the current.

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Fireflies

at absolute zero A Poetry Collection by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Forthcoming from Hiraeth Press October 2012

Hoh, February 1996 by Erynn Rowan Laurie mid-morning past Lake Crescent to the Hoh raven spreads his wings against fine grey mist

by Erynn Rowan Laurie at dusk the birds take off their feather cloaks they sit around their fires among the stars they speak in human tongues they speak of clouds and leaves they speak of how the sun warms their hollow bones they speak in whispers in gales of laughter in a thousand voices they speak in their tribes and nations in voices carried on the wind they sit

mountains half-shaven snow clings among stumps

among the stars among their feather cloaks they speak

curved belly of fir cradles my back the dense mossy silence deep with the hiss of

in human tongues

falling snow

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Their secret

Erynn is a poet and writer, author of Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom and other books and articles. She teaches from time to time at festivals on the West Coast of the US.


Orca Heart

by Erynn Rowan Laurie An old man told me “Take big bites out of life; Moderation is for monks.” Am I a monk? If so, I am not a solemn monk, no earthbound-eyes-on-heaven monk; I am a fire-monk wind-monk a moaning-sea-monk whirling-galaxy-monk. I have coyote blood raven feathers lynx ears, peregrine eyes and the spots of salmon. I love with a hungry orca heart. I have fox flesh chameleon skin. Let me bare myself for you, fine pale flesh of the moon, changing scales, round breasts.

Touch me soft with lips, tongue, fingers for I am a love-monk passion-monk animal-monk; not like Francis or Marbhan. I do not tame the animals, psalm-singing. I am mad Suibhne of the trees. They enwilden me: desire-monk. Burning paws roll me in leaves and moss, rub me with ferns and ivy. Pursue me, I’m naked! Your wild cheetah heart is insatiable, ripe, swift as the wind -only the sky overtakes me, and you, for you are lightning and meteors and I have a mad orca heart.

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n Mid-​​October just in time for the Celtic fes­tival of Samhain, we will be releasing a poetry col­lec­tion by Erynn Rowan Laurie enti­tled Fireflies at Absolute Zero. This unique col­lec­tion is a map of a life, written in loca­tion and longing, its cal­lig­raphy fol­lowing the sur­real moments between dream and waking. The poems are shaped by myth, the Gaelic poetic tra­di­tion, dream worlds, per­sonal his­tory, and the grey-​​green land­scape of the Salish Sea. From snow­fall in the Hoh rain­forest to the sen­su­ality of a lover’s touch, the poems span decades of a life in motion, finally finding a home between the moun­tains and waters of the Pacific Northwest. New to the Hiraeth Press circle, Erynn Rowan Laurie is a writer, poet, and pro­fes­sional mad­woman living on the shores of the Salish Sea. Author of Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, she is inspired by the early Irish poetic tra­di­tion and the place of the geilt, the mad poet, in Irish myth and lit­er­a­ture. Born in New England, she joined the Navy and trav­eled to Hawaii and the west coast, where she fell in love with western Washington and has spent the last three decades get­ting to know the land, the waters, and the dream­scape of her chosen home. 39


Willapa Bay, Ecotones Gwendolyn Morgan

Early morning along the horizon a cavatina grasses Burnt Sienna, Compose Green #3 Nimbostratus clouds cradle the sky luminous bodies of light, pearlescent with prayer shawls of mist wrapped around the peninsula. We count 150 Great Blue Herons amidst several hundred Cormorants the herons gathered as if for Lauds lines repeated and repeated a litany in grey, blue, up and down the shoreline following shoals of fish descant along the tidal shifts. In this moment we remember the places where marsh grasses thicken the overlapping of sea and meadow oyster flats, sorrows, joys, sandpipers, quick watercolor sketches of memories, invocations, our life together

Š Jamie K. Reaser

the sky a wash of Payne’s Gray, Cobalt Blue sealight transposed translucent consolation a songline of wings.


Crow Feathers, Early August, Arch Cape Gwendolyn Morgan

Crow talks to me in the morning news of the interrelated universe in the afternoon when I walk along the beach I find two black crow feathers a small round stone amongst dozens of stones on the edge of the water. Hydrangeas, French blue ultramarine pansies, sap green leaves, an invocation all that exists is alive Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, Wilson’s Warbler, Robin, a dozen gulls, six Brown Pelicans above the sea. Black-capped Chickadee carrying seeds, linaments of light stories from dogwood to lilac to Hawthorne tree. Numinous hope embodied the clouds above the ocean appear in omens fine gradations, shades of Payne’s gray. The birds are chattery, chattery a series of short whistled notes the warbler a pale lemon-yellow, crow feathers appear as archival India ink, an augury. A House Wren gazes in the window flies, away, returns, looking in.

Gray Fox

Gwendolyn Morgan

Burnt Umber muzzle, nose and chin Paint with a no. 1 round brush first dipping the tip into water Follow the way the fur grows. For the blue-gray mix Navajo White, Ultramarine Blue, Burnt Umber then Cadmium Orange, Burnt Sienna, more white for the body. Use short parallel brushstrokes continue to follow the fur pattern. Add whiskers, details, the white part of the muzzle and paint lines defining the eye shape the amber eye color Yellow Ochre, Titanium White, Burnt Sienna Imagine her walking toward you.

Poems are animate wings, bones the birds gather red millet, sunflower seeds serve as a portal, a divinatory memory. 41


Night Thoughts At Casson Point Michael Salcman Saying one thing and meaning another, metaphor gets some things wrong: I don’t buy Athena coming out of the head of Zeus as blessed wisdom, fully formed; on the other hand, Aphrodite rising out of the ocean without explanation seems a lot like love, as mysterious as any watery voyage. Behind the sandy hook at Casson Point, where Baltimore is far enough away no earthly spume disturbs the night’s display, Ursa charges through the stars, urged on by a chorus of ducks and antiphonal geese. Above my head wide galactic bands stretch and spill like milk; the sky feels bright and large, so near the Big Dipper alone outspreads the span of both my hands. My eyes squint, sting with the light of a thousand torches, blink at the voyaging ray that anchors me here— it will outlast love even if doused for a billion years.

… dream form. By J. K. McDowell

Question: Is a poem a container or contents? I know I’m mostly water yet I can’t flow Easily from this shattered sake bottle. Question: Are my metaphors too self serving? The smoke clears, the spill dries, forgotten forest prayers Offer a lost soulfulness. The door slides closed. In your silence I held the dreaming. The writing Guides the way. A lattice of longing so fragile, I worry about selecting the next question. So tiny, the Soul’s etching on a shard of glass. As I read the poem I do not notice the Sharp cuts, the fingers’ red tears. No more questions. Answers, invisible like the air we breathe. Fear fades, blinded by the realities exposed in A soft reflection of shattered lead crystal. It is 2AM Jim. Any hour is right and true To toast the friendship that can melt the cullet and Take the glassblower’s soft breath, giving the dream form.

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Š Eleanor Leonne Bennett


Dancing with the Daffodils in a Densely Woven World

© Jamie K. Reaser

An Essay by Greg Graham

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n the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” William Wordsworth saunters upon a stunning scene – “a host of golden daffodils.” He is overcome by the sight, but only later does he realize the value of the experience: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

Two things: First, how often do I wander aimlessly about, taking in the richness of everything I see? Sure, I might do this if I’m backpacking the Appalachian trail or sitting on the steps of Sacré-Cœur Basilica taking in the panoramic view of Paris, but how often do I allow my loneliness, as Wordsworth did, to lead me into the “bliss of solitude” at the nearest wooded area, garden, or park?

In search of elbow room

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s a child, I was drawn (like many youngsters in the 60’s and 70’s) to the narratives about Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett always pressing westward in search of “elbow room.” The poetic mythology that surrounded these men instilled in me a

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love of nature and the Indian way, focused more on harmony with nature than conquest. I spent my childhood in the woods near my house, returning home only to eat, sleep, and watch Mutual of Omaha’s “Wild Kingdom” starring Marlin Perkins. As I walked those trails and breathed in the beauty, resonating deep in my bones was the iconic image of Daniel Boone standing on a bluff, leaning on his rifle and gazing out across a breathtaking valley. He and Davy Crockett were trekking with me, joined in my teen years by Jeremiah Johnson and James Fenimore Cooper’s Hawkeye; then, when I was a young man, Thoreau, Emerson, Wordsworth and Keats were added to the group. My mom has never forgotten my love of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett, so anytime a new biography comes out, she sends me a copy. Upon reading the excellent 2007 biography of Boone by Robert Morgan, I was pleased to discover that Boone had been an inspiration to Thoreau, who had in turn been an inspiration to me. It was like discovering two of your favorite people from completely different places already know and like each other. It took me years to see the synchronicity coursing through my life, starting when I got my first genuine replica of Boone’s famous long rifle “Tick Licker” (with matching coonskin cap) for my ninth birthday, and stretching to the days I spend each semester discussing Thoreau’s concept of the “westward impulse” with my students.

Regarding the inward eye

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f course, the bliss of solitude doesn’t have to be limited to an excursion into nature, thus my second point taken from Wordsworth’s poem. How often do I lie on my couch “in vacant or pensive mood,” paying attention to my “inward eye”? Wordsworth is saying that the scene he beheld was available to him in his imagination; he carried it with him as a source of pleasure from which to draw when necessary. This concept bears a close resemblance to Keats’ idea expressed in Book 1 of Endymion, where he swoons “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.” The beautiful things our eyes behold, Keats asserts, “Haunt us till they become a cheering light/ Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast/ That, whether there be shine or gloom o’ercast, They always must be with us, or we die.” When we encounter beauty, Keats is saying, it nestles in our hearts and stays there for us to access and draw life. I know this is true for me. This year when the fall colors were at their peak, I was trekking deep in the Ozark National Forest and came upon a grove of Maples whose leaves were glowing bright orange. The sunlight created a small cathedral, a space shimmering with the warmest color I’ve ever experienced. I felt I had walked upon a sacred event, like Moses’ burning bush. I didn’t take a picture; it would have taken me out of the moment, and the picture wouldn’t have captured the experience adequately anyway. What I did was absorb that scene into my soul: the quietness, the effervescent hues, the rusty smell, the longing that rose up in me for a life more like this – each sensation resides in me now, humming brightly within even when, perhaps most of all when, I am trudging through dark times. That moment is my joy forever. I’m buying what Keats and Wordsworth are selling, but if I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t take much time to sit still like Wordsworth and regard my “inward eye.” Like most people I know, almost all the spare time in my life is filled by some kind of screen – TV, smart phone, computer, tablet. We’ve got screens of all shapes and sizes, promising to keep us company and save us from loneliness and boredom.

In praise of boredom

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hen I talk about this issue with students, they don’t get what all the fuss is about. Many of them remark “man, just sitting there by yourself is depressing.” They see sitting alone as both a sign and a cause of depression. If that was the case, one would assume that diagnoses of depression would be in decline the last twenty years. In fact, the opposite is true: prescriptions for antidepressants have quadrupled over the last two decades. To those who have grown up in the digital age, it is an automatic reflex to respond to loneliness by filling in the gap with some digital stimulation. And, of course, young people aren’t the only ones doing it. We older folks have also learned to wash our troublesome feelings away in the digital stream. Though I have that tendency, I’m also lucky enough to remember a time and place where “untethered” living was reality. I learned how to have fun “doing nothing.” All the kids in my neighborhood needed was an empty green bean can and we could play for hours. If no one was around, we even knew how to entertain ourselves alone. We didn’t necessarily want to be bored, but that boredom often served as a canvas on which our imagination was able to paint. Today’s hovering media sends a message to children: you should expect to always be entertained. 45


Curiosity, or the attraction to mental stimulation, appears to be a universal human trait, so it is natural for people to choose titillation over tedium. However, like many challenges in life, the blahs can pay dividends in the long run. Writer and teacher Barry Sanders describes boredom as “the dream bird that hatches the egg of experience.” Sanders explains: Underlying boredom, where nothing at all seems to be happening—opposite of the TV’s image—lays the possibility for a child to discover something of extreme importance: himself or herself. That moment of expanded quiet—and a child knows very few such moments—offers the young person an opportunity to learn what he or she believes, and thinks, ultimately providing moments of great strength. If the youngster can persist in that down time, boredom can turn into an episode of self-reflective insight. Our family recently dug out some old 8 MM videos shot in the 90’s and discovered a tape of our 5 year old son playing with a lady bug. He must have played with that thing on our front porch for twenty minutes (it didn’t end well for the lady bug – think Lennie in Of Mice and Men). I don’t think of my children as growing up in the pre-digital era, but it’s astounding to ponder how things have changed in just 15 years. 15 years ago, we didn’t have the internet hooked up in our home, and we didn’t have cell phones or iPods or iPads or laptops or DVR’s. With the blazing advancement and proliferation of new media technology, fewer children every year are growing up engaging with the natural world or their own imaginations. They are getting cell phones (now smart phones) at younger and younger ages, wired to the wider world before their brains are developed enough to make any sense of it all.

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A story uncovered

f all of this bothers you, then we agree. But even with the troubling tendencies I see in society today, I remain hopeful in the resiliency and adaptability of human beings. I teach college freshman writing, and one of the first writing exercises I introduce to my students asks about the neighborhood they grew up in. I elicit stories from their childhood, because stories are the primary way we make sense of our lives and locate ourselves in the world. One student recently said to me that there was nothing worth telling about his life out in the country: “All I’ve ever done,” he said, “is sit on the couch and watch TV.” How about escapades in the woods? Nope, his parents were wary of snakes and bugs. A creek where you caught tadpoles or crawfish? Afraid not. A tree under which you sat to read a book or ponder life? Yeah right. I couldn’t decide whether to hug the guy or shake him, so I just kept prodding. There was a story in there somewhere, buried behind his dull eyes. This young man was suffering from what renowned sociology professor Johan Galtung called “chronic image flicker.” Like the numb masses in Orwell’s 1984, a constant diet of rich digital images had clouded his inward eye, nearly disabling it. But my prodding eventually produced results, uncovering the unregarded story of his grandparent’s farm just up the hill, where he spent countless hours engaging in the life of a farm: gathering eggs, milking the cows, and feeding the horses. “Wow, you’ve got tons of things to tell us – things that most of us (a show of hands indicated that only one person in the room had ever gathered eggs) would be fascinated to hear about.” My student’s eyes brightened a bit. I think his classmates perked up too. Many of them were nodding their heads as they took pen to paper and started writing about the beautiful things they have seen or smelled or tasted – things previously unregarded, but with just a little digging recovered as the hidden treasures they really are. As teachers, and as parents, mentors, and friends, we can encourage this kind of seeing in those under our influence. But it takes effort, it takes slowing down in order to look again, to look harder, to see, as Wordsworth did, the wealth around us.

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Š L.M. Browning

Tree

Sonya Deulina The mother heaves in a surge of wind rushing and breaking over her body, her children quivering, pink blossoms still blushing from the throws of childbirth, plucked from their loose holds on her outstretched bosom, scattering in every direction.

She Eats Sonya Deulina

Squatting over the thin swaying branch, nipples swelled over bulging belly, a squirrel mother turns over an acorn with shifty claws, cracking the silence against her teeth. Even as the freight roars by, black against the pastel forest skyline, swaying everything like water, switching branches, she eats.

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Shade Garden At Dawn Carol Shillibeer

Light pools–narrow stripes along the edge of hostas– then drains away with the dark, leaving only the shade, breathing; a mystery to me that remains; no light rise, nor dark fall can break the balance. Walking this morning past the garden, its spaces empty of the irreal, there was something I thought about it, that came in words, but I can’t remember now. I felt it go, pooling first in my fingers, but the lack of pen–the letters leaked from under my skin–sublimated, letters to shade, directly. What is a shade garden at dawn? That’s what triggered word-rise. Questioning self: a light seed? or dark? And later, a keyboard at hand, many answers, none the twin of that shady seed– something that holds the genomic sequence of reality; the interplay of forces, of chemical action, memory; a non-living thing, an enzyme, that can hold itself silently, waiting for the right shape to happen by. For us, a shade garden at dawn is a held breath during meditation, or that stretch of chest wall, that muscular tension before release; a poem breathing; a hand and mind reaching; a shade garden –out of which the morning’s radiance and night’s dark brilliance erupts and dies back–but this is a shadow game, neuronal play taking a human form, a transfer of photons into image, of image into feeling, of feeling into body walking. It’s nothing: a shadow. But it’s all we have. It’s just

© L.M. Browning

that the body reads places the way your infant reads faces. We can’t help it. A garden by which to walk will be read, and shade–it must be the genesis of that first word, the one that changes what we want into what actually is. Gone from my fingers, the lost letters still remain, linger under striped leaves. Shade waits. And I, by umbra have changed: shaped by reason and feeling but turned into word, and from word, poured out of self and onto the earth.


Equinox At The Beach Carol Shillibeer

It is immensely quiet. Each leaf slides through the blue unuttered, on a breath of air, the world barely disturbed; but the whisper of their fall unsettles. The ground— receives what has all this year been held away, up in the sky. It’s all suyapi, backwards, and immoderately beautiful. But it can’t last, now that the light has broken. Now it rains through incandescent blue, and the sun lies across the sands in bright black lines; the trees cast shadows upward and the water, so long held in the sea, has risen, airy, free from its bowl, breaking, with only a pale hiss, the horizon. The sky is full now of the depths’ lustre. The birds: grounded. The heron walks on water; the crow pushes into the sand. This is the moment when the year turns. The sailboat remains soundless, but the white sail surfaces, pierces the meniscus of the grey sky. No horizon now: the bumpy ridge of trees,

the mountains hidden under the water-filled welkin walk as the sky begins to sag. And I. I am swimming through sand here with the birds — on the beach under the crumpling air with feathers paring away what remains of the blue. Sky soft, the empyrean deep deflates. On my face, a caul — what was once high, air’s skin, come to rest, cheek bones and lips. It’s not that the year will suddenly switch back to how it was, that things will snap to, go forward again, face front into time, become not-suyapi, but that we will. Our perception will snap to the world’s frame and it will be as if that is how it always was. When a cherry leaf yellowed lets go it will drift on the eddying air. We will see it that way. And it will seem that always the birds walked on water and the rain from the sky came down to earth. It is only here in the changing moment, when the sky and sea shudder, then shatter: recompose the image of the world. Here, only here, we are free to see both backward and forward at once.


© L.M. Browning

by Treasa Ní Chonchobhair in tr odu ction The haunting cry of untamed geese. Moss and moorland. A stock dove echoing through the glen. The black season of deep winter. Wildly hanging woods. The brilliance of the moon. Wanton deer on peaks. Golden apples of sun. A brisk bright stream. Green hills by the sea. Warbling blackbirds...

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hese are just a sampling of the wondrously poignant images evoked within Gaelic verse. The natural world and poetry are a dyad that has gone hand in hand since the beginning of written Gaelic language. Through its medium I make sense of the world, I commune with it and it with me. Poetry provides me with new eyes; or rather it opens the ones I already possess, expanding my awareness to the liminal aspects of nature—and I believe the same was true of my ancestors. The Old Irish word for poetry is dán. A simple word which dances lightly upon the tongue, and yet it harbors such exquisite complexity within those three unassuming letters. Dán translates as “craft, talent, gift, bestowal, poetry, song, verse, fate, and destiny”1 along with many other things. However, it is those definitions in particular that I’d like to take a look at in this essay and how each one touches on eco-poetical and bioregional practice within Gaelic Polytheism.2

1 — Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, <http://www.dil.ie/> 2 — Gaelic Polytheism is the pre-Christian and other-than-Christian spiritual tradition of the Gaelic-speaking cultures—the ancestral ways of Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In a modern sense, it is the preservation, reconstruction, and revival of the Earth-honoring traditions and beliefs of our ancestors. 50


pe r m a ne nc e: living in pl a c e

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iving in place is paramount in the Gaelic tradition. As a tribal society, the ancient Gaels—and by association their festivals, customs, myths, laws, and lore—were very much concentrated on place and this localization continued even after they were Christianized. While the Gaels have no overarching creation myth equivalent to say the Norse tale of Ginnungagap, what the Gaels do have is a plethora of legends which provide us with a window into their worldview. What is so interesting about these myths and legends is that the majority of them, if not all, are heavily centered on place. These tales explain the cosmology of certain areas: how the land came upon its name, how rivers or mountains came into being, and which goddesses, gods, ancestors, or spirits are associated with an area. One of the best sources for localized lore is the Dindshenchas—a collection of short tales or poems recounting how certain areas in Ireland received their title. For the Gaels, the past is imbedded in the land and it is the land which tells her story. Place is sacred. It reaches into our lives and shapes who we are, how we think, how we act... The land is us, and we are the land. Poets and storytellers are those who keep this link alive, and rekindle it where it has faded. They speak of land as an intimate teacher, friend, or lover—not an empty, unknowable space or something pillaged for resources.

conne ct ing with the l a nd

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he natural world is rich with wisdom; it is essentially, as Sanders says, “the medium in which life transpires, and its prime source of values and meaning and purpose.”3 The moss-covered trees offer us the perseverance and strength to seek out rich soil in which to take root, echoing that grace and beauty come with age and experience. The stones and mountains teach us patience no matter what winds or waters may seek to erode us. The waters grant us the serenity and wisdom to live by virtue, with honor and dignity. The sky and winds show us that life can be both calm and tempestuous, bright and dark. The fauna teach us about belonging and being, how the actions of one affect the entire habitat, and that by co-existing we create community. The Gaels have an intuitive and richly deep connection to the land around them. Their worldview is tied directly to their interaction with the hills, streams, trees, and stones. The landscape is ensouled with spirits and nature is the medium through which the gods and spirits manifest themselves and are experienced by us. Brigid is seen in the first buds and flowers of spring. The bellowing of the Hags is witnessed in the stormy winds. Lugh is present in the rain and lightning. The stallions of Manannán are seen in waves lapping the seashore. Áine is felt in the brilliant sun of summer and An Cailleach in the frosts and snow of winter. The land spirits are ever present within the hills and streams. Flidais, Sadb, Oisín, Óengus, Étaín, and An Morrígan are felt in the forests and fields among the deer, swan, and corvids. Wilderness is holy to the Gaelic mind because it lacks segregation between sacred and secular, of this world and the invisible Otherworld: the two are entwined to form the fabric of the cosmos. There is no alienation between culture and nature; they are one.

com m u ning with the l a nd

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n the Gaelic worldview, the land is a goddess who permeates everything. It was her union with the prospective king which ensured and renewed the sovereignty of ancient Ireland. Without an acceptable ruler, the land withers in age and is lost, usually taking the appearance of an old woman. Having no king ruling us, we must take it upon ourselves to be acceptable in her eyes, to take up the sovereignty of the land around us. If we are united with her, the land will blossom, become young and be fruitful once more, with us acting as steward: protecting, loving, and caring for her. When we attend this goddess, we animate

3 — Sanders, “Speaking a Word for Nature,” The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology, 1996, p191.

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the land with our impressions, thoughts and feelings and she does the same to us. The macrocosm affects the microcosm, and communion takes place—we wed. The land is not merely something abstract that surrounds us; it is a reflection and facet of our identity. Our communion to the land is built on commitment, devotion and communication. It is a sustainable relationship which connects past, present and future.

fir e in water: poetry a s c r a ft

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ringing land into verse and song is one way our ancestors communed with the world around us and remembered her stories. Imbas is an Old Irish word meaning “great knowledge; poetic talent; inspiration; knowledge which illuminates”4 and this arousal of the mind is depicted in Gaelic lore as a “fire in the head”—an ardent, divine kindling by which wisdom is obtained. This elucidation of the mind happens most often in the Gaelic tradition through poetry. This fiery imbas is born from the five streams streaming forth from Tobar Segais, or the Well of Wisdom. Guarded by the god Nechtan and his three cup-bearers, Tobar Segais is considered to be the Gaelic font of knowledge around which stands nine hazel trees that drop purple nuts into the well. Swimming within the waters is a salmon who consumes the wisdom-filled hazel fruit. It is said that those who eat the salmon are gifted with poetry and prophecy. This is most certainly true for Fionn mac Cumhaill who, after burning his thumb while watching the salmon cook in his master’s cauldron, placed the digit into his mouth and received poetic inspiration. It’s very interesting to note here that, in Irish, salmon is both bradán (bratán) and eó which reminds me greatly of dán (‘poetry’) and eólas (‘knowledge’). As I’m not an etymologist I cannot possibly say with any certainty that eólas and dán are indeed specifically connected with bradán and eó, but it’s definitely something to mull over from a poetic folk etymology perspective. Along with the eó fis, or salmon of wisdom5, the lore further tells that the five streams bursting forth from the Well correspond to our five human senses. Manannán Mac Lir, god of the sea, explains to Cormac that only those who drink from the Well are gifted with craft and art; only they drink from both the stream of the senses and the streams of the Well.6 As such, poems, verse and song should rise up and be born from the land—not only from ourselves. However, it is still a craft to be learned and cultivated within, and the land will teach us; if only we’ll listen.

r e c ipr oc it y: poetry a s offering

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án buidech briathar dimbrass is an Old Irish phrase which translates as “a grateful gift without boasting7” and to me that is what eco-poetry within Gaelic Polytheism aims for: a bestowal of gratitude to the land without boast of self. When Amhairghin approaches Éire, he learns her name (Ériu). Later, he sings to her, invoking her fruitfulness, her showery wood, her rivers, lakes, hills and wells. Some might say he “claimed” Ériu, but I think it’s more than that: he wooed her by displaying what Yi-Fu Tuan calls topophilia, “the affective bond between people and place.”8 Based on the experiences and mythology of the Gaels, we know that creating an alliance with the land, and its indwelling spirits, is possible. The Fomoiri (the indifferent, chaotic forces of nature) caused trouble for the Tuatha Dé Danann until an agreement was reached between Bres and Lugh.9 Once struck, Bres then taught them how to properly plough, sow, and reap and in return the Fomoiri were treated with respect. Discord then later happened between the Tuatha Dé Danann and new invaders, the Milesians (the ancestors of the Gaels). Over time they came together and formed a cairdes (‘pact’) where the Tuatha Dé Danann allowed the Milesians to harvest their wheat and drink the milk of their cattle, and in return the Milesians honored and gave tribute to the Tuatha Dé Danann. 4 — Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, <http://www.dil.ie/> 5 — Also called eó feasa or bradán feasa. 6 — See: Evans-Wentz, “Cormac’s Adventure in the Land of Promise,” The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, 1911 (2003), p340-343. 7 — Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language, <http://www.dil.ie/> 8 — Tuan, Two Essays on a Sense of Place, 1988, p4. 9 — Bres is the half-Fomorian former king of the Tuatha Dé Danann and Lugh is their current commander. 52


Later folklore also provides examples of reciprocal traditions. For instance, offerings were given to Seónaidh, or Shony, in the Hebrides to ensure a good crop of seaweed and milk is still left on Brownie stones for the gruagachan (spirits who look after cattle to ensure an abundant supply of milk). The creideamh sí, or fairy faith, abounds with these reciprocal practices—all of which foster hospitality. Hospitality is perhaps a Gaelic Polytheist’s most important virtue and it is what creates the core relationship between us and land on which we reside. This land is our host and as such we make offerings for the gifts we receive from it and to acknowledge the sacred within it. Writing poetry as offering is making an intentional and cooperative effort to intimately know and interact with your bioregion and its liminal, more-than-human aspects.

be com ing w ild: poetry a s destin y

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he world is a mysterious place that is knowable and yet ultimately unknowable. We can only truly know that which we experience, but in order to experience it we need to become wild again. Like Cormac, we need to be “a listener in woods” and “a gazer at stars.” No longer can we view ourselves as outside nature and expect to experience and commune with it. Ecopoetical and bioregional practice within Gaelic Polytheism (and more specifically within the path of filidecht) is not about being solely the observer but a participant in the land. We must let nature shape us, instead of us shaping nature. As folklorist Henry Glassie penned, “Action is history. Every gesture has precedent and consequence. As the hand grips the spade, slaps brick, or grates spuds, historical time flows through the fingers and writes its narrative into the land.10” This is not necessarily to say that one needs to tend a garden in order to know nature but we need to learn—or at least make a conscious effort to learn—the story of land by becoming involved in it. This narrative, composed of nature and memory, is what the Senchus Mor calls “the preserving shrine.”11 Here, awareness plays an essential role. We need to be aware of the land surrounding us: its history, its stories and myths, its community, its flora and fauna, its seasonal cycles, its geography, and its ecosystems. It is this mindful cognizance which brings one in communion with the land’s permeating goddess and back to a state of wildness, away from our dispossessed existence. Like Amhairghin, we need to be a lake on a plain, a wave in the sea, a stag of seven tines, a drop of sun, the wind over water, and a salmon in the pool. This wildness—this liminal, feral state where nature and memory tell us their narrative—brings with it fiery knowledge: imbas. Because Amhairghin became a lake, a wave, a stag, etcetera he knew the narrative of the permeating Ériu mongbuide (‘bright-haired Ireland’). He knew where the setting sun lay at night, the stories of the stones and mountains, and the ages of the moon. If poetry is learned, honed and bestowed to the land as offering, then gaining the wild, illuminating wisdom like that of Amhairghin will be our fate—if the spirits chose to impart it, that is. This wisdom can then be collected as our own Dindshenchas of the land surrounding us. In “Suibhne Praises the Garbh,” the singing birds wake Suibhne and he compares their melodious, familiar voices to the chanting of the Hours and the warbling of the blackbirds to Mass. Here Suibhne is pointing out the sanctity of nature. This supports what the Senchus Mor tells us about “the preserving shrine”—that poets connected to it by a thread of poetry12. My understanding of this is that a poem’s occupation is to be the thread connecting us to the sanctity of nature and to all existence; it is a subconscious song that guides the cycles and rhythms of our lives. However while nature is inherently sacred, a poem is a hollow shell of meaningless letters without the five streams issuing forth from the Well to imbue it. Expanding our senses, embracing our wildness, and immersing ourselves in the liminality of nature—allowing ecstatic inspiration to devour us in fire and water until our tongue is dripping with honey—is how we partake of the aubergine hazelnuts and silvery salmon, and breathe imbas into our words. Allow the natural world—our original home—to soak in through your pores, enfold around your sinew, meld with your bones, and take root in your marrow. Only then will the wild verse burst forth bearing stories of the land. Immersion in the streams will birth new poetry in the spirit of tradition, leaving us soaked in wildness. 10 — Glassie, Passing the Time in Ballymenone: Culture and History of an Ulster Community, 1995, p603. 11— Hancock et al, Ancient Laws of Ireland: Introduction to Senchus Mor, Volume 1, 1865, p39. 12 — Ibid.

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Autumn On The Mogollon Rim Mark Petrie

Cold muscles in on the early hours before consulting our camp, clocks in for a double without our consensus. From up mountain, elk bellows echo, and bundled in my tent, I image their breath evanescing, confronting cold valiantly, futilely. My ankle hairs, held down all night by wool socks, restricted inside my mummy bag, ache, demand freedom. But even they donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know cold the way hands do, shaking fingers awake inside gloves, inside pockets, under the igloo of my body. Surely this shiver will end by noon, dwindle down to sweater weather. Though the dull light of dawn climbs my tent, I am still not frozen enough to move,

Š L.M. Browning

to tear through the merciless air, brave the chill, shift timbers from the stockpile to the fire-pit and begin breakfast. Heroes start fires, and incontinence, in a cold camp, creates them.

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55


T FIRE

scenes

© Eleanor Leonne Bennett

An essay by Daniel Robinson

here are things you remember. Sometimes they are the felon memories of the smell of burnt flesh or the sight of a ruined body. Other things, however, you remember more willingly—the camaraderie of a band-of-brothers without the killing or a 40-hour shift digging line near Prescott, Arizona, that becomes epic in the re-telling when you sit with your former crewmates telling war stories over a beer. You remember the places you may never have visited otherwise. The condor reserve in California, the moose reserve south of Kenai, circling Katmai, a floating loggers’ community off Ketchikan. That early-August evening on the south slope of the Brooks Range after you had shuttled from the fire to camp is one you remember well. You walked to the edge of the ridge and looked out toward the orange glow of the fire, and a 400,000 acre fire sends up quite a glow at dusk. But that’s not why you remember that evening, almost every one of the hundred-plus wildfires you fought glowed at night, a yellowish-orange against the charcoal or blue-black sky of night. You remember that fire in the Brooks because of what you turned around to see. The northern lights, heaven’s gleaming and dancing rods of light, illuminated the polar side in claret colors of reds and oranges as well as every other color of the spectrum. All of them shimmering with a sensual wildness. You turned again and there was the fire. You are surrounded by these spectacles of nature, primal and dynamic; and even though I try, I still lack the words to explain. I stood there, looking from one to the other, with a sense of awe at the sublimity. And I know that I have viewed the world as few ever can. You also remember other things, the animals maybe. The Orca whales that accompanied your ferry ride to an island off Ketchikan, swimming alongside the converted fishing boot and arcing in and out of the water, their color glistening and dorsal fin high and proud. The field mouse that bit you on the finger after you rescued it from the side of an ash pit. The bear wandering down the fireline in Idaho and paying you no mind because you took refuge in the smoldering fire, the bear that treed three of your buddies, the bear that charged you—lots of bear stories for you to tell your grandkids at night. You like those memories for you know they always bring a smile when told, and, besides, how many grandfathers can relate stories of being chased by bears. Or, for that matter, being chased by a cow moose near


Fairbanks. It happened on a burnout, and when you burnout a fireline, you always burn from the top of a hill to its bottom for the same reason that you always burn against the wind, so that you can control your fire. On this fire our fireline crossed a draw, so I took a drip torch filled with gas and diesel across to the other side. I would burn from the opposite side down and our two burnouts would meet in the belly of the draw. I walked the fireline because it is much easier to walk on a cleared trail than through bushes and shrubs, which is why the moose and her calf were walking the same fireline. One thing about black bears and moose. A black bear can be reckoned with (Grizzlies are a different thing), but a cow moose cannot, especially if that cow moose has her calf and you happen to show up unexpectedly in her trail. An eye blink before they saw me, I saw them, actually I only saw her at first, the cow, big as a Buick and looking like she had already had a bad day. Primal instinct is an amazing thing. Her instinct triggered a protection mechanism and she charged; my instinct was even more primal—abject fear. I ran toward the fire, the drip torch held behind me, ignited fuel dripping from its wick. Moose have heads like anvils, nothing stops them as they ram trees you have to run around. Luckily, though, I lit off a large enough area of fire that the moose decided I was no longer a threat to her calf; unluckily, I had trapped myself between my own burnout and an active flame front. Just like with a bear, though, you would rather deal with a moving fire than a mad moose. My daughter has always liked that story, for it has danger and fire and familial love. This one was a favorite of my daughter’s when she used to ask me to tell her a bedtime story. We were on a fire near Lake Chelan, Washington, and the fire was controlled and all but out. We were walking through the ash of the fire looking for smokes, bending down to look over the land for hovering insects, sign of a hot spot. Herb and I found a stump hole, hot like an oven as we dug it out following the tap root down and the spider web of lateral roots. Herb used his Pulaski to grub and I used my shovel to dig, and we took turns working alternately at the hole and at the material we excavated. I stopped Herb while he was deep in the hole, searching for the end of a heated root, and pointed up the slope at a squirrel stumbling drunkenly down the ruined scape. We watched it for a few moments as it limped toward us, unaware of our presence, tripping over twigs and falling into small holes and running head first into larger obstacles, heatcracked rocks and remnant pieces of partially burned logs. As it neared, we could see that its hide was patchy, as though

from scabies, and that a full crust of ashes covered its face. Its mouth was open, and while we could not hear its breathing, I could imagine how parched each breath must have been. It limped on its left forepaw, stopping occasionally to hold that paw in the air like a dog holding up a wounded leg, bent at the wrist and paw hanging almost limp. We did not say anything, at least I do not remember us saying anything. Herb stood and we left our tools by the stump hole and walked the few paces to the squirrel. It stopped, maybe sensing a movement, but did not run. I bent, and with gloved hands, cradled the squirrel in my hands. It lay there, like a babe in the crook of her mother’s arm, either waiting or resigned to its coming fate. We walked to the fireline and crossed to the green. Herb unscrewed a bottle of water and began washing its face, at first rubbing the water gently over the eyes and nose to remove the crust of ash and soon just showering the animal. At moments like that, you feel tempted to apply the pathetic fallacy and say that the squirrel looked up into your eyes with thanks in his. My daughter used to like it when I would say that. In reality, though, the squirrel did look at us, but then jumped from my hands and scurried, still with a limp, into the safety of a tree. Herb and I went back to our stump hole. That’s a good one, and sometimes still my sixteen-year-old daughter will ask me to tell it to her. Other memories remain fixed with the furrow of a question. One was on that same fire near Lake Chelan. It was several days earlier during our first shift on the fire. We were the first crew there and the fire was running, occasionally climbing into the crowns for a quick run along the side of the ridge. We had abandoned four lines, the fire erupting and forcing us from the ridge, and day was inching toward darkness. I was on a chainsaw in front of the crew when the fire blew up again. We ran. I cold not make it down to where the crew was and to the safety zone at the bottom of the hill, so I ran for a rock slide we had planned on tying our line into. At the bottom of the rock slide, curled and rattling its beads, was a rattlesnake. In times like that, you are not picky about with whom or what you share a sanctuary. I ran past the snake, hid my saw as best I could under my chaps and wiggled down between some rocks to watch the fire pass by. Some people liken the sound of an approaching fire to a locomotive, but I remember thinking how it sounded like a waterfall. At first distant and as it neared, in the way that you near a waterfall, the sound increased and the tone lowered until soon all other sound was eclipsed by its deep and almost guttural roar. And then it was gone, leaving me in a snow shower of embers. 57


only that single fact. No explanation can provide a reason I gathered my saw and chaps and walked down the slide. beyond the syncretic moment of beauty and violence. You go There at the edge of the rocks, still in its curl, was the rattleback to work. snake. It had died like that, ready to strike at the approaching Sometimes I find myself thinking about that hawk quite heat of the fire, and the superheated air that it must have inoften when I see another high on the wind. I wonder about haled had killed it without burning its skin or even scorching that hawk’s purpose, but mostly I just wonder. its face or rattles. Before joining my crew in the safety of the Sometimes, the stories you remember do not concern the fire’s interior—for the safest place near a moving fire is befire itself, but something peripheral—a lunar eclipse during hind the flames—I stood and looked down on the snake. The night shift on the line, a naked backpacker hiking innocently irony was not lost on me, the fire that had killed it, leaving it toward a fire, or a man attempting to prove the theory of in cast of its former self, had become my refuge. migration from the Bering Sea to That same year in the Riverthe United States found wanderof-No-Return Wilderness Area ing incoherent and near-death in in Idaho, I watched a hawk dive a tussock field. I remember beinto the growling maw of a fire. ing shot at on a fire—by the fire. Once again I was a sawyer and The fire was burning on an old out front of the line diggers, cutNo explanation gunnery range from World War ting the aerial line through which II near Fort Wainwright. We they would construct the fireline. had gone indirect on the fire, I stopped once for a drink of wacan provide a reason putting our line a good distance ter while refueling my Stihl and from the fire, which necessitates saw the hawk high on the vectors a nice burnout once we had tied of wind that eddied above us. I beyond the syncretic our line in with a dirt road. The watched, thinking how wonderfire was running toward us but ful a sight it had and how fun we had time to make our burna ride that hawk was experiencmoment of beauty out hot, so I was jackpotting the ing with those uncertain winds. burn, burning concentric circles Then it began to do something to create a small fire with good that surprised me. It began to fly and violence. heat to pull our burnout toward in wide circles, half in the fire’s it and, correspondingly, toward smoke and then half in the clear. the fire. It did this four or five times beYou go back to work. I lit off a few spots before fore rising at a steep angle away walking back to where the other from the fire and then turning. burners were setting off strips For a moment it hovered, wings parallel to the road. As I was adjusting as the winds changed, talking with the lead burner, telland then, flatbacked and spread ing him how I wanted the fire set, winged, it dove into the fire’s colI heard a pop. Another pop. Another pop. Marty and I umn as though diving for a field mouse. looked at each other. Both of us had hunted, and both of us What do you do? You stand there in anticipation of seeknew the sound of a bullet being shot. Another pop, and this ing that hawk rise again, but you never think that it would time I swear I heard a zing pass nearby and saw a limb move have intentionally dived into the fire. Suicide is not someon the bush next to me. thing you expect from an animal, and you attempt explanaYou expect a fire to do unusual things, make runs in ditions. The smoke had confused it or it was diving after insects rections you did not expect or even to stop burning suddenly and, in its final sortie into the smoke had gone too far, the and, apparently, by its own volition. You expect a fire to burn heat too much for it. The problem is, all you saw was the quick and menacingly at times and at times you think the fire hawk in concerted movement. You are left, in the end, with 58


has a mind to kill you. That is, after all, one of the reasons you fight fire—that possibility. You don’t, however, expect a fire to shoot bullets at you. Other memories are neither so sublime nor so strange. Another fire in Idaho, nearly ten years following the time I watched the hawk but in the same wilderness area (in fact, fire camp was established in the same field). This was actually a complex of fires, so we hopped around by helicopter quite a bit, a day on this fire and a morning on that fire followed by an evening and night on another. We helicoptered to a ridgetop helispot barely large enough for the wheels of the Army Blackhawk. As we approached, the pilot radioed that we had a “hot LZ,” which, coming from an Army pilot can be disconcerting and especially since I had been shot at by that one fire. The fire was making runs up the ridge, and as we approached our rotor wash flared the fire like a giant bellows. Finally we landed and dug all night and day and the next night and into the following day. Low on food and water we called in to find that supplies were being packed in by horse train. It was, after all, a wilderness area, and the Forest Service wanted to proceed with a light hand on the land. The second day edged into the late afternoon, however, and we were anxious for supplies, water especially, so five of us walked back along the trail the pack train would come on. As I turned a curve in the trail, I saw a woman sitting above the trail eating chocolate Hostess donuts from a box. She was a woman of size, but it was her face and especially the hollowness of her eyes that caught my attention. She recognized us from our nomex clothes and she pointed, saying not a word. I looked. Some three hundred feet down at the bottom of the cliff was a white horse, quite obviously dead. A hundred feet down, legs up and askew, lay another horse, and two horses stood with uncertainty on a bench about twenty feet below us. One thing about pack trains. Each horse follows the horse in front of it, both from training as well as coffling, a rope from bridle to pack. That is why when that train’s lead horse missed a turn or took a misstep at a curve and tumbled down the cliff, the horses following it did the same. A domino effect in reverse of pack-laden horses falling off the side of the earth. Some events are so tragic that you wonder if they actually happened or if you are making them up. This is one of those events, and, yes, this happened. From several feet above the bench on which the two living horses stood, I and another man whispered to them, their

eyes wide and ears back. The contents of their packs had been tossed around in the tumble or was mulched under their feet or was barely caught in the packs which had slid from their backs almost to their sides. Their hides were dirty and scratches traversed their faces and necks. After a while, and while the others who had come with me had carted as many boxes of sandwiches and containers of water as they could to the trail, the two of us walked to the two horses. Their eyes followed us but neither flinched when we stroked their facial crests and took their bits to lead them back to the trail. Then it was time to see to the roan a hundred feet below us. It had tumbled several times, cartwheeling, as the woman later told me, until it landed on the stob of a fallen tree trunk, impaled. The horse had come down with such force that the stob pierced the saddle and blanket and caught the horse as a lance might catch a soldier. The horse remained pinned on its back until its life drained from it, and the tree trunk and ground below were red from blood and smelled of copper and shit as we uncinched the saddle. We could not leave the horse as it was, and it took the five of us the better part of an hour working to move the 1200-pound animal from the stob, finally working it to the point that the stob broke and the horse tumbled into the undergrowth. Back on the trail I sat next to the woman while I ate a smashed ham-and-cheese sandwich. She had not said a word while we had worked, sitting above us like a mute stylite looking down from its perch. She sat with her body rocking slowly and her fingers playing one against the others. Eventually, she turned to me with liquid eyes and wet trails through the dirt on her face, and she said, “You want to know the worst?” I nodded, uncertain that I really did. “The worst,” she said, “was being up here and having to listen to them cry all night long.” She paused in her rocking and said, “That was the worst.” I know, however, that the worst is what she continues to hear even now some two decades following that night. I know that because I still hear the cries of a man over the radio as a fire in California burned over him and he lost his mind before he died in its superheated air and flames. Neither of those are good stories to share around a beer or to tell my daughter, but they are among the fire stories that I remember most often. I am lucky, though, that my daughter will occasionally still ask me to tell her a story, and I can tell her, as someday I will tell her children, the story about the squirrel in the ash or the kit red foxes I shared a lunch with near Bristol Bay or the mouse that bit me while I mopped up in the Black Hills. Those are good stories. 59


Š L.M. Browning


Contributor Biographies Daniel Becker is a biologist and editor based in Athens, GA. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Georgia, where he researches the ecology of infectious disease. In his writing life, he draws on developments in ecology and epidemiology, tangible experiences with wildlife, the practice of ethnography, and sights under the microscope. He admires literary-science types such as Italo Calvino, Lewis Thomas, Annie Dillard, and Miroslav Holub, and is a fan of the science essay and short story. He practices macrophotography and blogs occasionally at http://fieldnotesbiologyculture.tumblr. com/ Jenny Clendenen Walicek became intensely aware of her connection to nature while growing up (and reading Victorian novels) on an old apple farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. That awareness has always informed her spirit and writing. Her poetry and essays have appeared on Gadling.com and in Porter Gulch Review, Reed Magazine and other journals, and her literary scholarship has been published in Studies in Philology. Jenny has a BA in English literature and is in the MFA program at San Jose State University. Please visit her website at www.JennyWalicek.com. Gwendolyn Morgan not only learned the names of birds, plants and wildflowers but also inherited paint brushes and boxes from her grandmothers. With a MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College, and a MDiv from San Francisco Theological Seminary, she has been a recipient of writing residencies at Artsmith, Caldera and Soapstone. She has poetry published in: Calyx, Dakotah, Kalliope, Kinesis, Manzanita Quarterly, Tributaries: A Journal of Nature Writing, as well as anthologies and other literary journals. She currently serves as the manager of interfaith Spiritual Care at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center. Gwen and Judy, her partner, share their home with Abbey Skye, a rescued Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Michael Salcman, poet, physician and art historian, served as chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Maryland and president of the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore. Recent poems appear in Alaska Quarterly Review, Hopkins Review, New Letters, Notre Dame Review, Ontario Review, and New York Quarterly. His work has been selected for Verse Daily, Poetry Daily and has received six nominations for a Pushcart Prize. He is the author of two collections: The Clock Made of Confetti (Orchises), nominated for The Poet’s Prize, and The Enemy of Good Is Better (Orchises, 2011). His anthology of classic and contemporary poems on doctors and diseases is forthcoming. He and his wife are dedicated sailors on Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

Treasa Ní Chonchobhair a student of bioregionalism and filidecht, is the current Uachtarán (President) of Gaol Naofa, an organization committed to the practice and further advancement of their Gaelic Polytheist Lifeway and the preservation and protection of the Gaelic cultural continuum as a whole. Through her work in Gaol Naofa, Treasa is dedicated to preserving the earth-based cultural traditions that survive, and, through careful scholarship and collaboration, reconstructing the ways that have been fragmented or fallen into disuse. She resides in the rural Southeast USA and also holds a council seat with CAORANN: Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism. Greg Graham teaches writing at the University of Central Arkansas, sneaking away as often as possible to the nearby Ozark Mountains (north) or Ouachita Mountains (west). Seeking to promote a transformational literacy, Greg frees his students to write stories in their distinct vernacular about the people and places to which they are most deeply connected. He also cultivates a culture of single-tasking in his classroom, calling his students to the meditative pause as they learn to form their thoughts into cogent words. Writing mostly about teaching pedagogy, Greg’s work has been published in Education Week, Quills and Pixels, and on PBS’s MediaShift. He is co-author of a forthcoming book Literacy Narratives that Speak to Us: Curated Exhibits from the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives. Visit his website at http://gxgraham.wordpress.com/. Maureen Eppstein has two poetry collection: Rogue Wave at Glass Beach (2009) and Quickening (2007), both from March Street Press. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is executive director of the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference and has taught poetry workshops at College of the Redwoods Mendocino Campus. Her other interests include gardening and observing the wildlife around her home on the Mendocino Coast. Mark Petrie has published poetry in Booth, mojo, and IthicaLit. He is the winner of the 2012 Academy of American Poets/ Andrea Saunders Gereighty Poetry Award. He recieved his BA from Arizona State University, and his MA from the University of New Orleans. He currently resides in New Orleans with his partner, Bethany, and their two cats, Theotormon and Desdemona. Michael Shorb is a San Francisco based poet whose work reflects an abiding interest in environmental issues, history, and the lyrical form. His poems have appeared in over 100 magazines and anthologies, including The Nation, The Sun, Michigan Quarterly Review, Queen’s Quarterly, Poetry Salzburg Review, Commonweal, Rattle, Urthona, Underground Voices, The Great American Poetry Show and European Judaism. His collection, Whale Walkers Morning, will appear in Winter 2013 from Shabda Press.


Wally Swist’s forthcoming book, Huang Po and the Dimensions of Love, was selected by Yusef Komunyakaa as a co-winner in the Crab Orchard Series Open Poetry Competition, and will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in August 2012. An audiobook of 65 of his poems, Open Meadow: Odes to Nature, was released by Berkshire Media Arts in April 2012. His previous book, Luminous Dream, was selected as a finalist in the 2010 FutureCycle Poetry Book Award. The Friendship of Two New England Poets: Robert Frost and Robert Francis, a scholarly monograph, was published by The Edwin Mellen Press in 2009. His new book, Winding Paths Worn through Grass, will be published by Visual Artists Collective, of Chicago, Illinois, in early 2013. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Lowell Uda has taught English at the U. of Hawaii and the U. of Montana, and worked in Montana state government. After that, he became a United Methodist minister, pastoring churches in Colorado and Montana. His short story, The Cherry Tree, won first prize in the 2011 Common Review Short Story Prize contest. Stories and poems of his have appeared in literary and other magazines, including in The North American Review, Hawaii Review, TransPacific, and more recently in Assisi (forthcoming), 5x5, In Our Own Voice, Divide: Journal of Literature, Arts and Ideas, Poems Across the Big Sky, Moonrabbit Review, and The Other Side. He is presently at work on a memoir. Sonya Sergeyevna Deulina was born in Moscow, Russia. She immigrated to North Carolina with her family in 1994, when she was five years old, to flee religious discrimination. She earned her bachelor’s in psychology and English with a concentration in creative writing from North Carolina State University in 2012. Recently her pursuits in poetry have extended to engaging adults with mental illness in the art of creative writing and teaching a creative writing workshop through the North Carolina Art Therapy Institute. She is attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the fall to earn her masters in social work. For Sonya, nature has meant not only respite through hard times, but has been a constant source of inspiration and enlightenment poetically, spiritually and holistically. Daniel Robinson fought wildfires for 14 years—12 on hot shot crews and 2 as the Crew Supervisor of the Pike Hot Shots; he fought fire in 11 states and 2 Canadian provinces. His essay Fire Scenes featured in Written River comes from the experiences he had on fires as does his first novel, After the Fire [Lyons Press 2003.] In 2009 Daniel won the Clay Reynolds Novella Award for The Shadow of Violence, which was published by Texas Review Press in 2010. He is a graduate of the writing program at the University of Denver. He presently lives in Fort Collins, CO. Greg Hlavaty lives in Elon, NC where he teaches at Elon University. His essays have also appeared in Arts and Letters, Yale Anglers’ Journal, and Barrelhouse.

J.K. McDowell is an artist, poet and mystic, an Ohioan expat living in Cajun country. Always immersed in poetry, raised in Buckeye country by a mother who told of Sam I Am, Danny Deaver and Annabel Lee and a father who quoted Shakespeare and Omar Khayyam. In the last decade a deepened study of poetry and shamanism and nature has inspired a regular practice of writing poetry that blossomed into the works presented in this collection. Lately, mixing Lorca and Lovecraft, McDowell lives twenty miles north of the Gulf Coast with his soul mate who also happens to be his wife and their two beautiful companion parrots. Nina Pick is a 28-year-old writer, teacher, and translator from rural Western Massachusetts. She studied Comparative Literature as an undergraduate at NYU and a graduate student at UC Berkeley, where she studied with Lyn Hejinian and Robert Alter and read in the prestigious Holloway Poetry Series. In June she will finish a second masters degree, in Jungian-oriented Counseling Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute, for which she recently completed a creative thesis on intimacy and place. Her poetry is shaped by my Zen meditation practice, long walks in the woods, authors such as Annie Dillard and Anne Carson, and my interest in myth and spiritual eco­ logy. Jenny Ward Angyal lives on a small organic farm in Gibsonville, NC, with her husband and one Abyssinian cat. She grew up wandering woods and fields in Connecticut and wrote her first poem at the age of five. After attending a one-room schoolhouse, she spent a number of years studying and writing about biology, and a number more teaching nonverbal children how to communicate. Now retired and braiding up the strands of her life, she can give more time to trying to communicate through poetry and to exploring the relationships between poetry and science, between psyche and Gaia. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of print and online journals including Anatomy & Etymology, Atlas Poetica, Avocet, Earthspeak, The Ghazal Page, Lynx, Magnapoets, Moonbathing, Multiverses, Pinesong, Ribbons, Tanka Splendor, and Written River. Jamie K. Reaser has a deep fond­ness for the wild, inti­mate, and unname­able. Her writing explores themes related to Nature and human nature in this magical, yet challenging, time of the Great Turning. She is the editor of the Courting the Wild Series, as well as the author of Huntley Meadows: A Naturalist’s Journal in Verse and Note to Self: Poems for Changing the World from the Inside Out. Jamie is a Fellow of the International League of Conservation Writers. She makes her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Basically a transient, Carol Shillibeer currently lives in Vancouver, BC. She writes, reads, blogs, thinks and works when necessary. She has been published in Other Voices, The Malahat Review, Foliate Oak, Room, Ditch Poetry and Poetry Repairs (forthcoming).


Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a 16 year old internationally award winning photographer and artist who has won first places with National Geographic,The World Photography Organisation, Nature’s Best Photography, Papworth Trust, Mencap, The Woodland Trust and Postal Heritage. Her photography has been published in the Telegraph, The Guardian, BBC News Website and on the cover of books and magazines in the United States and Canada. Her art is globally exhibited , having shown work in London, Paris, Indonesia, Los Angeles,Florida, Washington, Scotland,Wales, Ireland,Canada,Spain,Germany, Japan, Australia and The Environmental Photographer of the year Exhibition (2011) amongst many other locations. She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run “See The Bigger Picture” global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010. James Liter is a photographer, poet, and philosopher residing in the Great Lakes region of the United States. He is currently pursuing a degree in interdisciplinary human sciences with a research emphasis on the intersection of Jungian psychology, philosophy, and mytho-religious traditions. A deep concern for nature and the human condition has led to his current work on immanence and symbolic form as origins, aspects, and functions of human relationships to self, the other, and the sacred. His previous publications include the collection of poetry A Language We Once Knew, published by Hiraeth Press in 2007, and the photography for Jason Kirkey’s Estuaries. T. Parker Sanborn is a chemist by formal training, but more optimistically described as a self-taught photographer and an emerging writer. With the natural world, human psychology and the soul, and relationships as sources of his written explorations, he has had an interest in creative writing for more than 10 years. Both the Main Street Rag and the Iodine Poetry Journal in Charlotte, NC have published works in recent issues. Whether with pen or lens, he hopes to share unusual perspectives or capture a subject at its most basic level. Arne Witt, PhD, is the Invasive Species Coordinator for CABI Africa. He grew up in South Africa, but currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya. He has considerable knowledge of the challenges posed by invasive plants to biodiversity and human livelihoods, and feels strongly that more needs to be done to manage them, especially in Africa, where they pose a massive threat to native plants and animals, food security, economic development and human health. Arne's passion for nature conservation and sustainable development has enabled him to travel extensively, but the African savannah is where he is most at home. Jamie K. Reaser's poem - "The African Elephant" - was inspired by this photograph of a 'big tusker' taken by Arne.

Editoral Team Jason Kirkey is an author, poet, and the founder of Hiraeth Press. He grew up in the Ipswich River-​​North Atlantic Coast water­ shed of Massachusetts. Inspired by the land­ scapes in which he has lived — the tem­perate forests and old moun­tains of New England, the red rocks and high desert of Colorado, Irish hills and sea — his work is per­me­ated with an eco­log­ical sen­si­bility. Whether poetry or prose, Jason’s words strive toward con­so­nance with the ecosystem. He has written four vol­umes of poetry, including Estuaries and a non­fic­tion book, The Salmon in the Spring: The Ecology of Celtic Spirituality. Jason is now working on his second non­fic­tion book and a grad­uate degree in con­ser­va­tion ecology. He lives in the Piedmont of North Carolina. L.M. Browning grew up in a small fishing village in Connecticut. A longtime student of religion, nature and philosophy these themes permeate her work. Browning is a award-winning author and wildlife artist. In 2010 she wrote a Pushcart Prize nominated contemplative poetry series: Oak Wise: Poetry Exploring an Ecological Faith, Ruminations at Twilight: Poetry Exploring the Sacred and The Barren Plain: Poetry Exploring the Reality of the Modern Wasteland. In late 2011 she celebrated the release of her first full-length novel: The Nameless Man, which was coauthored by Marianne Browning. Browning is a Fellow with the League of Conservationist Writers. She is partner at Hiraeth Press. She is an Associate Editor of the bi-annual e-publication, Written River as well as Founder and Executive Editor of The Wayfarer: A Journal of Contemplative Literature. In 2011 Browning opened Homebound Publications—an independent publisher of contemplative literature based in New England. J. Kay MacCormack is the editor for Hiraeth Press’ semi-​​annual pub­li­ca­tion: Written River: A Journal of Eco-​​Poetics. Besides editing and writing, she studies and researches emo­tion in the dis­ci­plines of psy­chology and anthro­pology. Previously, she lived for four years in North Wales, UK, where she studied Welsh lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture before returning to make her home in the Neuse River basin of North Carolina. She dis­cov­ ered written lan­guage at the age of three and has been writing ever since, merging her love of people, places and psy­chology together in the form of poetry and prose. A biore­gion­alist, Ms. MacCormack’s main artistic inter­ests center around the human-​​place rela­tion­ship.

© 2012 Hiraeth Press, All Rights Reserved. All rights to all original artwork, photography and written works belongs to the respective owners as stated in the attributions. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system or transmitted in any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and publisher. Except for brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.


Š T. Parker Sanborn


Poetry is the language of the Earth—not just poems but the slow flap of a heron’s wings across the sky, the lightning of its beak hunting in the shallow water; autumn leaves and the smooth course of water over stones and gravel. These, as much as poems, communicate the being and meaning of things. Our publications are all poetry, whether they are poems or nonfiction, and reflect the ideal that falling in love with the Earth is nothing short of revolutionary and that through our relationship to wild nature we can birth a more enlightened vision of life for the future. We are passionate about poetry as a means of returning the human voice to the polyphonic chorus of the wild.

Written River Copyright © 2012 Hiraeth Press All poems, photographs, and essays copyrighted by their respective authors. Front cover photo © James Liter Back cover photo © Eleanor Leonne Bennett

© Eleanor Leonne Bennett

www.hiraethpress.com


Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics Vol. 3 Issue 1