Wednesday, June 26, 2013

May's Siren Song....Resistance is Futile!

[This is reaching the list well after I began writing it in early May. Life got a bit busy and Earth Pilgrim was relegated to the back seat for a while :-) So here is my annual Spring tribute published a few days after Summer Solstice! The two photos may be viewed in larger size by clicking on them. Please enjoy...]

Early May, 2013 in New York's Southern Tier:

She's at it again...Gaia, aka Mother Earth. Sweet seductress, she's been busy here these past two weeks or so luring us out-of-doors with her fabulous Spring regalia and blue-skied balmy days. This year our patience felt all the more stretched with Winter's chill and even snow flurries lingering into early April. But then at last, a mild night, and the Spring peepers burst into their annual welcoming chorus, their sweet soprano-jingling drifting up from the River's marshy edges to me leaning out my bedroom window peering into the velvet dusk. My willing re-enchantment beginning once more...

Every Spring I am smitten by the delicate Beauty of the wooded hills coming alive again and never tire of beholding this magical, ethereal transformation. My winter-dulled senses feast on the richness of color, sound, and scent spilling onto the landscape. This year is no different...possibly even more so. The maples put on the gauzy red veils of their exquisite, tiny blossoms. The other hardwoods offer a fabulous array of pastel greens and shimmering golds. Robert Frost's line always comes to mind, "Nature's first green is gold." This photo taken a few days ago of a hillside near Masonville will give some idea of what this is. Overnight as it often seems, the willows are suddenly flaunting their neon yellow-green streamers, soon to be rivaled in brilliance by the forsythia's eye-popping yellow-gold.  
Then for us this Spring of 2013, a sumptuous bonus of two weekends in a row with bright sun and cloudless skies, temps rising into the 60s and low 70s. Sandals, shorts, and sleeveless shirts were hastily dug out of storage. Wherever I went people smiled giddily at each other, all of us blissed-out by the sun's returned warmth on our bare skin and the fabulous pleasure of color returning everywhere about us in Spring flowers and gem-green lawns. It may or may not be so, but the daffodils and tulips have seemed particularly radiant this year. 

Out for a walk today I am close to mesmerized by trees spangled with their miniature new leaves winking and glistening in the bright Sun. And I am no less in awe this Spring by the countless shades of green lavished across the landscape, at times close to dizzy with such extravagance.

Yesterday's rain conjured a heady perfume from the warming earth, its life-force stirring from deep down. The woods behind Dragonfly Cottage grows busier and pleasantly noisier each day with welcome arrivals of the returning "regulars", the robins, song sparrows, grackles, and hopefully soon, my favorites, the saucy cat birds and the shy wood thrushes. It is the haunting notes of the thrush that will complete the spell to which I so happily submit myself. And the first dandelions are already offering their fuzz-ball seedheads, poised to release their countless wishes to the next breeze. 

The Earth falls slowly towards the full and golden light of Solstice some six weeks away. Nothing more to do but surrender to May's siren song yet again. Ah-h-h, Yes! 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Earth Healers & Heroes: Jill Robinson and Animals Asia

Andrew, first rescued bear
Twenty years ago, Jill Robinson, a young British woman working for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, made an unplanned visit to a bear bile farm in southern China. Without permission she ventured down into the basement where the bears were being kept captive. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, a horror scene emerged...cage after cage crammed with pitiful bears unable to stand or turn around. Some were swaying their heads, some were vocalizing – pop, pop, pop – indicating severe stress. When one of the bears reached out through the cage bars, Jill instinctively reached out too, taking the huge paw in her hands. At that moment she knew she had a choice, and she chose to act. Jill vowed to do all she could to end the horrific bear bile industry.

Bear bile has long been used in traditional Chinese and Asian medicine. It is extracted from captive bears using various painful, invasive techniques, all of which cause massive infection in the bears. The majority of these animals are the beautiful Asiatic black bear affectionately called Moon Bears because of the pale lemon-yellow crescent on their chests. Most farmed bears are kept in tiny cages. Sometimes the cages are so small that the bears are unable to turn around or stand on all fours. Some bears are put into cages as cubs and never released. And they may be kept caged like this for up to 30 years. Most farmed bears are starved, dehydrated and suffer from multiple diseases and malignant tumors that ultimately kill them.   

From that April day in 1993 Jill embarked on the mission of ending this cruel industry. What she has accomplished in twenty years is nothing short of spectacular. In 1995, through her work with the IFAW, China's first bear rescue center was opened and received the first nine bears from a bear farm in Huizhou, southern China. The farm was subsequently closed down. IFAW continues to operate this center.

It was with Jill's founding of Animals Asia in 1998 that her herculean efforts slowly began to make inroads into the system. Within a year they'd persuaded Chinese authorities to investigate 11 bear farms in Sichuan Province. In 2000 a landmark agreement was signed with the Chinese government to build a bear sanctuary and construction began on the China Bear Rescue Center in Chengdu. Before year's end, the first 60 bears arrived to begin their new lives including the handsome Moon Bear, Andrew, whose picture graces this post. By 2007 a second center opened in Northern Vietnam at Tam Dao. In April of this year the 400th bear came into Animals Asia's care, compassionately surrendered by the farmer who'd held her for eight years. While she was no longer milked for her bile and was loved as their pet, the family wanted her to have a better more natural life.

Tam Dao's director, Tuan Bendixsen, said of this, “The rescue of this bear is a reflection of changing attitudes not just to the farming of bears for their bile but of animal welfare in general. The farmer has put the welfare of the animal above personal gain - the bear had gone from being a source of income to a pet and part of the family."

Animal Asia's work goes beyond rescuing and rehabilitating the bears. A major goal is to reduce the demand for bear bile through inspired campaigns of public education and raising awareness about the bears' plight. This extends far beyond Asia and is gaining more and more international recognition. It touched my life in 2009 when I became involved with the Moon Bears Project, and came to know one small female bear named Clara, rescued with eighteen other Moon Bears outside of Saigon. She will be the subject of a follow-up post.

There is also unceasing work to change government policies in China and Vietnam to positively affect the regulation of captive bear farming and to bring about its eventual end. It has been made illegal in more and more provinces in China and in 2002 was outlawed in all of Vietnam. But with profits still to be made, loopholes have been found by those who seek to exploit the bears. And limited governmental resources to enforce regulations mean too many bears are still suffering in those terrible cages.

So much has been much remains to be done.
The Animals Asia website is a trove of information which is both painful to view but is also incredibly joyful and up-lifting. Jill writes a wonderful blog that I particularly recommend. A lively Facebook page is also serving to spread the word about this wonderful organization and the continuing efforts of a passionate and dedicated Earth Healer, Jill Robinson. be continued....


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Imagine The Shift: "Going to Water" - On the 20th Anniversary of World Water Day

Friday, March 22, 2013

[Thank you to friend and sister Earth-lover, Dawn Kirk,
for permission to share her blog here at Earth Pilgrim.
You'll find a link to her blog at the end.]

(Going to the Water in Cherokee)
A recent summer while in the Smoky Mountains and Cherokee, NC, I learned of the Cherokee ritual of "going to water." 

Early each morning the Cherokee would wade out waist deep into the river where they would throw water over their head and ask that any thoughts or feelings that hindered them from being closer to God be taken away.  (Note: Their God was not a caucasian, white-haired elder fellow casting people into hell from his heavenly throne. Nor was "He" to my knowledge used legislatively to administer or sway political POV's and policies.)  They would also ask that thoughts or feelings hindering them from being closer to all their brothers and sisters on earth, and the animals of earth be also taken. (from Living Stories of the Cherokee by Freeman Owle.)

What does your 'going to water' involve?

Mine revolves around showering, flushing, brushing (my teeeth), perking and washing but not cleansing or forgiving in the Cherokee way.  Are your associations similar?  These aspects of going to the water have more to do with one's exterior than interior, don't they?

There are times when instead of going to the water the water comes to us as happened to Nashville and many TN communities during the flood of 2010.  This was followed by the tsunami in Japan, flooding in New England, along the Mississippi then Russia where 100 were killed in a flood and more recently in the Northeast with  Hurricane Sandy

Then there are times when the water doesn't come at all as has been evidenced more recently through drought resulting in loss of crops and livestock.  Even wildlife suffers in ways I was not aware.  Last summer while taking a baby raccoon to Walden's Puddle, the local wildlife rehab sanctuary, a woman arrived with a frail fawn in her arms.  She had found this lifeless animal immobile in the middle of the road.  The technician said this was an increasing problem with the drought. She quickly determined it was dehydrated and took it away to administer an IV. 

Ironically there is a relational beauty resulting from flooding and drought that allows for a cleansing of sorts.  People typically separated by differences reach out to help one another.  Those who value animals are keenly tuned in to the needs of wildlife and pets in flood and drought conditions.  These events in nature prompt a sudden removal of the things that hinder us from being closer to our human brothers and sisters. 

My other association with " going to the water" entails a spring in the country where I've previously filled containers for drinking water.  The last time I was there I found the owner of the property just above the spring had cut most of the trees above where the road plateaus to land that looks out for miles. 

My distress was so great I avoided going to the personal waters of my heart that were stirred by the scene of dozens of trees whose lives are now evidenced by stumps. 

I spring water to mix with sacred water from England's Glastonbury Well, a gift from my sister-friend Carol in NY.  With the drought at the time, I was uncertain the spring would be flowing.  To my relief, a steady stream poured from the pipe.  To my dismay not only were the trees cut, but a bag of trash had been tossed down the incline by the small parking area.  The contents of the bag were scattered about likely by a raccoon or squirrel.  By the bench at the spring lay a plastic Hooter's to-go bag alongside two cigarette butts.

This prompted the appearance of trash from inside the fountain that's me.  Yes, my inner-personal trash was energetically thrown out onto whoever had thrown trash into the woods.  I truly didn't think people still did that kind of thing.  Then I energetically 'trashed' the Hooter's patron and all those who create businesses that objectify women regardless of how "good" the food tastes. (Did the designer of the Hooter's logo, an owl, know the owl is symbolic of the Divine Feminine?  There's a story.)

I found relief in imagining the Hooter's patron having dinner by the spring rather than in the restaurant.  As for the bag of trash in the woods, I envisioned it being thrown out by a teenager trying to avoid trouble because he or she had forgotten to take it to the nearby county garbage site as a parent possibly asked.  Maybe Earth became the receptacle so these individuals could avoid being the receptacle of scolding.

Ironically I left the Spring happy.  Being there washed my negative thoughts away - until we drove home a different way.  The Cumberland Plateau like much of Tennessee is blessed with springs.  On this particular day, the abundant water sources visible as we drove reminded me of hydraulic fracturing called fracking, the questionable process used by gas companies to extract natural gas from earth. Tennessee seems open game for those with fracking interests.  As recently as this past week, a controversial plan was approved for the University of TN to lease nearly 9,000 acres of university owned land in the Cumberland Forrest. The land leased to an energy company would be fracked in order to research the effects of fracking.   

These are the days in which CEO's, politicians and those with overt power are literally 'going to water' for great monetary profit thanks to greed, negligence and power.  Simultaneously they and their hired hands, lobbyists, go to the airwaves to stir dissension and increase the division between the common people. They emphasize they're creating jobs and increasing our energy self-sufficiency while denying the potential short and long-term effects associated with the chemical cocktail used in the fracking process.  These chemicals may create toxicity in our waters leading to increased disease not to mention the harm done to the ecological system. 

Most people today I suspect have forgotten or not heard of "Erin Brockovich" the movie based on a real life situation in which a  corporation is negligent in acknowledging their toxic and deadly impact on a town's drinking water until a tenacious, tough woman, the movie's namesake, begins to research the company and the community members health issues resulting in their winning a large settlement from Pacific Gas & Electric. 

I found myself wondering what the Cherokee would have to say about fracking.  The Navaho and Hopi have battled companies for years regarding the mining practices contaminating the underground aquifer from which they get their water.

What is the path to right relationship with those who litter the spring in the country and roadsides as well as those who sell Nature with seeming disregard for health and long-term welfare of the planet and people?  Does the wisest path lie in the Cherokee story?  

This path suggests I always start with clearing the fountain within, forgiving those I judge and asking that they forgive me my judgment.  It involves "going" to the personal waters of my heart and staying with the things that stir me rather than ignoring or avoiding these things.  This means allowing my personal waters to flow and be felt whether in sorrow or joy. 

The worst thing I can do is allow the fountain in me to become clogged or "trashed" with judgment, resistance, fear, rigidity, pessimism, grudges, despair, a sense of threat or hatred.  This distances me from the personal waters of Me and from my fellow man. 

What if the waters of our world are healed as we honor the waters of our hearts, the tears of joy as well as sorrow wanting to flow and be felt?

The implications of  'going to the water' are stunning. Can you imagine the difference made if each of us practiced "going to the water" every morning. Imagine the resulting shift in our nations capital, our state capitals and our communities?   Imagine the changes that would occur in broader energy company policy if we first consciously tended the energy company each of us personally holds? We are the CEO's in charge of how our mind, heart and will's personal energy is spent?

I was about to write, "There are no easy answers."  Yet something tells me if we each practiced 'going to the water" as the traditional Cherokee did the answers would come, the shifts would flow and our world would see great change. 

What better time than this, the 20th Anniversary of World Water Day, to begin 'going to the water' each morning as you shower or bathe, to ask that all that comes between you and God as well as life on Earth be cleansed and washed away. 

I commit. Do you? 
-Dawn, The Good News Muse, 22 March 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Rising and Dancing....Dancing...

~Courage~  Mano Mannaz

    Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, author of Women Who Run with the Wolves, calls us, The Scar Clan. With the greatest of thanks and respect to her and all she's done for women, I'm borrowing her phrase to honor those who are bringing their stories to gatherings tomorrow all over the world on Valentine's Day 2013 to be a part of One Billion Rising. An equally out-sized thank you to Eve Ensler for the inspiration of this day, now in its 15th and biggest year. You who gave us The Vagina Monologues and whose stories, like those of Dr. Estes, bring healing and empowerment to women of The Scar Clan, those survivors of violence who seek to emerge from their wounds and scars and join together to dance, to dance, to Dance!!

    We....for I am one of the Clan, a date-rape survivor when there was no term for that experience....will gather and dance for ourselves and those everywhere around us who also survived. I think of Malala Yousafzai whose audacity to seek an education for herself and other Pakastani girls made her a target for men to hunt her down and shoot her as she sat in her school bus. I think of those women I know personally (how I wish I knew fewer) who suffered their own ordeals as children and adults and whose bravery and insistence on healing and whole-ing makes me both cheer and weep at the same time.

     We will dance to honor those who did not survive their ordeals at the hands of their attackers. For Jyoti Singh Pandey  whose horrific attack in India shocked us awake, and whose father said of her, "My daughter didn't do anything wrong, she died while protecting herself. I am proud of her. Revealing her name will give courage to other women who have survived these attacks. They will find strength from my daughter."

   And we will Dance to raise power to break open people's hearts and minds, spurring us to action to move toward solutions and toward ending this ages-old scourge. And toward the day which is approaching when honoring one another and caring for one another and recognizing our shared humanity, our One Heart, will be everywhere the norm, will be how people conduct their daily lives. In no way is this unachievable. It begins with each one's commitment to be this change, to join this Dance regardless of whether or not you find a group to join tomorrow. We are all pilgrims together in this Earthly journey, and there is absolutely no reason not to shimmy into every day's dawn and to join hands with those who seek ours whether for solace or for toe-tapping celebration.

It is time to Begin...

Friday, January 25, 2013

Three-Dog Nights : January, 2013

Well, December 2012 slipped past bringing with it the end of the world...year.  My intention of capping off Earth Pilgrim's year with a thoughtful post proved to be so much wishful thinking. Not likely many readers of this blog, regular or occasional, took note, but I do feel a bit of a slacker anyway! Following its launch two years ago this month in a post titled, "Pushing Off from Shore", I find myself  reasonably pleased with what I've offered in words and photos along the way.

The second post of that January, "Standing at the Cave Door", featured reflections on the rugged winter underway in the Northeast in 2011 with shoveling out the bird feeders a frequent chore. But of course we all managed and spring and summer followed as the Wheel of the Year slowly carried us along.

By February of last year I was lamenting winter's tardy arrival and hoping for late season snows to cheer those of us who sincerely enjoy Mother Nature's winter offerings. One of my goals was to be able to make at least one snow angel. Such was not to be, and apart from the possible plus of lower heating bills, a real price paid was one of the worst flea and tick seasons I can remember! Angus-cat fortunately put up with the three flea baths I subjected him to.

2012 brought us other weather-weirdness, the most dramatic being Hurricane Sandy's devastating visit to the East Coast. My community which had endured terrible flooding a year earlier from back-to-back tropical storms, braced for Sandy's impact and felt hugely relieved to suffer mostly wind damage this time. The reality of climate change and its sobering impact is at last becoming a widely discussed topic. And that it merited pointed comment in President Obama's inaugural address this week makes me especially Hope-full.

This year has seen a marvelous turnaround when snow arrived early in December bringing us a perfectly beautiful white Christmas, very Currier & Ives. Nearly everyone I met spoke with the same enthusiasm of how much they were enjoying the snow. Driving challenges aside (that's just part of living here, most would tell you!), there's been a surge of snowman-making and great hope on my part for soon-to-be snow angels. Last week's thaw melted much of December's snow pack followed by this week's deep freeze of zero-degree nights. This brought to mind the old-time phrase of how many dogs to invite onto the bed to help keep you cozy on frigid winter nights. Three sounds like a lot to me, but one black cat has been quite welcome here.

A light snowfall is predicted for tonight just in time for the weekend's Full Moon. There is nothing quite as beautiful as snow glistening in a winter woods on a moon-bright night.

More seasonal-commentary to follow no doubt. Happy Winter, everyone!
And Happy 2013!!