Trees and Stars

(Drafted 3/19/19 but never finished or posted)

Watching the Moon become full. Two days to the Vernal Equinox and yet the storm clouds are moving in for a few days of rain. Will I miss the Super Moon again? Most of the stars are dimmed or invisible with the Full Moon’s approach. Tonight I went out and gazed into the night sky. Even Orion’s Belt is dimmer, barely there except there is a a bright star about 30 degrees away in the SW sky; I wish I knew what shines so bright, even as it’s dying for they say the twinkling stars are really what we see of their light as they die.

I am grateful for the moonlight cast over the snow, a vision I will always carry with me no matter where I am in this world. I wonder what it would look like to see our Sun and Moon from another vantage point on another planet?

A lone pine tree is a black silhouette and I wait for the snow to melt so that I can walk out to it and smell the bark. If it is a ponderosa pine its bark will smell like vanilla. If not, then maybe it is a Jeffrey Pine. The quaking aspen on our property, only a few, are still too buried in snow drifts for me to reach but I want to walk up and feel them, too. Aspen are interesting because they seem to belong to one clone, one root system. There is a vast network of aspen, the heaviest living organisms on Earth, located in Utah. It is called the Pando and is made up of thousands of aspen, all interconnected.

We are all interconnected in this world, whether we know or believe it. Trees communicate among themselves through networks of roots. They signal to others of their kind in various ways; sometimes it is through fungal filaments or roots. When harm is near, e.g., that caused by animals foraging on their leaves, they can send out a signal to others of their kind to generate more toxic chemicals in the leaves and thus make them unpalatable to the deer or insects eating them. There are “mother” trees, too, that nurture the young saplings growing nearby. And there are those downed logs called “nurse” tree stumps or logs. Their slow decay provides nutrients and living spaces for other creatures as well as the seeds that sprout up from the rich loam. We don’t think of trees as having consciousness like us. Perhaps it is a different form of awareness, not consciousness as we humans understand it, but nonetheless an awareness that is active and present at all times. The trees “know” how to protect themselves. They are connected in ways we don’t even begin to understand but are learning.

I recently read a fascinating book about the hidden life of trees, about their interconnectedness and active “knowing” of what is a danger to their survival. It’s left me thinking a lot about trees, the few trees that we have here on the property. I can’t wait for the drifts of snow to melt and finally make it possible for me to approach them in an effort to understand them. The quaking aspen and the conifers are all I have to study, but there are cottonwoods down the road and pinion pines I would need to hike to or climb through some barbed wire fences to reach.

When I was about 14 I wrote an essay in school about how I wanted to be a tree, if I had to be something other than human. I believed then that a tree would be a witness as well as a survivor. That is what I have become. My life history includes so much uprootedness and as young as I was then I longed for roots and a solid trunk to hold me in one place as the world changed around me. I believed in a tree that would outlast all assaults of weather and civilization. I wanted durability in the face of all circumstances of change.

Now we are almost in June, weeks away from the Summer Solstice. The snow took many months to melt, well into April. We experienced intermittent snowstorms and hailstorms throughout April and May. It has been very cold and stormy for May. Today I saw a magnificently dramatic skyscape of all kinds and colors. Some clouds were white as the snow recently deposited on the nearby mountain ridges behind us. Other white clouds were suffused with light from behind them that made their borders gleam like silver. There were huge billowing white cumulus clouds and dark grey densities harboring hard rain. These different clouds hung in the sky in layers that were vertically three-dimensional. I drove into a sudden, quick downpour that I would call a “gully washer” if I still lived on the plains of the midwest. All this rain has greened the valley and ranges. The fire-charred slopes from last October are now covered in tall spikes of grass, a contrast to the sad presence of burned shrubs and trees, so many burned black.

As for stars, I am disappointed that I have only caught one Full Moon in passing all these months since January. The clouds seem always to be here. Eventually, the storms will end and we will be in the heat of summer that will turn most of this green to brown. So much vegetation, though, is kindling for the fires we fear out here, those caused by lightning strikes, and we will hold our collective breaths in hope that the fires don’t come so close again. But there will be fires and as long as the weather is hot and dry, we will be on guard. The West has burned so much the past few years and now we wait for another fire season, hoping we are not choked and cloaked by smoke for weeks as we were last year, too. All this burning, all this heat, unprecedented aberrations of serial tornadoes and epic flooding is more than a “sign”: it is the reality of our planet’s power that we are all not invulnerable to a changing climate and the perils of over-population and imbalances created by humans who think we can control everything. Adaptation will also bring changes already underway but we don’t yet see the wholeness of complex systems on the verge of collapse, including our own.

I grieve for the accumulating deaths of whales and young sea lions along the coast of Northern California, the deaths of thousands of penguins in Antarctica, and yet another massive die-off of tufted puffins: these creatures have died from starvation because their ocean foods are either gone or have moved into different climates for survival. I grieve for the refugees, the human migrations of people desperate to survive yet starving, too, be it from weather catastrophes or, more often, the political catastrophes and wars created by mankind. I grieve the many trees now standing tall, thin and black on the slopes of Lamoille Canyon and the nearby Ruby Mountains. And this grief is with me always even when I strive for joy.

Yes, there are many cycles of life and death on this planet, and many signs of resilience and resurrection at times in the natural world. But, it is also true that extinction is greater than resilience or resurrection when the resources to sustain all that I have named have disappeared. The trees and stars have endured without us despite the damage we have caused and continue to cause. Always is not forever and our world is being altered in ways that I may not experience the full impact of with my remaining years, but what of my children and others? Will they have trees and stars or will life become unbearably reduced and impoverished beyond current comprehension or imagination so that survival has no room for the nuances of a natural world?

I am a witness to all that I see and value despite all that I see that is awful beyond this green valley and snow-capped ridges. I covet as much of the trees and stars that I can touch, smell, watch and witness, here where I live, because there will be a time when I don’t have these as close and I want to remember what trees and stars have told me. The trees and stars are where I send out my roots now.

NOTE: I edited the 3/19 content and then added in more today, 5/29/19; I don’t think there is too much difference in observations/wondering made several months ago and now.

Watch the Stars

Tonight I went out to watch the stars and Moon. We’ve had so much snowy weather since most of February that I never got a clear sky at night. Missed the Super Moons in January and February. There’s another, last one of the year, Super Moon coming next week, at the beginning of Spring. Out here in the high desert there is no light to interfere with sky watching and I was very much disappointed when unable to see the Super Moons, especially the Super Blood Moon. (There was a Super Blood Moon the day I received my stem cell transplant in late September of 2015. I believed it was a good omen.) But, tonight as the Moon waxes toward fullness, I am happy to go out and see what I can see of the stars and Moon.

Orion is always the most visible, even as the Moon’s light dims most of the stars.. There are other constellations I don’t know but I am always anchored into place when I find Orion’s Belt. Orion is my son’s middle name. By the time he was two years old he could see Orion’s Belt and knew it was connected to his name. When we named him many people didn’t know that Orion is a constellation. They thought it was only a movie production company! That was sad to me. We should know at least some of the easiest constellations.

Here there is still snow covering most of the landscape. It is still outside, quiet, and the Moon’s light reflects off the snow. It is beautiful and I am grateful for these moments when I can see the stars and Moon, the imposing snow-covered mountains, and to experience the silence of the land.

When I lived on the Big Island of Hawaii, I would go out at night and lay down in a hammock, after my children were asleep. It was a sad time, my marriage ending and the sorrows of divorce visited upon my children just beginning. I would lie in the hammock and be overwhelmed by the night skies where the Milky Way was a dense carpet of stars and so many other stars I could not name, all shining above me. These moments gave me peace in a sorrowful time. I felt dizzy with the depth and density of the stars overhead. I heard a story then about a boy who was camping with his parents on the beach. He was frightened by all the stars. And, I learned of another person here on the mainland, who said she was also frightened by the stars. I didn’t understand how the silent, faraway lights of stars could frighten. I still don’t but I know I am unhappy when I don’t get to watch the stars and see the Moon. New Moons are best for star watching, of course.

Even as a very young girl I wanted to learn the constellations. I wonder what drew/draws me to the stars? Is it the innate wisdom of our bodies remembering that we are made from stardust in the very beginning of Life on Earth? All the energy of the universe is in our creation as humans. And there are rocks and earth, the dust to which we return they say. I hold a rock in my hand and gaze into its density, wondering how long it’s been tumbling on this Earth? Longer than humans, I am certain. You hold time in your hands when you hold a rock.

There is a song, from years and years ago, that I halfway can remember the lyrics to and sing to the nighttime sky, to the stars and the Moon. Here are the lyrics and a link to the group singing it so long ago:

Watch The Stars

watch the stars see how they roam
watch the stars see how they roam
you know the stars roam down
at the setting of the sun
watch the stars see how they roam

watch the wind see how it blows
watch the wind see how it blows
you know the wind shall blows
when the sun goes down
watch the wind see how it blows

watch the moons see how it glows
watch the moons see how it glows
you know the moon is gonna glow
when when the sun goes down
watch the moons see how it glows

watch the star see how they roam
watch the star see how they roam
you know the star roam down
at the setting of the sun
watch the star see how they roam
see how they roam
see how they roam

Writer(s): Jacqui Mcshee, John Renbourn, Bert Jansch, Terry Cox, Danny Thompson

Album: Pentangle, Sweet Child (1968)

Whither the Weather?

My birthday was 11 days ago and it began snowing. It snowed for several days, winds howling and covering the landscape in a white blanket. Sagebrush was buried, and some of it is 3-4 feet high but looking out from the house I only saw white. The snow drifted into tall (or should I say deep) expanses so that I dared not try to walk on the front walkway and made a slender trail of sorts to get myself from the house to the chicken coop. The chickens didn’t leave their coop for the better part of a week and I resorted to bringing them “room service” and water to keep them going. The daytime temps were usually freezing or below, mostly below, and the nighttime was often single digits. I worried about the chickens.

When looking out at the snow drifted high and deep, burying almost every sagebrush shrub as well as our propane tank, I noted how the wind swept it. It was beautiful. Finally, earlier this week, the chickens felt safe enough to come out. I shoveled snow so that they could traverse their path from the coop to the underside of the porch deck where they usually forage for bugs and hide out. Had any of them jumped or fluttered into the snow, I suspect they would have frozen in place, unable to get out. Their coop is a mess and the winds have swept into every crevice and crack, scattering pine shavings that I had recently placed while cleaning their coop, before the storms.

We have been in the path of many storms for weeks now; it’s getting old. Yesterday, a warmer storm arrived with rain and then ice rain. The rain and warmer temps melted a lot of the snow and then the icy rain froze everything so that this morning it was immensely treacherous trying to get from the house to the coop. Not even my special Vibram soles that are supposed to give traction on ice were immune to slipping and sliding. I used a shovel as a walking stick. Then we had a little bit of blue sky and sunlight as much more of the snow melted. But the winds suddenly grew fierce again, as they do whenever a front comes in, and now i wait to see what kind of storm we get tonight. The road we live on has been close to impassable and equally treacherous with first, mud that slicked everything, and then hard packed snow that covered the ruts but did not prevent cars from sliding into snow piled alongside the road by plows. Last Saturday I had to be pulled out by a neighbor, using their Jeep and a winch. I am beginning to go a little stir crazy, to tell the truth.

I have marveled at the depth of snow covering the sagebrush so that most of it disappeared from sight. Sometimes I imagined I was looking out on a snow-covered tundra. Making my way to the propane tank, to check levels, found me in snow halfway up my thigh. But, after yesterday’s peculiar storm, the propane tank emerged again as did one very tall, wide sagebrush shrub near it. Here it is:

Lamoille, Nevada 2/14/2019; Ruby Mountains in background

I live in the Great Basin, a landscape called “basin and range” for the numerous transverse mountain ranges and valleys between. This landscape is harsh, arid, and vastly open. It is a landscape I am drawn to again and again, despite its difficulty. In the northern part of Nevada, the predominant plant has been sagebrush for centuries. Below a certain line in approximately the center of that state moving southward the sagebrush disappears and creosote is the predominant plant. There are others, of course, but the land of sagebrush here is also known as the “Sagebrush Ocean.” Sagebrush has many redeeming qualities and yet the ranchers and developers have cleared much of it away as a nuisance. It is fire resistant, something we need during those months when fires rage, often fed by the invasive cheatgrass that has replaced the sagebrush. The sagebrush was a vital plant for the indigenous people here, with many uses. It is also feeds the mule deer, is a good shelter for nesting (and rattlesnakes!) and has been a beneficial plant. In the winter, when it is grey, its color is a camouflage for deer. Driving the highway, I am always on the lookout for deer who come down from the higher altitudes in fall and winter. Their coats are the same shades of grey, it seems, and often one is surprised to find one or two or several more standing beside the road in a stand of sagebrush, ready to leap across the roadway. Once, in the early fall, I saw a coyote trotting through the sagebrush forest off the side of the road, almost invisible during a time when the sagebrush was changing color.

My other love of sagebrush, besides its resilience, is the scent. It is a scent I have known since childhood when I was growing up in Reno. After the rains or on very hot summer days, the oils of sagebrush waft on the breeze and make me happy. I am happy to be here most times because I love the landscape and mountains. But, at the moment, after weeks of very cold and wet, snowy weather, the glow is wearing off. As I am older now I seem to not tolerate the cold as well and that bothers me because I always loved winter and the cold. So, as we huddle before the fireplace, our store of firewood dwindling and the house kept closer to the low 60s in temp, to spare propane, I ask: “Whither the weather?” until the storms pass. Do we get a break or is Spring a distant illusion? There will be many small wildflowers, though, after so much snow, and that is something to look forward to as I do.


There is a famous Laysan Albatross named Wisdom. She nests on Midway Island and has been tagged as the oldest known bird. She is my age, actually, and I love that she has endured so long. The albatross is a fascinating bird in that it spends most of its life at sea, not on land. Wisdom comes in to land each year to mate and nest and she has been tracked ever since her first banding. She is estimated to be about 68 now, the age I will be in a few weeks. Here is a link about her (and a photo):

I am fond of the story of Wisdom for many reasons, the least of which is her endurance. I, too, have endured, and face another year. After the recent years of displacement due to my treatment, I also feel I have been “at sea” and am still wondering where I can finally land and call a place my own. And, it is not lost on me that I have gained more wisdom as well as I age and wander. So, I decided to rename the blog site to match more closely where I am now. Nomadic Sprit fit (and still does), but the word “nomadic” has taken on new relevancy and possible overuse in the 21st Century.

There are many references to the “new nomads” in American culture, people giving up homes to travel and work from vehicles, to wander with backpacks and laptops as they earn a living (or don’t, just exploring). Or, more perversely, many older people forced to live as nomads in vehicles and recreational vehicles as they can no longer afford homes. The “spirit” of being a nomad seems to be changing when used in these contexts. There are also the increased waves of migration that really aren’t truly nomadic spirits as much as displaced people desperate to find safety until they can, if ever, return home. And, what is left of true nomadic cultures remains but they are at risk, too. In short, I have been a nomad less by choice than circumstance and I grow tired of the displacement as I grow older. I am not wandering even in the locales where I find myself living from time to time.

Wandering is still important to me but the means to do so have become too limited or even non-existent. The trials of the illness I have endured since late 2012 have also severely limited my energy and finances. This new year may be different for many reasons, I hope. I am in what they call a “durable” remission and have been for almost three years now although during that time I was constantly on chemotherapy. Now, as of the end of December 2018, I have been granted what the doctors call a “chemo holiday” in order to improve my quality of life without drugs. This is a big change and one that may boost my wandering energies again for the drug side effects were real and difficult at all times.

I also replaced my crooked, severely degenerative knee in September 2018 and that has made it possible for me to walk again! While I will not be being doing heavy duty hiking, I can at least walk and wander trails again. This is thrilling to me. In short, I am reclaiming myself bit by bit.

The new photo above was taken just a few weeks ago at Horsetail Falls, Oregon in the Columbia Gorge. It was time to update from the photo used before. I stood close enough to feel the mist of those falls falling on my cheeks and to inhale enough positive ions to feel greatly happy and firing on endorphins! It was a trip I needed, to see trees and rivers, because there are neither here where I live. There is a river and temporary running creeks but all are shallow and short-lived by season here in the high desert. There are trees, too, cottonwoods and occasional pines and the landscape supports a special tree, the pinion pine. They grow in specific environments but are usually out of my reach except in Lamoille Canyon or private hillsides driving into Elko. Lamoille Canyon was burned in a large wildfire in October, something that broke the hearts of all of us here. We will maybe get to return to the canyon in the spring but it has been off limits due to the fire damage and now the weather. Some of the pinion trees burned or destroyed will take many, many years to recover, possibly even 100 years for those completely burned down. Fire is the fear out here most the time from late spring into late fall as the winds and lightning strikes are always a threat.

A new year usually calls us to reflect on the previous year as it ends and to look forward. Looking back, I see a year that was very demanding of my psyche and soul. Learning the identity of my birth father and meeting new cousins in South Carolina was a big, big part of what I had to reflect on and am still processing. The death of a friend who had been close to me since I was 18, a friend with whom I believe we both did a lot of growing up as young women, died in early July. I miss being able to call her on the phone. The major surgery for my knee has been given me more time to heal and reflect on what further healing I can accomplish now with another “leg to stand on” after increasing immobility and pain had made my world much more limited and isolated.

After visiting with my children in December, a once a year event we manage in Portland, Oregon, I then traveled to South Carolina to be at a special event in my new family. I like them and I like the differences between here, in the dry, arid desert and there where there is so much green and wooded forests. I still don’t know where I will end up but the appeal of being embraced by my new cousins has given me much joy. I am a westerner through and through but maybe that’s not enough as I grow older and need more community support, too.

So, this post is not particularly eloquent or philosophical. It’s more an effort to reconnect, if possible, and to find out if there is any interest in this blog. Please let me know.

Places of Solace

I subscribe to a periodical, High Country News, that has a photo contest right now soliciting photos of places that give us solace.  I wish I had my many photo files available for I would surely submit some of my favorites of Mono Lake.  There are many places that have given me solace, all in open spaces, mostly the Great Basin or at the shoreline of lakes, oceans, even rivers.  Years ago, there was a book written by Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces, that I read closely because it spoke to my deep, deep affinity for open spaces in the landscape. Her essays were about life in rural Wyoming, a place I always thought I might want to live someday.

I’ve also lived in densely green, forested places that were disconcerting because I had no horizon amid the trees, yet I learned to love those places, too.  In Hawaii, there were many different landscapes on the Big Island and I loved them all—forests of ferns and ohia, arid fields of old lava, rugged ocean beaches, deserts with cactus, and rainforests lush and humid.  Now, since March 2017, I have been in a very open space in the Great Basin, living at the base of the southern terminus of the Ruby Mountains, in high desert, surrounded by rangeland covered in sagebrush, mountains in all directions.  But there has been no solace for the past few months as the fires burning in the West have blanketed us in smoke. The mountains are hidden, the blue sky is not there, and the sun sets every night as a blazing red circle sinking into layers of smoke.  It has been disheartening and I have cabin fever at this point because the air is so polluted with smoke that it is unwise to be outside too long, to do much of anything physical.  My eyes burn, I cough when the wind might blow, sometimes there is the scent of burning wood in the air, and this overcast reminds me of many, many years ago when I lived in a smoggy Los Angeles.

This week I came across a neologism, solastalgia: roughly translated as nostalgia for places of solace that have changed or are no more what they were.  While it was first created in response to climate changes, a friend posted a brief article about it in relation to the smoke now suffocating the entire West Coast.  It is here:

We are told the smoke won’t be gone until sometime in September and that is sad to me for many reasons.  Of course I feel sorrow for the people, animals, landscapes now tortured by these fires and know, unfortunately, that there will be more to come. The mountains I view have been beacons of something that keeps me grounded and while I often walk with my eyes on the ground, watching for snakes and interesting stones, I still want the mountains to show up clear and solid in all directions. And, far away today, I read the news about the flooding rains that have hit the Big Island, wondering what will change once the waters recede.  Landslides on an island with minimal roads in and out of places will isolate many.  The rain that falls on the still flowing lava from Kilauea will create a different hazard of toxic air as well.  The climate is changing, no matter what anyone wants to believe or not.  Five years ago I was in the Canadian Arctic, on Baffin Island, and ever since I have tracked the daily temperatures in the small settlement where we were, Iqaluit, watching temperatures grow warmer.  I read about the ice that is melting around Greenland and the impact on the lives of both the arctic animals and the arctic people who have depended on that ice.  For me, then, there is no solace in these times, for many reasons.

Not just the loss of familiar landscapes but also the losses being faced by so many in the world.  Here, I want to scream about the plight of the homeless and impoverished people that are not on the radar of any significant policy makers, let alone the person in the White House (who I detest; if you don’t like this, don’t follow me because I won’t engage in any arguing but I feel it is necessary to speak out about what I do care about and I certainly don’t care about him, his corrupt cronies, his sycophants, and the cowardly, complicit Congress with its smug Republicans who only worry about their own asses in elections, not the country and citizenry they are supposed to serve).  Education, health care, clean water and clean air matter to me and yet I am watching those sacred (for me) imperatives be ignored or trashed.  My friend reminds me often that there are too many people in the world and things will only get worse as resources become more scarce.  I understand this but I am living now, in the present tense, and I am enraged that there is so little compassion and constructive problem solving.  No one can use the excuse that their hearts are too tired.  My heart is very tired, and very broken, cracked in many places, yet the cruelties of what we are witnessing in this country alone make me worry for the future of my children.

I’ve had my own hard road to walk over many years but it has not hardened my heart.  It has made me want to give up at times but I won’t.  And the one antidote to despair that I could always call on was being outside in the natural world wherever I was able to get it.  (Although I could argue that the “natural” world is just as much a man-made world but I look for the open spaces where there is less evidence of “man.”)  There is no ideal world, no perfect place yet we need to have “places” that nurture our souls and our minds, our bodies.  Robert Frost wrote a poem many years ago that keeps coming to mind:


Fire and Ice

Robert Frost1874 – 1963

Some say the world will end in fire,	
Some say in ice.	
From what I’ve tasted of desire	
I hold with those who favor fire.	
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate	
To know that for destruction ice	
Is also great	
And would suffice.
I first read this poem when I was maybe 13 or 14 and I wondered about it a lot; it was unimaginable. Now, not so.  Yes, there have been many eras in the history of the Earth, many times of climate change killing off what was living as well as giving rise to new forms of life.  But, humans are hastening their demise, no matter what you do or don’t believe about science or climate change.  Epidemics of disease are yet to come and there’s always the random encounter with an asteroid.  Not to mention the weapons of mass destruction, mainly nuclear, that too many world leaders now play “chicken” with when brandishing their swords or bullying others.  I am tired and know my time on this Earth is not forever.  I lost one of my best friends this summer, too young at 68, yet her fate may still be mine given the cancer and its unpredictability.  But I don’t dwell on these things as much as I try to find the inner strength and resilience to make it through each day of choking smoke, depressing news, health issues, and so many other things that get in the way of solace.  I want solace, not nostalgia for solace.

Our Bodies Are Places Of Stories

I’ve been thinking about this for many years, having worked closely with peoples’ bodies as a massage therapist as well as working in traditional allopathic medicine settings where I interacted with patients.  Most pertinently, of course, I think about this in relation to my own body. Our bodies “contain” us, our organs and our psychologies, emotions, memories, etc.  But, within all these layers of physiology and psychology, there are sensory neural and motor receptors that hold memories of touch, smell, sound, taste, and sight, too. Be it in that elusive thing called a mind (after all, what is the mind?), our brain, our heart (both the organ and yet another elusive thing), whatever we perceive or believe is a soul, and most significantly, for my writing here, our skin—our body’s largest organ.

About 20 years ago I had a successful, full-time practice as a medical massage therapist and saw both men and women.  Sometimes people wanted to talk through a massage and most times there was no talking except me checking in to ask about pain, pressure, temperature. My understanding of anatomy is acutely sensitive: I could “see” muscles and often heard clients wonder how I could place my hands on “exactly the right place.”  Essentially, I felt I had a gift for “feeling my way” into a body as well as interpreting the messages in a body. Our bodies are places in space and time; they hold us in place through gravity, wherever we may be on Earth.  Our bodies are constantly recording information.  Some of us are more attuned to our bodies’ signals when facing stressful situations, scary or dangerous and threatening.  Some people say they “feel” with their gut and act from that center. Others notice the heat of flushing skin turning red and hot or tiny hairs literally standing up on the back or our necks or arms. And, sadly, many people are unconscious in their bodies, unable or unwilling to listen to the messages or overriding their best “guesses” that form when we are conflicted. I once heard that pain is the body’s vocabulary and that has stayed with me as an important reminder when my mind goes into “mind over matter” mode.

Our bodies are places of stories because  every one of us has stories buried deep within or literally exposed in postures and areas of chronic pain that deform and force adaptations. We may walk with our shoulders rounded forward, our heads bent, our chests concave so that we breathe shallowly.  We may have work that is hard physical labor, such as construction or even waitressing that forces us beyond the pain of repetitive motions.  Musicians are pained, such as drummers, whose arms are often sinewy and muscle hardened.  You may now be wondering about your own body: how do you stand, walk, sit?  What type of work do you do that makes your neck hurt all the time or causes carpal tunnel syndrome in your hands? What illness has molded you into someone you don’t recognize when all your hair falls out from chemotherapy, the many scars left by procedures, the endless needles pushed into veins, or the “guarding” of places made too vulnerable?

When my son was born there were some problems because he was early by a month.  His jaundice became profound and the doctors ordered multiple blood draws every day.  Being so small, the blood was drawn from his heels, which turned purple-blue from all the insults of needles.  I kept wondering what his small brain was recording then of pain, along with the darkness he was kept in, blindfolded and almost nude, in a plastic box that delivered light 24/7 to beat back the jaundice.  All I could think was that he has come into the world and was lonely.  It broke my heart, especially when we had to leave him at the hospital.  What is the story his body holds from that time, unconscious, but real?

The stories in our bodies are often unconscious to us, and, too often, stories of violence and abuse, of unbearable fear such as that experienced by a soldier on the front line, or  stories underwritten by shame.  Unexpressed anger is there in tightened knots as is grief, and grief is the one story I thought about the most.  Unexpressed grief turns a body to stone, literally and figuratively.  It can freeze our lungs and diaphragm so much that we barely breathe, and never deeply.  Or, it can be a place of chronic pain that one day suddenly releases itself with unexpected images and memories flooding us into a new state of consciousness.  I have witnessed people in just such a moment, on my massage table suddenly thrown into a state of panic and bordering on shock as the memories surge through their bodies and emotions.

One such story involved a man, in his 40s, who suffered with chronic back pain; he even brought along his x-rays to show me. I was in a clinic setting, with a supervisor, and this man was lying prone on the table.  I began to work on the muscles in his lower back and suddenly he became agitated, sweaty, and panicked.  I was worried he was having a heart attack or that I had hurt him, done something wrong. What manifested was a memory triggered by where I touched his extended muscles, with his arms stretched above his head. He told me that as a young boy, he and his brother built dirt forts, against their stern father’s warnings, and one day the dirt fort collapsed on this man.  He was in a prone position, his right arm stretched above his head, as he was on my table. The dirt covered him and he had a very small breathing space in front of this face, protected by his outstretched arm.  His brother frantically dug him out, but not before this man had begun to wonder if he would suffocate and die as well as fearing more that his father would punish him severely once this event was made known.  The two brothers kept this secret and never told anyone, even the man’s wife, who was also a friend of mine.

When I met this man he was carrying too much weight, in constant back pain.  Yet, he worked as a ceramic artist: he worked with dirt to make art.  After this episode, and assurances he would be evaluated by a physician to be sure there was nothing else going on, his body transformed.  He lost the extra weight (the “weight” of shame and guilt in this particular story) and his chronic back pain eventually went away.  More significantly, to me, his ceramic art became transformed as well.  He began making huge vessels and pots, not the small, constrained pieces he had been making.  His art became monumental and awe-inspiring.  He was freed from a story buried in his body that had constrained him most of his life, both in the choices he once made for a career until his desire to make art won out, and in how he “lived” in his body.  I felt as if I’d witnessed a miracle, that I was honored that he trusted me with his story in the moment when we were both scared by what was happening all because of the way I laid my hands on his back.

There is also the more distressing element of stories we carry after violence, sexual abuse, beatings, and a lifetime begun in childhood, perhaps, of living in constant fear.  I cannot name all the types of physical and mental violation but, as a survivor or these things, I have watched my body and mind in reaction, in retreat, in hiding, and in shame.  Years of psychotherapy helped, but new transgressions as an adult laid down memories I wish were not mine, as do many of you, I am sure.  This is particularly true for women, who have suffered at the hands of men.  I don’t know, yet, if telling some of these stories would make a difference for me, at least telling them here.  I do bring them into my writing but my desire, all my life, has been to transform the sadness, grief, misery, hurt, ugliness and fear into something I can live with in such a way that the story no longer has the energy to hurt me.  I choose writing and also, when my body was in less pain and disabled by a knee needing replacement, movement out in nature or just running and hiking, when I could.  Nature, to a large extent, has “saved” me.  It is because I can wander out into a space larger than my body and mind, as big as the sky, as rough as granite outcroppings, or as compelling as a rushing river or small stream.  I chose the birds, who can fly, to be my anchors, too.  I felt communion and expansion of my heart, my soul, my imagination.

This blog isn’t going anywhere final as a conclusion.  The important thought is that our bodies are places of stories and I believe each of us must tell our stories before we die, however we choose.  I realize people die without telling their stories but I wonder if sometimes it is because no one asked or no one listened, especially when the buried story warped a person into someone unable to give or receive love and compassion? We blame our bodies for a lot of things but our bodies are amazing, no matter how afflicted by life or circumstances, such as cancer. And  our capacity for healing is far greater than we may consciously believe, because, ultimately it is all about belief and faith.  I will end with a quote that has accompanied me for many years and was framed on the walls of my massage therapy office, for clients.

Our bodies are places of stories, however we choose to tell them or not, but they do “work” their way through us, sometimes as a splinter that needs to come out on its own or as a sudden revelation that alters everything. Ultimately, I believe that telling our story/ies, even if only in our private writings, heals us.  What are your stories?

  1. Healing is a lifelong journey toward wholeness.
  2. Healing is remembering what has been forgotten about connection, and unity, and interdependence among all things living and nonliving.
  3. Healing is embracing what is most feared.
  4. Healing is opening what has been closed, softening what has hardened into obstruction.
  5. Healing is entering into the transcendent, timeless moment when one experiences the divine.
  6. Healing is creativity and passion and love.
  7. Healing is seeking and expressing life in its fullness, its light and shadow, its male and female.
  8. Healing is learning to trust life.

from Woman As Healer by Jeanne Achterberg

Listening for the Egg Song

I may already have mentioned this chicken behavior; the hens announce their laying of an egg with an “egg song” specific to each hen.  I still haven’t gotten them down, though, but I listen for them in hopes I can run out and get freshly laid eggs before the thieving magpies.  Sometimes I’m lucky and other times the magpies are luckier.

It’s early spring here, still cold, and predators are already after the chickens.  I don’t know if they will survive as predators are pretty hungry and persistent.  On the weekend I saw the shadowy form of a coyote at the back-end of the coop around 2:30 a.m., trying to figure out a way to get those hens but she gave up.  I think it was a female because she left a big puddle of pee as a mark and a male would’ve lifted his leg against the structure. Yesterday I saw where something smaller—a badger or raccoon or fox—had tried digging its way into the enclosure. I put logs against the base of the chicken wired frame that is all there is between the chickens and these predators in an effort to thwart whatever animal and found some of the bark scratched off today.  On Easter I also found scat that either belonged to a coyote or maybe even a cougar.  It didn’t quite look like Coyote had been prowling on the outside deck but it could’ve been a mountain lion; they are here as well. too.

I don’t know why the chickens intrigue me because they are quite messy, too.They’re also quick to beg for extra treats once they’ve been indulged.  Their behavior is often comical and there is truth to the pecking order.  The smallest hen, Skeeter, continues to win me over every time she does her little tap dance squat to be petted or, more startling, jumps from the roost almost onto my head!

A few days after the first day of Spring, we heard the first singing of a meadowlark out in the sagebrush.  But, we continue to have alternating days of snow and rain, blustery cold winds, and the songs silent without the sun and bright blue sky.  I also saw a golden eagle fly onto the bare branches of a towering cottonwood up the road.  It sat there, eyeing me as I stopped the car to stare, too, and then it glided off on immense wings, the wing tips upturned like long feathered fingers.  The eagles come in to the fields where the cows are calving; they clean up the afterbirth.  It’s an interesting symbiosis of sorts.

I’m traveling to South Carolina toward the end of this month to scope it out as a possible relocation, to visit my sister, to see a few friends and family scattered between SC and NC.  The biggest visit will be meeting new family members of a very large clan that belongs to my birth father.  Now that we have identified him, it is almost overwhelming to me that I will actually be connecting with a new family at this time in my life.  I’m sad he was killed so young in the Korean War and probably never knew about me.  But it is still an amazing moment that has arrived so late.

I wonder, too, about the “egg songs” we all sing as mothers when we give birth to a new child.  While not really egg songs, there is still a song in our soul and our heart that maybe only we and the newborn hear.  I wish, though, that my mother and father had lived long enough to tell me what they “heard” when I came into being.

Snow Quiets the World

Today is the first day of Spring, the Vernal Equinox, when Earth in the Northern Hemisphere tilts ever so slightly in the direction of the Sun. Today the night and day will be of equal length. But, we are still in the grip of a late winter.  March came in like a lion, literally a Snow Lion*, burying us in the most snow we’ve gotten all year.  The snow has continued to come every week and the temperatures have been cold enough to prolong its melting.  I took a sledgehammer to the ice between me and the chicken coop and still could not knock loose all of it, so hard and thick.  The mountains north of us have the texture of powdered white donuts and the snow will melt there first, in the furrows and dimples of what are usually bare brown slopes.  The mountains behind us are different, higher and more snow bound for now.  We are on the slope and it’s all downhill slipping and sliding on the dirt road to our house.

I like how the world gets completely quiet in the snow, both when it’s falling and after when it shimmers white and silent across the open fields here.  One day we saw the delicate imprint of an owl’s wings as they scraped the snow, silently, bearing down on a mouse. There were mouse tracks leading to a place where the wings appeared and it was clear the mouse didn’t make it to the protection of the sagebrush only a few feet away.  It was probably a Great Horned Owl for the wing imprints were large.  I’ve seen a few pairs of hawks in the distant treetops, and imagine they are scouting for nesting territories. Small birds are increasing in numbers, juncos, slate-colored juncos, swifts, and lots of plain brown or black birds I can’t identify because they move so quickly.  The magpies stay all winter and we continue our competition for eggs.  Today I was lucky and got all four eggs but usually the magpies get at least half.

Speaking of magpies and chickens, we still have four hens.  I recently figured out the identity of one, the smallest one, that had perplexed me because it didn’t lay eggs (or hadn’t in the past year I’ve been here).  She is a Dorking, an ancient species of chicken that comes from England and goes way back to Roman times.  She is very affectionate and docile, doing a little tap dance before squatting to be petted.  She is quite endearing and her name is Skeeter.  She always jumps down from the roost to do her little tap dance when I am shutting them in or letting them out.  Dorking is a very dorky kind of name, don’t you think?

The biggest snowstorm came on March 1, with terrific howling winds thrashing the house all night, sometimes so hard the house shook.  Yet, I like the wind, even though it startles and sends various objects flying away down the driveway, including the big old garbage can.  On days after storms, if the sun shines, the sky is a magnificently brilliant shade of blue that I have decided to call “cold winter blue.” It makes me happy to gaze up into it even as icicles form in the wind chills that seem to have stayed below freezing most of March.  One of these days the storms will be gone and Spring will truly burst onto the scene with all its noise and colors.  I am waiting for the first meadowlark to sing somewhere out in the sagebrush and then the gradual appearance of wildflowers that don’t last long but seem to have a processional calendar for when they appear and vanish.

In the snowy fields now there are many calves, all born in March.  They are black angus on the ranches surrounding us and calving season comes despite the weather.  I’ve seen a large black cow rocking back and forth in the throes of birth, the birth sac-covered head of a calf barely emerging.  I can’t help but wonder why they are born in such cold weather but they come and they survive. With Spring’s arrival, though, I dread the prowling predators that will soon be stalking the chicken coop when young coyote pups are born and the huge raccoons climb down from their trees to do what harm they can, too.  We have a new neighbor up the hill behind us that is a professional tracker.  He tells me that he kills all the predators, especially the mountain lions that also live here.  It bothers me because the lions are killed to keep them from reducing the herds of bighorn sheep “planted” in the mountains for hunters.  There are many, many mule deer for the lions but people out here don’t like most predators, preferring to get rid of everything from magpies to coyotes, foxes to mountain lions, and rattlesnakes.

At some point soon I hope to travel back to South Carolina and that will no doubt be a “landscape and culture shock” after living out here in the high desert.  I love the landscape here, as barren and harsh as it is, the sagebrush and rabbitbrush, the wide open spaces and absence of people for the most part.  Yet, I must find a way to make a new home for myself and it is painfully clear to me that I cannot remain here, for many reasons.  Elko is a strange little town that doesn’t want to grow yet it is the only town of consequence between Salt Lake City and Reno, at least 600-700 miles of Interstate 80.  I still must drive to Salt Lake City for medical follow-ups and always marvel at the variety of landscape between here and there, too.  The Bonneville Salt Flats, numerous mountain ranges that make up the basin and range topography of the Great Basin.  Still, after months of pondering, I realize I must leave this landscape if I am to find some kind of suitable income and affordable housing for myself.  I have my romantic illusions about this place and consider it home in my soul, but for now it will not work for me without a car, a job, and affordable housing, not to mention the inadequate health care resources.  Elko is all about old ranching families still caught up in the romance of the West and the overwhelming presence, out of sight but not out of mind, of large gold mining companies.  I wanted to like Elko but it doesn’t work for me now.

Being a cold-weather person I wonder if I will tolerate the South? I think of how humid it was in Hawaii, when I lived there, and I adapted but there were daily breezes usually and an ocean to swim in.  The temperatures never varied a great deal and were seldom unbearable; it was the humidity that almost did me in.  But, I wanted my way going forward these past few years to be different, to not be a “return” to what was already known or had been lived.  I miss Northern California but know I cannot afford to live there. Texas slowly grew on me and now I see that the four states most Californians are flocking to because of the high cost of living in California, are Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Texas, especially Texas. I am grateful for every opportunity I have had to experience new places but never imagined I’d ever be living in the South! It remains to be seen, especially now that I have a paternal connection and family there to get to know.  It is so very amazing how life works out and this Spring will be amazing, too. I am ready for new adventures and new learning. What would you do if you had an opportunity to do something different now? I keep reminding myself that nothing is lost, even dreams or wishes that don’t pan out; everything leads us into a deeper level of living if we remain open and receptive. I want to live deeply, as always, and after these last three years of illness and recovery, I am ready, I think, to go wandering again.

The quiet of a snow covered landscape has given me lots of time to think and reflect, all important for healing.  At times it’s been very, very hard but I always try to take what is good and beautiful from my life, if I can, and spin it into the golden thread that I will continue weaving into my life’s tapestry.  The larger world is troubling and sad and the only respite I find is to be able to go out into the open spaces and remember to breathe, to stay open even when I want to shut down and close myself into a clam.  I don’t want to waste my remaining life in thoughts of what could have been or should’ve been; I want what is possible, wherever I can find and accept it. I don’t know what the answers will be but I am always asking questions.  And the cold winter blue skies, the muffled world after a big snowstorm, the clucking chickens and noisy magpies, will keep me company until I go.

*The Snow Lion is the symbol of Tibet. It is said that its feet never touch the ground, but it does not fly. “The roar of the Snow Lion embodies the sound of ’emptiness’ (Sanskrit: Śūnyatā), courage and truth, and because of this is often a synonym for the Buddhadharma, the Buddha’s teachings, as it implies freedom from karma and the challenging call to awakening. It was considered to be so powerful that just a single roar could cause seven dragons to fall from the sky.” It is associated with joy and fearlessness, and the direction of the East. (a quick run to Wikipedia for this; not the best source but something for basic information: Thus will I journey to the East in joy and fearlessness, I hope, welcoming this new season of my life and a new awakening, not to mention maybe a dragon or two!

My Mothers, My Fathers, Me

Today marks 58 years since my birth mother died in a car accident when I was 9.  It is a date I always remember.  She was 31. With her gone I lost all hope of ever learning so many things she could have told me, questions I would only be able to ask when I was much older.

The reason I named this blog “Nomadic Spirit” has to do with what my life became, both before my mother’s death and after.  In my lifetime of 67 years I have lived in as many different “homes” as my years (yes, 67+).  As a child we moved often and I had to find a way to steady myself in the world when there was no stability to count on or a real “home” to call my own.  This moving around continued into my adult life when I went to college and then when I was married and my husband’s job relocated us often.  At some point I realized I was living a nomadic existence, unrooted and adapting to whatever environment I was in.  I wanted a place to call home forever, or at least a family home I could come and go from at times and there was a great-aunt whose home provided some of that but she is long gone now, too.

I was born in Los Angeles and also spent a lot of growing-up time in Reno, Nevada.  For many reasons, I feel at home in the landscape of the Great Basin, with all its open space and I have romanticized it, too. Being out here in the far northeastern corner of Nevada has been a gift although I don’t think I can or will stay because it’s not tenable for me to be here without an income and a car; I gave up my car to go to graduate school and cannot afford to get one.  So I look for communities where I might be able to live with a lower cost of living and public transportation since I know I cannot return to California, either, with its prohibitive costs.

I will eventually go check out South Carolina this spring, where yet another sister lives, and see if I can find what I’m looking for there.  It’s not that I don’t have a “home” inside me, for I always have in the form of my spirit and my openness to learning whatever I can wherever I am so that my life is enriched in ways that often exceed the longing.  But, I never intended to be a nomad in a physical sense, only in the figurative sense of my far-ranging curiosity and thinking, which I treasure as my lifelines.

Still, there has been one long unanswered question for me all my thinking life:  where or who did I come from?  I knew my mother even though I often didn’t live with her at times. And I had a wonderful stepmother that I lost in 1989 and still miss.  It was the question about fathers:  who was my father?  One man claimed me and I was raised by him up to adolescence, believing he was my father.  He was my “daddy” and I carried his name along with the rest of my sisters.  But we are a mixed bag of half-sisters, step-sisters in terms of various parent combinations and no one else had mine.  When I was 15 I learned that my last name was not the one I had, that there was a different one on my birth certificate and I was so dismayed.  He was my mother’s first husband, one she separated from and divorced all around the time of my conception and birth.

I met this man, through searching, when I was 18.  The first thing he told me was that he wasn’t sure if I was his daughter or not, that he didn’t know.  I was stuck with the name (Puffer) of a man who never claimed me as his own child and even when we met I felt something was off.  But I wasn’t allowed to change my name then, either, and so, grudgingly, I began the ambivalent relationship I have had with my last name ever since I was forced to use it.

Now, in an extraordinary moment, one of my sisters who is a genealogy expert, has found the name of the man who fathered me, using DNA.  I am stunned by this news but also relieved because suddenly so many questions are being answered.  I didn’t think that this late in my life I would care anymore, but I do. There is a story, a war story, surrounding this coming together of my mother and him that resulted in me.  I will not tell it here but it has had my head spinning.  He, unfortunately, was a young Marine shipped off to fight in the Korean War and died within months of landing there.  His family may not be interested in knowing that their eldest, unmarried son fathered a daughter; he, himself, may not have even known.  I will never know but I know now that some of the things I have felt and been told over the years about my genesis are coming together in a story I can believe.

Ironically, he was from South Carolina and maybe I will even find some sense of home there someday.  My trip to SC was planned months before this news reached me but it is so coincidental to be worth taking note.

And today I wonder a lot about my mother and I can only wonder so much about him without more information.  But my heart has felt a dam burst in it, a dam I put there long ago to stop the hurt of not knowing.  So much more makes sense.  As for the nomadic life, I want to settle down somewhere and maybe it will be back out here in the West, maybe not.  But the small hole of wondering that I have long carried inside is feeling healed and as a more whole person I will still wander but with more purpose and a bit more joy for having had that burning question answered.

A Supermoon, Snow & A Super(?) Hen

I’ve delayed writing for a week now, much to my chagrin.  So much I had in mind and now most of it lost. But, I am persisting.  The Full Moon Super Moon was a week ago on Dec. 3. That was a Sunday and it snowed most of the day, plunging into single digits temps by the early evening.  I wondered if the clouds would clear for a Full Moon viewing and was pleasantly surprised when I stepped out around 1 a.m. to view the  Moon.  There was a large rainbow tinged halo around it but it was a big Full Moon casting its icy light across snowy fields.  The contrast of white and black, some grey, made the stillness and freezing cold air a scene of suspended animation.  An hour later, when I still could not sleep, I returned to the window and noticed that the light casting over our snowy acreage was a very pale blue.  Magical and comforting despite the cold I did not venture out into for a second look.

But, the next morning, when I went out to free the 4 hens from their coop, I was dismayed when I discovered that my favorite hen, Ruby, was not in the coop! Somehow I missed her when I shut them in the night before.  In the twilight and snow I peered into their coop as I always do, to count them, and didn’t see that she wasn’t there after all. Too many shades of dark brown and black, I guess. Chickens do everything as a group:  they wander around eating bugs, chase each other, and all return like clockwork at the first sign of dimming sunlight (cockshut) in the late afternoon these days. Wherever Ruby was, she wasn’t with the group. I resigned myself to the probability she’d been eaten during the night by a coyote or bobcat. I searched the snow for tracks and feathers, but couldn’t find anything to suggest what happened. I blamed myself for missing her in the nightly count.

Later in the day, though, I sat on the front porch a minute and uttered her name several times, just in case.  Lo and behold, Ruby answered and slowly appeared from behind the shrubs now bowed down with snow along one side of the house. These chickens have not been handled so they shy away from being caught. Still, I threw food out to her, which she did go after, and hoped she had not suffered frostbite. How she survived the bitter cold night, alone and undetected by the wild predators that are always around us here, was amazing. But, I couldn’t get her out from under the bushes and back toward the coop. So, I chased and caught another favorite hen, Boo, who seems to be a possible leader of the flock. I placed her down near Ruby in the bushes and hoped that Ruby would somehow follow Boo back to the coop. They hung out together, pecking at scratch and seeds, but neither wandered back to their coop.  No such luck….

As the day grew colder and dimmer, I made the mistake of going outside once with no gloves, determined to use a broom to “hurry” the hens out from under the bushes onto the driveway and eventual connection with the rest of the group in the coop.  Again, no such luck….Boo ran off as hoped and quickly got on her roost in the coop. Ruby? Still in the bushes and reluctant to walk on snow or leave the shrubbery. My maneuver only took a few minutes and since I was determined to “save” her from herself and another night of freezing or predation, I clumped across the branches bowed down with snow, swatting at the “thing with feathers” and immediately face-planted in the snow when I tripped over some branches. I wish someone had been around to laugh at me, face down in the snow, as well as to help me get up. My arthritic, damaged knee does not bend and rolling round in the snow, grasping at other branches, I finally got myself upright, exasperated and very cold.

When my sister came home from work, in the last few minutes of light, I suggested we try again, heading Ruby off “at the pass” if we had to although now I was wondering why her instinct for survival wasn’t guiding her actions. Was she hypothermic and addled, not thinking clearly? Were her chicken toes too cold to stand for more than a second in the snow she’d have to cross to get back to the coop? I’d never captured and held her before and didn’t know if I could as she was pretty quick at running along the wall just beyond reach of my broom and net and then circling back around me over the snow-burdened branches that had earlier tripped me. I didn’t want to fall again and I didn’t want to admit defeat but Ruby was evading me quite nimbly.

On one of her circles back, though, I pounced with my hands on her back, worried I’d break her delicate backbone but trying to stop her just long enough to grab her, which I finally succeeded in doing. The screech she let out was unlike anything I’d heard from any of the chickens, even Boo, who I’d chased down and caught earlier. I put her in the coop and hoped she’d be alive in the morning.  And, she was! She did not come out of the coop all day and was lucky that the sun warmed the coop for most of the afternoon, restoring her inner temperature to normal, I hoped. I brought her food and water, shut her in with everyone at “cockshut” time and Ruby was her usual self by last Wednesday.

Maybe chasing down and saving a chicken from itself is something trivial in the climate of the world we live in now. California is burning up in wildfires, our despicable political climate exerts more toxicity than imaginable, and many of us worry about what will happen next with the outrageous “tax reform” bill, less accessibility to health care, and for those of us on Social Security and Medicare, the real threat of those being attacked, too.  I resent that I paid taxes all my working life into Social Security and Medicare and am now viewed by the repugnant Republicans in Congress (some) as not deserving of the benefits, hearing them wrongly called entitlements. And, the sexual harassment issues are huge and applicable to so many of us as women, too many, and the men who lie about such things will continue to be emblematic of how women/females are still not valued in our society.  No, I don’t like what is going on and I know I am not alone.

So, if I can save the chicken from herself, even as I plot daily how to save myself from myself or the economic deprivations I am now experiencing, then I am happy that my respect for life, even a chicken’s life, has been something I could act on. I just wish I had more options available to me now, such as a job and enough income to live in my own space instead of the nomadic journey I have made through sisters’ houses the past three years, with no end yet in sight. Face plant and all, the chickens keep me sane during this time of cultural insanity. And, Ruby is a super chicken for having survived one very, very cold night when we heard coyotes howling earlier but they didn’t find her. For us humans, though, there are coyotes howling ever closer every day. I hear them and wonder how I will survive?