Maya’s Earth Magic

This little poem is my contribution to help celebrate the Official Kidlit #FallWritingFrenzy! hosted by @KaitlynLeann17 and @LydiaLukidis. Writers are challenged to select one of 15 images and use it to inspire a 200-word piece of writing. Visit the link to have fun browsing through the amazing variety of entries – picture book ideas, middle grade stories, and young adult fare to tickle every fancy!

Maya’s Earth Magic

Every Halloween night, when the owls are in flight,
and goblins and ghouls fill the air,
darkening streets thrill with monsters and treats,
but little witch Maya’s not there.

In the fields she will dance, past pumpkins she’ll prance,
her magical kettle aglow.
Transforming her troubles to green smoky bubbles,
she’ll light up the path as she goes.

In moonlight she’ll sing of the marvelous things,
once taught in the ancestor’s songs—
how souls can still greet us, and love us, and meet us
when we lift our voice for those gone.

The wind stirs beside her and even the spiders
will whisper of things that they loved—
the bright autumn leaves with clean air fit to breathe,
and the people below, stars above.

We give thanks to the earth for the way it gives birth
to bountiful harvests we reap.
We are thankful for seas, for lakes, rivers and trees,
and the wonders that swim in the deep.

Young Maya finds spaces twixt time and far places,
no matter the wind or the weather—
She’s an earth-loving witch who, with each careful stitch,
will weave broken worlds back together.

END

A shout out to thank @KaitlynLeann17 and @LydiaLukidis for working so tirelessy to help writers connect and support each other!

Tahlequah’s Journey

Yesterday, I felt like I was forgetting something important. Someone’s birthday.

Today, I realized what had been tugging at me. July 24 marked the second anniversary of the birth, and death, of an orca made world famous by her mother’s 17-day sojourn of grief.

Humans are not the only species that feel the suffering of loss.

Tahlequah’s previous child had been stillborn three years earlier, and this one did not hold the thread of life much longer. Tahlequah held her dead child above water on her rostrum, following her pod of killer whales for over 1,000 miles. Her companions took turns helping her keep the baby afloat until finally, after 17 exhausting days, the grieving mother released her daughter back into to the sea.

Like the tip of the iceberg, like the dying canaries in unsafe mines, another species makes visible the hidden toxins beneath our changing landscapes and seascapes.

Regrettably, approximately 75% of newborns in the recent two decades following designation of the Southern Resident killer whale (orca) population as “Endangered” have not survived.

www.whaleresearch.com/J35

Tahlequah, known by scientists as J-35, is part of the J pod of the Southern Resident community of killer whales that frequents Haro Strait in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Unlike seal-eating transients, the Residents’ diet relies on Chinook salmon. With salmon runs ever more depleted, and the increasing pollution in our seas, the orca population not only suffers malnutrition but also the build up of harmful biochemicals in their bodies. Those high levels of PCBs are a big part of infant mortality.

In her deeply moving memoir, Into Great Silence, poet and scientist Eva Saulitis described her experiences with another group of orcas, the AT1 (Chugach Transients), a pod devastated by the Valdez Oil Spill. Saulitis paralleled their situation with her own losing battle against cancer. How I wish she were still here, sharing her lyrical, luminous reflections on the natural world.

Her Chugach Transients are disappearing. The Southern Residents may not survive much longer.

In the seminal 1989 book The End of Nature, Bill McKibben confronts a new reality, a world in which human impact alters even the untamed force of weather. Our dominion over the earth, our global reach, our changing climate, our acidification of the rain and the ocean, our mass poisoning of the communal food supply mean nature as we once conceived it — bigger than us, out of our control, pure and free — is over. Nothing on this earth is apart from human tinkering. No raindrop falling on my face is free of human causation. Even my body, burdened with cancer, burdened with fifty years worth of toxins, enacts this truth.

– Eva Saulitis, “Wild Darkness“, Orion Magazine 2014

https://orionmagazine.org/article/wild-darkness/

For the latest on research and conservation related to orcas and other whales, visit the Center for Whale Research

Refuge

As we continue to self-isolate, and cases of COVID multiply around us, I find refuge and renewal in the nearby woods.

Racoon trio takes refuge overhead

On these dappled paths, the invitation to wander brings my feet joy.

Memorial Day

the lost shall not be forgotten –

the selfless service, the warriors of old –

would that battles could resolve with words –

instead of leaving orphans in the cold –

would that heroes need not die –

for truth and justice to take hold.

too long away

just need to touch in here, to remind myself to leave a few tracks – in sand, mud, forest, hyperspace – to remember where I might have been in the world, in my head, or on the page.

I have a new story coming out Feb 10, 2020 on https://poydrasreview.com/ – excerpted from Daughter of the Nazca Moon (the novel hasn’t found a US home yet, but is is currently being translated into Spanish with possibilities of publishing in Peru)

NaNoWriMo kept me busy in November, working on the sequel where Patya travels to the altiplano of Peru and Boliva (still sixth century) in search of answers from the fabled society of Tiwanaku and the mystical Lake Titicaca.

In October, made a few dramatic hikes overlooking the lake, beginning at 3,800 meters above sea level… on up to nearly 5,000. slow but steady…

respectfully conscious of the movement of clouds, the direction of the wind, the proximity of the lightning, and the absence of refuge at the summit

Autumn Again After 14 Years

View from our front porch. We are not in Lima anymore

It has been a long process, but our transition continues to be a true pachacuti in our lives, in the most positive sense of that Andean “turning over of worlds’. Closing chapters. Launching new beginnings. Re-prioritizing. Re-energizing. Refocusing. But above all, breathing in the mountains, enjoying family, and reinventing our surroundings. Such a blessing to be here! We have always had one foot in Peru, and one in the US. That will never change.

one of our favorite spots during our walks on the malecon in Miraflores, Lima

what is is about Nasca?

IMG-20130325-00189

The questions I went in with when I started writing the novel Desert Voices had to do with: 1) what lead to the demise of the Nasca culture?  2) how would such an earth-honoring culture interpret the environmental crises that constantly plagued the region? and 3) what lessons can we apply to our current environmental challenges?

I read everything I could get my hands on, researched the evidence left behind, talked to archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, archaeobotanists and geologists. I spent the night atop their sacred mountain, visited thousand-year-old trees, and explored hidden valleys. I walked the Nazca lines in my head and scratch my own across wide stretches of beach.

I ended up with more questions than I started with.

I began mostly with curiosity about how the Nasca had managed to harness the underground waters that turned their desert valleys into productive fields; about why they had such a penchant for severed heads; and about which of all the theories the Nazca lines might be closest to the truth of how they were actually used.

But in the process, some new questions led me down some unexpected paths. The prevalence of orcas in their iconography prompted me to research the ocean’s top predator – which opened up a new world of understanding about the social structure of the species and also raised questions about interspecies communication.

The central role of the San Pedro cactus in their iconocraphy, remniscent of the Chavin culture, led me to explore the living cultures that still use the cactus in a ceremonial brew as a “visionary medicine” and who consider some plants to be teachers of wisdom and guides for healing.

And so the novel project became much more than a novel.

One of the first things that came out of my explorations was a documentary about the guarango, considered by some to be the “king of the desert”, the One Tree that not only unites the three worlds -the heavens above, the world below, and the place we inhabit in between- but that also provided food, shelter and fuel. I organized a trip through Ica and Nasca with documentary filmmaker Delia Ackerman, camerographer Juan Duran, and cultural anthropologist Jerome van der Zalm.

You can see the result here in the short film: The King of the Desert is Dying

PHOENIX – another pin on the wall

The unrelenting sound of construction has not ceased since the day Marisol first asked me about curses and enchantments. I hadn’t really paid much attention to all the building in the neighborhood, since I kept my radio tuned to an upbeat oldies station that masked the other noises. But that day, I turned off the radio to be able to hear her better. For some reason, I never turned it back on. The rhythms of construction have replaced the music that used to fill my office. From all sides come the buzz and clank, the banter of workers—but I digress. I am not here to recount the problems in the neighborhood, but to tell you something of Marisol’s story before my office is taken apart around me.

It was almost exactly a year ago when Marisol’s dark and downcast face suddenly moved out of the shadowed corners of my world right into its center. Her name had always made me think of girasol—Spanish for sunflower, from girar “to turn” and sol for “sun.” Marisol was anything but sunny back then.

… and for the rest of the story? 

pushpin map

mosey on down to Amarillo Bay

(picture borrowed from http://www.houzz.es/push-pin-travel-map?irs=US)

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