Howling in the Night, an Eerie Wonder

170px-HowlsnowWouldn’t you like to leap, and spin around and over your friends, and end up out of breath in a mush pile, a laughing heap of beings? That’s what wolf pups do. The wolf is one of the animals that call to me, one of my Tla Twein.  (see my earlier post on the Tla Twein) 

I notice that many people love wolves. For some of my piano students, the stickers of wolves that I receive in the mail from conservation organizations are the first choice to put on a finished song.

Two conflicting ideas about wolves are prevalent: One is of the “lone wolf”, solitary, strong, but alone; the other about the close warm ties between the members of a wolf pack, working together to gather their food and raise their babies. Different members of the pack help out by babysitting the cubs while the mother is out hunting.

But when we think of what draws us to the wolves, perhaps these two images are not so conflicting. Perhaps we yearn for the camaraderie, the playful closeness of the pack, and yet feel like the lone wolf who is seeking a pack. On the other hand, sometimes we need the solitary aloneness (but not lonely) of the “lone wolf”.  Sometimes we need to move away from the pull toward compliance of the pack. We need to find our own path.

The lone wolf doesn’t stay completely alone. Sometimes in the night the lone wolf howls. If others can hear them, they respond, and the song echoes back and forth across the miles. This howling in the night is an eerie wonder – wolves singing together reaching with their songs across long distances to lone wolves and other packs (and all the other species that can hear them). Strange dissonances send thrills up our spine, bring new ideas of harmony, new possibilities.

Solitary singing is good, but when we sing in a group there is something so powerful and breathtaking that happens that I, at least, can hardly contain the joy. And when a human composer brings in the forbidden dissonances we hear in the wolf songs, I tremble with some combination of fear and delight. It’s clear, when we watch videos of wolves howling, that this power of harmony and dissonance happens for the wolves, too.

I confess, when the husky down the street howls in her yard as my dogs and I go past, I cannot restrain myself from howling back. Sometimes if she isn’t howling, I’ll give a little howl and she joins me. What a thrill! I wish I dared throw my head back and howl with all my might. My little dogs don’t howl with the husky, only with the fire sirens. But when they howl, they sit up so straight, so earnest, so involved in the howl, that I know it’s a spiritual ritual, a solemn invocation of….?

What is it that I need to learn from the wolf as my Tla Twei? Perhaps it’s the cooperative bonding of the pack for the serious business of the hunt – in my case to take on the serious problems of the world – and the restful dance of playtime ending in the physical closeness of the mush pile.

And in the night, the ritual of singing in strange harmonies, reaching joyfully to my fellow humans on the other side of the valley or the world.

 

In my book, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, the Tla Twein are trying to bring humans back into the sacred Dance of Life, the Tsin Twei.  You can purchase print and ebook versions at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and order print versions from your local independent bookstore.

Want to explore your own Tla Twein? If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area you can attend a three hour workshop on April 28th in Oakland where we will move and sing, write and create art work in search of the reason our particular Tla Twein call us. The fee is “pay what you can”. Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.  Put Tla Twein Workshop in the subject line.

March for Our Lives and the March for the Dance of Life

Last Saturday I listened to the speakers at the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on the radio.  I laughed, I cried, I clapped my hands to one, four, and ten.  I tried to sing along to “We Will Shine.” I wasn’t there, but I joined the march where I was.

I have marched before, for women, for Black Lives Matter, and many years ago for the Civil Rights Movement, and over, and over again during my long life for the end of some particular war. Marches have brought me hope, which is probably why the climax of my mystical fantasy novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, is a march by a group called One Earth Together that is joined by people all over the earth.  Each group has its own song, its own particular story, and its own Tla Twein. (See my last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein).

For instance, an “island nation” is described:

“… another group swept in, a deep red and black sparkling with bright colors pouring into the amphitheater like lava from a volcano, their island song flowing like an undercurrent through the songs of the others.

We are the land in the sea, sun cooled by sea breeze.
Bright blossoms, many-colored joy,
mirrored in darting fish, corals, and anemone,
in the depths of the clear blue sea.

We come from our creator-destroyer,
fierce goddess, dark beauty,
erupting in fire from the deep,
flowing in red-yellow rivers,
pouring in black writhing smoke,
building our soft gentle island
our land in the sea.

Protect our island. Protect our sea.
Come, our tempestuous island goddess,
pour your fierce love,
fierce and fiery love, into me.

We come from creation-destruction.
In death, new life will be.
We risk death in defiance.
A sacrifice, so Gaia can be freed.

As they sing their songs they are swept up to Ninas Twei, the mystical world of the Dance of Life, the place where all the species dance together to ensure the continuance of life on earth.

You can join in singing and dancing one of these climatic songs by going to http://earthwomantreewoman.com/index.php/arise/  The words are:

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
See the world in the Dance of Life.
Beat your feet
To the beat of your heart!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Peace, peace, Laughter and dance!
Joy and life for us all.
Sing your tears, Sing your fears,
Defy oppression through the years,
Dance the Dance of Life!

Arise, arise, Open your heart!
Open your heart to the Dance of Life.
Arise, arise, Open your eyes!
Dance the Dance of Life!

Read more about the Dance of Life in The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble and through independent book stores everywhere.

Want to know more about your Tla Twein? (see last post, Exploring Your Tla Twein) If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area I am holding a workshop where we can explore our Tla Twein through dance, song, art and poetry on April 28th from 2-5 pm in Oakland.  Contact me at connie@deephum.com for more information.

Exploring Our Tla Twein (What’s that??)

Quartet EbookCoverDo you find yourself drawn to a particular animal – a spirit animal – or to certain mythological characters, a hero from a folk tale, or a real-life hero whose journey seems to call to you? A saint or a diety? Even a tree or flower? A tarot card?In my fantasy novel, The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet your Tla Twei is one of these – a mythological character whose form you must take in order to travel to Ninas Twei where the Tsin Twei, the Dance of Life takes place. Where all the species on earth dance together to ensure the continuance of life on earth.

Except humans.

Humans have lost their ability to join the dance.  But some humans can observe the dance by taking the form of their Tla Twei.  They are the ones working to bring humanity back to the Dance.

In thinking about the Tla Twein outside of their role in the novel I realized that we have many of these characters in our lives.  We even have cards and books designed to help us find which ones we are “like”.

But I want to take a different approach to the exploration of our Tla Twei.  Instead of pulling a card that tells me about my animal (or character from mythology, etc), I want to notice the animals and heroes, the characters that I’m drawn to, and find out why.

440px-Harriet_Tubman_by_Squyer,_NPG,_c1885I stumbled on this approach one day as I danced in an InterPlay class and wondered why I’m so drawn to Harriet Tubman, a real-life hero.

Her courage frightens me.

How could she go alone down into the woods of the south, singing her spirituals so that the slaves would hear her, know she was there, and would gather their courage and follow her to freedom?  Alone.

How could she risk her life, risk being caught, being tortured, being returned to slavery? Alone.

There is bravery in numbers. Most of the time I’ve been brave I’ve been with others. But venturing out alone?

I came to an understanding.

I was drawn to Harriet Tubman because she had a quality I want.  She had the courage to strike out alone to do what is right. It still frightens me. I haven’t acquired this quality yet, but it sits there waiting for me.

And then there’s the other Tla Twein in my life. Why did I spend my childhood playing Robin Hood? What is it about wolves that draws me in – and so many others?  (I find wolf lovers everywhere I turn, including among my very young piano students.) Why do I feel that the oak trees of my childhood home were my mothers? Why am I so drawn to Kuan Yin? Is there a growing point for me behind my infatuation with each of these beings?

I am presenting a workshop where we can explore our Tla Twein using InterPlay forms and other arts to dig beneath the surface of our selves and find new growing points.  Are you interested? Let me know at connie@deephum.com.

The Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet is now available in a paperback print version. You can order it at many independent bookstores or buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

On attending an Art Response to Japanese Internment:

cranes on branch
The dancing, the poems carried the message,
Viscerally.
In our muscles, our bones.

Words,
letters from the interned.
A connection –
tenuous but important
to those left behind.

A thousand tiny red origami cranes
moving with the hands of the dancers,
forming shapes,
a heart.

The presence of people
black, brown, white
so warm and right.
All one
together.

Japanese Internment.
Immigrant Detention.
Incarceration of minor drug offenders.
Genocide of Jews, of Armenians,
Indigenous Peoples,
Africans on slave ships.
Apartheid.
Segregation.

The pain of separation
one group from the rest
is a ripping pain,
ripping
our Selves
apart.
No longer whole.

For the oppressed side
immediate,
horrendous
pain,
their very lives threatened.

The oppressors
hide,
numb themselves
to the pain
eating them
from the inside out,
killing them, too,
soul dead.

We cannot be whole without all of us present.
When I left the Art Response I carried with me a desire to never again be in a gathering without everyone there, every race, religion, culture, age, gender.

All the living and non-living things in the Universe are One Being emerging from one singularity. All pain belongs to all of us. When we hide ourselves from the ugliness of the pain we have caused, deny the pain, it becomes a disease eating us from the inside.

We are oblivious to it and it will destroy us all.

Never again.  Never again.  NEVER AGAIN!

 

FIRE ROARS IN ME

firebird

Insights from an InterPlay Class

“Play with fire,” she said.

I wanted to dance
about an elder who leaves home,
who goes wandering.

Not fire.

I craved the wandering,
the letting go,
the peace.

But I was supposed to dance with fire.

I moved.
I spun.
Empty mind
spinning.
Letting go.
Peace…

Images came.
Words came.
Filling the void.
Understanding
the wish
to leave
because…

THERE IS A FIRE ROARING IN ME

A fire tamped down
again and again.
Sometimes discharging
a small flame of
carefully controlled passion
in words on the page.

But still it growls
in my chest,
in my belly,
wanting to be released.

I have been water
flowing down the easiest slope.

Not a pounding wave
or a flood.
Just a stream flowing.

Water is good.
Without pure water
no people
no species
no life.

Water helps things to mix
forming new things.

I’ve been the flow
that lets people mix
recognizing,
celebrating their cultural differences.
Forming new cultures.
World fusion!

I have been air
reaching into atmospheric intellect.
In rare moments of outrage
I am wind,
but never hurricane.

And yes, I have been nurturing earth
helping my students
my friends
my family to grow
(and sometimes
just being the ground beneath their feet)

BUT NOW FIRE ROARS IN ME
wiping out the tangling undergrowth.
Wind howls a path through the thickets of my mind.
Deluge pounds the dry hard earth beneath my feet,
tenderizing the soil,
making a place for the seeds of change to grow.

Let it be so.

 

The Silencing

the_silence_of_the_lambs_by_ineedchemicalx-d5oo88hI am posting this because I think perhaps we all feel silenced, no matter how much real time we get to tell our stories.  I raged because I felt silenced, and then realized how privileged I am in being able to tell so much.
Others are far more silenced than I am.

This is the story:

Anna walks in silence
Walks and walks and walks
It used to be the tiny dog followed, running after her.
But the dog died
And now she walks alone.
She doesn’t talk
except to nod, say my name,
and keep on walking.

One day she saw me standing in witness
Staring as a police officer put handcuffs
On a young black man with beautiful dreadlocks,
A pretty, sweet looking young man.
Bobby, who was working on a car right there at the curb
Right beside where the police car sat in the street
Right behind the young man’s car
where another officer searched the trunk,
Bobby said to me, “I ain’t saying nothing.”
He was frightened.

I was frightened, too,
even though I’m not black,
I hadn’t done anything…
(Maybe the young man hadn’t done anything either –
He wasn’t arrested…
But he was handcuffed, standing in the middle of the street,
Not moving,
Not offering any resistance.)

Anna saw me standing in witness
As she walked by
with quick glances at the police
at me.

The next day she spoke,
“You know that boy you watched yesterday?”
(She called him a boy.
I thought him a boy, too, young, vulnerable,
but by law he was a grown man)
I nodded.
“He was shot, killed.  Yesterday, later.”*

I felt my eyes open wide.
Frozen.
How… how…
(But that’s how I know he wasn’t arrested.
If he’d been arrested, he wouldn’t have been shot.)

She nodded and kept on walking.

One day I wanted to tell this story,
But I was silenced.
It was not really a good time to tell the story.
It was not an inappropriate silencing.
I knew that.
(And maybe I can tell this story so much better here, on paper,
than stumbling bumbling though the verbal)
But still, a rage welled up in me.
Silenced, I thought.
It feels like I’m always silenced.

I danced my rage,
my rage about myself
about my being silenced…
and something else happened.
Something much more important.

In the midst of my rage at being silenced
Another rage erupted
Coming from deep down
A volcano of rage.
I recognized how much more silenced
The people of my neighborhood are.
I saw how privileged I am.
I have the money to host a blog.
I have the time and the education to write books,
To post on Facebook, on Twitter.

I realized that Anna
That thin stark figure who walks and walks
Anna has been truly silenced,
Bound, shackled by our society
much like her ancestors were shackled.
Listen
Listen
As Anna walks in silence, she talks.
Listen
Her body tells the story.

* Just to be clear, this was not a police involved shooting.

Blue Birds and the White Cliffs of Dover

doverI’m a piano teacher.

Saturday I came home to find a big stack of old music left on my front porch by a neighbor who’d found it in a piano bench.

My first thought, was, “Oh, no, not more music,” but as I thumbed through it I found myself thoroughly enjoying sitting down to the piano to read through the old sheet music.

Some were familiar, others weren’t.

I found myself laughing somewhat ruefully at the words of Ira and George Gershwin’s The Man I Love.  As an adolescent I loved this song. I still believed in “Prince Charming,” I guess, and that someone would come along and “take care of” me. Actually, I don’t think I really thought that far ahead. I suspect I just wanted to be hugged. Or to be accepted as an okay person, i.e. beautiful female. Even then I had a strong streak of independence that wouldn’t have put up with being encaged in “a little home just meant for two, from which [I’d] never roam.”

When I came to the piece There’ll Be Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover, I laughed at the title, and then realized that this was a WWII song written in 1941 by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, both American Jews. As I played it, singing the words, I felt the poignancy of the people of England facing the bombing of their homes, the children sent away for safety.

Then I came to the words, “There’ll be love and laughter and peace ever after, tomorrow when the world is free,” and I felt tears welling up. Will there ever be a time when we have “peace ever after”, when “the world is free,” (according– since West Side Story was based on Romeo and Juliet – to my own terms of what freedom means.) The blue birds, it turns out were the planes of the RAF painted blue on the bottom so they would be harder to see against the sky.

As I continued on through the music I found more songs echoing a wistful hope for a better world.  A Time for Us from Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (an incredibly well done version of Shakespeare made in the late 60’s) calling for “A time for us… a new world of shining hope for you and me.” One reviewer compared this movie to West Side Story, which I found hilarious – since West Side Story was based on Romeo and Juliet – before I saw the movie, and understood completely after seeing it.  And then, of course, there is Somewhere from West Side Story (which wasn’t in this pile of music) – “We’ll find a new way of living … a way of forgiving.”

I’m sure there are dozens, maybe hundreds, more of these wistful, hopeful songs going back centuries. (Add your favorites in the comments.)

These songs are important, but they tend to paralyze me, rather than push toward working for change. What we really need is songs that call us to action, and there are plenty of these, as well. (These too could be listed in the comments.)

In the Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet there is at least one song that is a call to action. Arise! asks us to “open our eyes,” “beat our feet to the beat of our heart,” and “join the dance of life.” You can hear the music and see the words here.

Tonight I Danced Alone

BRAND_BIO_Bio-Shorts_Harriet-Tubman-Mini-Biography_0_172241_SF_HD_768x432-16x9One of the things I’ve been working on lately is having the courage to do things alone.  I am in awe of Harriet Tubman who went alone down into the south where she risked being re-enslaved, or murdered, to rescue people. Alone.

Sometimes some command to do something wells up in me, but I tamp it down, afraid.  I always want someone to do it with me as if that gives me permission. When I think about it rationally, I think, how stupid to let the fear of what others might say keep me from doing something courageous that’s needed. But I do. I think the fear of condemnation by others far outweighs any fear for my physical wellbeing.

Last night I went to a vigil for a shelter-less man, Roberto, who died in the doorway of the old UHaul Rental store just a few blocks from my house.  It was a good experience with neighbors.

Two men who had been his friends came a little bit into the vigil with candles and faces engraved with grief. They were day laborers and talked about how hard it had been for Roberto working only one or two days a week. How hard it had been for Roberto — and I knew they were also speaking about how hard it is for them. They said much more in Spanish and some of it was translated by someone there, but much wasn’t.

Two different men played Indian flutes, one Navajo flute and one a Mayan flute with a drone.

When the first man started playing the flute (such a perfect instrument, a perfect sound for this vigil in front of an empty car rental store, on a busy city street), I found my body demanding to dance on behalf of Roberto, and all the other Robertos. My whole body wanted to move and I felt no need to silence it. I tried to move to the back of the group where there was space, but I was penned in, leaning against the wall right next to the flute player, who didn’t want to move out in front of the group. Nor did I have any desire to dance in front of the group. Just to dance. A demanding, overwhelming urge.

The two friends stayed in the middle, facing the shrine, where they belonged. Our silence, the music, was as much for them as it was for Roberto.

I closed my eyes and the flow came, empty of words. My hands moved, the rest of me anchored to the wall. I sank into some other place letting my arms flow with the need, with the music, with some kind of bodily awareness of the needs of these men. A kind of oneness with… something… happened.

When I opened my eyes one of the two friends was crying.  I thought that he was crying for Roberto, and maybe also for himself.

I feel like I’ve graduated in some way. Moved into a space where I can feel what I feel, let flow through me … something … and do what I do without worrying about what others think. Truly give the gift on behalf of this man and all shelter-less people everywhere.  And it was good.

Tonight I danced alone. I didn’t risk my life freeing slaves. Not yet. But I danced alone letting go of all the self-consciousness. I danced for the man who died and for all the shelter-less people who die alone. And it was good.

 

“We Are the Protectors of the Water”

WireAP_3cde92f497e64fe79555f2a5eb252e7f_16x9_1600

We are the Protectors of the Water

This morning I watched a beautiful video explaining that the women of the Standing Rock Sioux are the keepers of the water and so they are not “protestors”, but “protectors”.  As I watch this “standing up” for the water happening in the Dakotas I am particularly engaged because, a year or two ago, as I wrote the Earth Woman Tree Woman Quartet, it became clear to me that one of the main characters, Yameno, a native Uhsean (Are you wondering who the country of Uhs might be?) would have to be the protector of the sacred waters and lead the indigenous people from all over the earth to save the waters.

I don’t feel like some of these ideas (in the book) or even some of the writing really comes from me, but through me.  Of course, the idea of the indigenous people being the protectors of the water has been around for a long time and certainly my understanding of that was in my brain cells somewhere.  But still, I love the way different ways of thinking or acting seem to emerge from many points on the planet at the same time.  We are emerging, growing, changing, becoming more one with the earth, with each other, with the Dance of Life – in Earth Woman Tree Woman called the Tsin Twei.

The humans in the book take on other forms when they visit Ninas Twei, the land of the Dance of Life.  Some take on the form of animals, others, mythological characters.  Yameno becomes a wolf.

A quote from the fourth book:

“Water,” cried Tata. “Yameno Wellkeeper, the tree must have water.”
“We are coming,” called Yameno, and the Tree Woman gripped his back as he leapt into the air.

      I am the wild, the freeborn, earth traveler!
     My soul singing touches the moon and the sun.
     I am the herald, the seeker, the messenger.
     I bear the song for those seeking the One.
     I am the hunter, the knower, the lover.
     My voice like a spear pierces deep in the night.
     I am the lone, the many, the mirror.
     My call is like lightning, jagged and bright!

Out of the mists came hundreds of wolves and cougars, swans, coyotes, squirrels, snakes, elk, and eagles, surrounding the Wolf and the Earth Woman Tree Woman.

      We are the wild, the wild,
               freeborn, earth travelers –
         soul singing, earth travelers –
               touching the moon and the sun.
         We are the commune, the sharers,
               the lovers,
         joining together, ever seeking the One.

It’s his nation, Tree Woman realized, the people of his village who have come here countless times over the years. And more… The sound of a thousand drumming circles throbbed through the air as Yameno sang – the indigenous peoples woven into the land of the Americas and all the lands of the earth, drumming and chanting, their feet pounding the ground. Hi, ya! Hi, ya! they called.

 

 

Our US Version of Hunger Games

From Allan Kehler’s blog at the website http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/:

From Allan Kehler’s blog  post, Unity, at the website http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/

I’ve just finished reading the first book of The Hunger Games series.  I’ve seen the movie, but as a novelist realize I really need to read this series and some others that are supposedly young adult novels (they appeal to me and I’m far from a “young” adult).

This dystopian novel is about a United States taken over by corporate greed. The powers-that-be (referred to as the “Capital”) control the outer Districts by setting up a competition to the death between two children of each district, chosen by lottery, in a wild terrain called the arena.  The competition is called the “Hunger Games.”

I thought about what the “Hunger Games” did to keep the “Capital” in power.  By setting up the competition between the Districts they not only terrorize the Districts, but they divide them – turning them against each other.

Except for the blatant violence, Roman circus atmosphere of the Hunger Games, this is not too different from what is happening in this country today.  Using racism as the tool, the one percent is tearing apart any unity the rest of us might have by setting us against each other.  Trump, of course, is having a lot of fun playing into this.

“It must be those immigrants that are stealing our jobs,” — not the corporations that have sent the jobs overseas, or who are hoarding their money in tax havens so that they don’t have to pay their fair share of taxes.

“Those Muslims are terrorists and out to kill us,” — despite the fact that far more Muslims are being killed than people of any other religion by the violent extremists in the Middle East.  Extremists who are armed to the teeth with weapons sold by American corporations and those from other wealthy countries.  (I wonder just what the weapons industry has to do with this promotion of endless war?)

“That black man walking down the street must be casing my house because we know all black men are criminals.  Look how many are in jail,” – even though we know that the war on drugs was used as a way to imprison black men, destroy families, giving them huge sentences despite the nonviolence of their crimes which then made it very difficult for them to get jobs. This and so much more had the intent to dampen the success of the civil rights movement.

I’m hoping, as I start on the second and third novels of The Hunger Games series, to find that the “districts” find a way to unite against the corporate interests.  I’m hoping, too, that we will stop this racist nonsense here in our real world and begin to pull together for the good of all humanity and the earth.

This is the story that goes with the picture above (from http://www.outfromtheshadows.ca/unity/):

At the Festival of Peace in Brazil, journalist and philosopher, Lia Diskin, shared the story about an anthropologist who was studying the habits and customs of an African tribe referred to as ‘Ubuntu’. The anthropologist asked some children from this tribe to participate in a game. He placed a basket full of candy at the base of a nearby tree, and told the children that whoever got to the basket first was the recipient of all the candy.

After organizing the children behind a line that he had drawn on the ground, the anthropologist announced ‘Go!’ To his surprise, he observed all of the children join hands and run together towards the prize. One they reached the candy they all sat down together to enjoy their winnings.

The anthropologist was intrigued and asked them why they had run together when one could have had all the treats. One of the children responded by saying, “How can one of us be happy if all the other ones are sad?”

Yes.  How can any of us be happy when so many of us are sad, hungry, discriminated against, warred upon, dying, being pushed out of our homes…