Monday, October 30, 2017

Happiness, and a Bag of Rice

He told me he dreamed, as a little nomad sleeping by the fire under the stars in a village in Kenya, of a bigger life than seemed possible. But he shone brightly, and worked hard, and he began to rise, from school to higher education, assisted by scholarships. Then, he made a desperate push, hanging on by a thread,  to complete his degree. His positivity never faltered. I asked him  what motivated him to strive so hard. He replied, "Poverty." Unlike any poverty I ever knew, in this first world of excess across the sea. He would try to take home a few dollars, when he returned home every Christmas, and said his mother would praise him to the skies and thank him for his help. He told me  a Christmas story, laughing, of when he was a little boy, coming in the door expecting his mother to be cooking rice, which they ate only at Christmas. He found her cooking vegetables. There was no money for rice that year. And he cried. He said, "Mum and I laugh about it now." It was almost Christmas time again, and it occurred to me, "How much can a bag of rice cost, anyway?" That Christmas he carried home a bag of rice, rubber shoes for his siblings, and a special gift for his mother. He said there were cries and ululations, and that his brothers' and sisters' eyes shone in the firelight. He said, "Thank you, Koko," but truly, it was I who was grateful, for it was the best gift I ever gave, and the most meaningful.

Sometimes happiness
is as simple as a bag 
of rice from a friend.

for Toni's prompt at dVerse: Kindness, an act of kindness received or given. This memory of several years back came to mind. In this case, the kindness went both ways, and our hearts have stayed close. (p.s. That little nomad boy is now a member of the Legislature in Kenya! Still shining. Smiles.)

Sunday, October 29, 2017

To Restore the Soul of the Earth to Wholeness

Sunlight Through Trees
by Stephanie Oien
This is my daughter's yard - 
she lives in a forest outside of Victoria, so beautiful.

The wild is the soul of the earth.
Mother Earth speaks to us
through whale and wolf and tree.
She sings to us in rainfall
on parched earth,
in windsong through the branches
of tall cedar,
in birdsong on 
a golden autumn morning.

She speaks to those of us
who are listening.
We weep together
over those who are not.

Visit an old tree.
Place your hands on her trunk
and listen.
She will tell you her story.
Under the ground,
her roots reach out to
all the others.
They hold hands,
quaking in fear
as the grappleyarders come.

We are a voracious species.
We devour our own home.

If you listen to the song of the river,
it will tell you
that the earth is struggling.
In drought, it dries up,
fish flapping limply in stagnant pools,
unable to make their way.
When the voice of the river falls silent,
when the wildfires burn,
when Mother Earth heaves and tosses in storm,
when bears swim for miles
in a warming, polluted sea,
it is long past time
to awaken:
to plant trees,
to clear the streams and clean the ocean,
to legislate reduced emissions and carbon tax,
to turn off fossil fuel and turn on clean energy.
Time to cool the earth
with loving hands.
Time to restore the soul of the earth
to wholeness.

I am heartened by some of the people across the planet who are doing this work of healing Mother Earth, like the Tree Sisters, inspiring women all over the world to fulfil their goal of planting a billion trees. I hope humankind will work together in time. If we don't, I know Mother Earth will survive, and begin again. But she is trying so hard to help us live, even while we are destroying her. Rivers, trees, whales, fish......all are warning us, with much distress, if only we will listen.

Friday, October 27, 2017


Moon Dog 1973

La Loba,
in your dark cave,
under the full moon,
Sing as you gather the bones
of my brothers, my sisters.

Sing as you lay them down
on the ground.
Place them end to end,
tenderly, carefully,
piece by piece,
until they are whole.
Then breathe life into them
and watch them leap up,
joyous-eyed, tails arcing,
teeth snapping and smiling
around the fire.

as they take my heart with them
and run away,
beautiful, laughing and free,
into the welcoming
midnight forest.

La Loba, sing!

A poem from 2013, shared with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United, great reading every Sunday morning. 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

How Elk Change Rivers

Art from NC County Fair - Asheville

Introduction of wolves 
into a valley
the elk and deer population,
which changes the topography
of the land.

Wolves eat elk:
population decreases,
vegetation increases.
In time,
the course of the river 
is changed.
Bird life and Wildlife 
to the hidden valley.

Each is part of the whole,
necessary, essential.

The part that is not fitting well,
right now,
is humankind.

But we can learn.

for Artistic Interpretations with Margaret at Real Toads: to choose one of the paintings and write a poem. My title and the idea of the poem came from the captivating video How Wolves Change Rivers, about the trophic cascade occurring after the introduction of wolves to Yellowstone. 

I am excited these days about the global movement Tree Sisters, who plan to plant a billion trees worldwide this year. I might start a band of Tree Sisters in Tofino. Too many trees have come down here to make way for hotels for rich tourists. (No affordable housing for locals, as a result.) And the rainforest is in dire need of rain - we have had months of sun, thanks to climate change, and the trees are thirsty. We had better learn fast.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wild Child

I was a wild child,
wandering the hills,
breathing in the scent
of sage and Ponderosa pine,
scuffing up the red earth,
drinking from irrigation trestles,
dreaming under
 puffy-cloud blue sky.

Once I wandered
up and over a hill,
past a herd of cows,
and they began to follow me
with their clumping hooves,
me going faster down the hill,
with them hastening behind me.

My life has been a journey
from desert to forest trail,
from lake to sea.
It has been a journey from
dog to dog, 
and one black wolf,
each accompanying me
with attentive eye and
warm, devoted heart.

Now, dogless, nearing
the end of my pilgrimage,
I am friend of all creatures,
Grandma of all dogs.
One came to me yesterday
at the beach, with timid eye.
She laid her treasure - her orange ball -
invitingly at my feet
for me to throw.
I did.
She would have followed me home,
but I had to tell her "Go.
Go to your person."

This life brings us so much:
wonders, nature, experiences,
memories, love,
an excess of delights.
It takes, as well.
Loss is the rent we pay
for being here.
But, before we lose,
we have.
And soon........
along comes
another gift,
another wonder.
I live in
endless gratitude
for it all.

Friday, October 20, 2017


Picture collage by The Unknown Gnome

I walk under soft, dark greenness.
Peace falls on me like rain,
The fiddlehead fern of my being
gently unfurls.

I breathe in cedar,
that my Inner Old One
from centuries past.

among the trees, unseen,
but felt,
perhaps in the dust motes swirling
in patches of golden sunlight
filtered through ancient cedar.

an owl utters
a sleepy "who-hoo?"
Somewhere, a black wolf
through the veil,
his eyes speaking
our language without words.
I feel them
in my soul.

Shinrin-Yoku: the Japanese art of forest bathing.

This poem is from spring 2016 and is shared with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United. Come join us for some fine reading with your morning coffee.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Wild Beach

Wild waves at the beach today.

The beach was closed, so we stood 
at the end of the path at the north end.

Some waves came right up to the edge of the path. 
People who ignored the Beach Closed sign
had to do some fast footwork 
to keep from being caught in the tide.

No surfing possible today.

A little glimpse of blue sky and sun.

This is how good my zoom is.
I was at NORTH Chestermans.
These big waves were on the other side of the tombolo
that goes out to Frank's Island,
a long walk down the beach.

I can hardly believe the people are even visible.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

He Who Walks Among the Stars

From up here,
the world looks new,
peaceful, beautiful,

Down below live
people with holes in their hearts,
toxicity on their brains,
struggle on their paths.
They are longing for
wholeness and healing,
even if they don't know.
Down below,
looking up and dreaming,
live people
with the ability to
make the whole world new,
if they but choose.

One walks among them who shows
that it is possible to reach out
and do good
even in the midst of
one's own struggle.

He is a man
on his journey,
He Who Walks Among the Stars,
who told of one small boy's death
and woke his country up.
The chief thanked him for
"taking the time to care
about our people."

That is how we will remember him,
a man with time to love one small boy,
and, through him, a whole people,
before he took his
walk among the stars.

I wrote this one year ago, when Gord Downie, leader of the Tragically Hip, on his journey through brain cancer,  completed his farewell tour across Canada.   One of his most important works was a short film called The Secret Path, a true story about a twelve year old boy who died while escaping from residential school in 1966. Last December, First Nations chiefs and communities gathered to honour him, with an eagle feather, a blanket, and the gift of his native name, Man Who Walks Among the Stars. Gord cried throughout the ceremony, calling it the best day of his life.

The link on Gord's name will take you to the moving video of the ceremony.

Gord Downie died last night, age 53, after a heroic year. His message: that it is long past time for Canadians to address reconciliation with the First Nations people of Canada. I agree. The country mourns his loss.

Darkness and Light

In such global darkness,
we have to trust that
there will still
be light

that the sun will come out
after rain

the moon and stars
will follow day

that peace will reign again
one day.

There is 
no other way to live

than with hope and faith
and trust.

We continue to believe
we must.

for Susan's prompt at Midweek Motif: Dark Moon / New Moon

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


Yellow and burnt orange
row on row,
spilled over the garden fence,
at my little house
full of children
in Kelowna,
long ago.

and shoes
just inside the door,
made  a hill
so steep.
I never thought
one day I'd miss
that messy heap.

We thought
those days
would for forever last,
but life has a way
of going by
too fast.

Bikes and hikes
and flying kites,
our snug little home
full of music and laughter,
together we made
that would last
forever after.

The kitchen was the colour 
of marigolds.
I remember
breakfasts and suppers,
and morning songs,
my heart full of joy,
and marigolds cascading
over the garden fence
each September.

For the prompt at dVerse: to write about an aspect of fall.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Animal Spirits

After an oil spill,
the mist above the inlet
is filled with the spirits
of all of the animals
who have died
in the spill.

Orca-, eagle-, heron-spirits,
hover over the ocean.
They rest in trees
along the shore.

They carry a message
for the people of the earth:
Wake up.
Wake up to
Mother Earth's cries.
Heal her wounds.

After the wildfires,
the smoldering, parched earth
releases the spirits
of all the animals
who were burned
in the flames.

They remain near
the black, dead land,
near the horses' bones,
near the burning hooves,
near the deer, and rabbits,
and wolves,
near the lives
they loved and lost.

They carry a message
for the people of the earth:
Wake up.
Wake up to
Mother Earth's cries.
Heal her wounds.

After flood waters recede,
and all of the bodies
of drowned creatures
are bagged and carried away,
the spirits of that place
sit vigil near the watery graves,
praying we humans
will awaken to our mandate:
to replenish and heal
Mother Earth.

They carry a message
for the people of the earth:
Wake up.
Wake up to Mother Earth's cries,
her distress.
Awaken to all
you can be,
all you can do,
to heal the Earth Mother,
the only home 
of all creatures.

The idea for this poem came from reading Into Great Silence : A Memoir of Discovery and Loss among Vanishing Orcas by Eva Saulitis. Eva spent twenty years among the orcas of Prince William Sound, both before and after the oil spill. The animals she grew to know like her family are now vanishing due to the after-effects of the oil spill, the intrusion of human development into their wild habitat,  and the warming seas of climate change.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When a Thousand Women Gather......

When a thousand women gather,
you can feel the power,
the joy, the deep, sweet Knowing,
looking into each other's eyes:
I see you.
You are beautiful.
Together, we are strong.

When a thousand women gather,
saying Enough! War is not the way to peace.
Enough! You will not have
our sons and daughters;
Enough! Life, earth, air, water
are more important and necessary
than money,
then Change begins.

All over the world,
women are planting trees,
because we need to breathe.
In response to the clearcut mountains
that filled the wallets
of the multinationals,
a billion seedlings are
going into the ground,
to green the barren deserts
and heal the earth, the air,
and our breaking hearts.

All over the world,
women are rising up,
doing what they can
for the earth and each other.
Yes, we can!

And now we join hands
across oceans, across sky,
across all man-made boundaries,
to birth a new way of being
with Mother Earth,
that is a very Old way of being,
understood by all aboriginal peoples.

When a thousand women gather,
the Divine Feminine is unleashed,
in all her power*.

On October 19 at 11 a.m. Pacific time, (2 p.m. EST, and 7 p.m. UK) the Call to Dream Ceremony will be held, online, in an effort to empower women to feel strong and hopeful in the face of climate change. It is sponsored by the Tree Sisters, whose goal is to plant a billion trees worldwide, in an effort to heal Mother Earth. The first goal was a million trees, and the response has been so strong, it is now a billion.

Time to rise in sisterhood. The male model of leadership has failed. Capitalism, based on the Myth of More, is destroying the earth and is untenable for all but the wealthy. Time to listen to the earth, to work with Her. Time to dream a better dream.

The launch is the beginning of a seven week  journey of collective discovery. Clare Dubois is putting out the call to all women to 1) plant trees worldwide and 2) unite in an attempt to birth a shift in  consciousness to a nature-based consciousness, to counter the aggressive momentum that is now going on in the world. I'm in. You can hear Clare talk about this here.

*In Tibetan myth, when a thousand women gather, the sacred feminine is birthed through their collective energy.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Once In Autumn

“Choose the least important day in your life. 
It will be important enough.” 

Once in autumn.....
Nekiah hand-stitched every leaf,
with unerring eye,
making Tree Spirit costumes
for you and your friend,
Isaac Blue Sky.

We didn't know, 
back then,
just how precious
were those fleeting days
of grace,
how quickly life
was flying by,
too fast the pace.

First, you grew.
Too soon,
before I was ready,
before you were, too,
you were out of the nest
and away;
for your heartbreaks
my heart, too, would pay,
you, so young and heedless 
and rash,
my hair slowly turning
the color of 
silvery ash.

Too soon,
Nekiah was gone.
It was cancer.
Isaac Blue Sky's life 
was forever

Those innocent faces 
up there,
those round trusting eyes
that enraptured,
those smiles that had 
not yet known pain........
remind me that once,
once in autumn,
we all lived precious days
that will not,
              will not ever
                            come again.

for Sumana's prompt at Midweek Motif: Autumn. I re-worked an old poem from 2010, for this prompt, as autumn always reminds me of those fleeting, precious days. Ouch. A pang in my heart.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Boat Trip Through Clayoquot Sound

Yesterday, my friend Chris invited me along on a trip to 
her floathouse, a short boat-ride from Tofino.
This is the harbour, before we set out.

Lone Cone, wearing a cloud like a toque.
The small native village of Opitsaht
can be seen along the shore.

We were briefly in the pathway of a floatplane,
trying to take off. Oops!

The Tofino shoreline as we sped away.

A cute off the grid cabin

Beauty, beauty, beauty.....

Lone Cone from another perspective

A heron on the mudflats

The trees look so alive, and fully themselves,
when they are safe from human interference.

Many choose to live off the grid

The Camel

An oyster  farm


Such a peaceful little home this is.

Chris's greenhouse.

Heading home past the hazy mountains.
A wonderful day!


Mother Earth
by Caitlin Taylor 2008

Hope is the belief
that light can dispel darkness,
love can overcome hate,
there are more good people
than evil in the world.
It is understanding
that social justice is
both possible and necessary,
(and long over-due),
that most people are kind,
and want to live in peace.
Hope is hands held out
to help each other
in times of crisis,
proving this is possible, also,
in ordinary times.

Hope is turning off the news,
the angry, divisive rhetoric,
the deranged killings,
and going out into the village
to smile at people, pat the dogs,
raise our eyes to the skies,
the mountains and the sea,
and giving thanks.

Hope is cherishing each golden day
in belief they will continue,
just in case they don't.

Mostly, hope wears the faces
of the children of tomorrow,
of the planet and all of its creatures,
who are asking for
their own time in the sun.

At Toads, Sanaa asked for some hope this morning. This is what popped out.

Sunday, October 8, 2017


 source: Wolf Howling

Along a forest trail,
we met,
wolf and old woman.

Our eyes locked.
He took a step back,

"Don't worry," I said.
"I love you.
I won't hurt you."

I backed slowly,
turned away,
retreated from
his habitat.

At a bend in the trail,
I looked back.
He was still watching me.
His eyes were sad,
for all the embattled wolves
and humans
of the world,
for the friendship
there could be,
among the species,
not possible
until humankind

I walked a forest trail this morning, and these lines popped into my head. A friend once met a young cougar on the trail. It meowed at her. True story.


Photo by Karoline Cullen - Orca Network

She is grieving.
The loss of her child
is something no mother
should have to bear.

The water is dark and surging.
It takes strength to push through
the waves,
to believe in a horizon unseen.

She gives a keening whine,
then blows, then dives,
her fluke arching
black against the sky.

Slowly, she makes
her lonely way
back to her pod,
her calf no longer
beside her.

I am reading a wonderful book about a young woman who spent twenty years watching the whales in Prince William Sound, both before and after the oil spill. The pods she followed are now vanishing. So much grief in this world. The book is Into Great Silence by Eva Saulitis.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


Great-granddaughter Lunabella,
at the beginning of her journey

[*title taken from W.B.Yeats]

Where has it all gone,
scattered like pebbles
from a toddler's pail,
as if there will always be More,
until, suddenly, there isn't?

Look back, look back,
down all of those sun-dappled years,
to the very beginning,
all fragrant with apple blossoms -
the dark and the light,
the bitter and the sweet,
such a terrible beauty*,
that catches at the throat,
mixed, as it is, in the
crust of parched earth,
slaked by a madman's draught
at the very last moment
before expiring.

The dying's last request
is always for water,
my grandmother's long white finger
pointing at the glass
when no more was she
able to speak.
And water,
that single tear
rolling down her cheek,
as she said goodbye to it all
and began that slow slow walk
across the mountains of the moon.

The older one grows,
the heavier that backpack of grief,
an endless well
we can draw from at random:

a paean of gratitude with its counterpoint of pain,
(so beautiful! so beautiful!),
a lament that catches in the back of the throat,
joy that aches, stirred like a slurry,
prickling, like cactus,
a lump of regret
that can never be swallowed,
as the hot tears roll down one's cheeks
because it is too soon,
too soon,
to be faced with leaving.

Too fast it all goes.
Towards the end, one’s life
begins to gallop like a willow-whipped horse,
frothing and frantic to escape the lash,
hooves relentlessly pounding, pounding,
carrying us off, all unwilling,
with still so much to do,
doomed riders
in a race to the unknown,
on which we wager
the biggest long-shot of our lives:
that somehow
we will still continue on
after death.

My worn old kit bag of memories
is filled to the brim with all I was given:
more laughter than tears,
more challenge than ease,
song and story and a high, hopeful heart,
an optimism I hold like a mantra,
refusing to surrender in the face of all that is daunting,
and more gratitude than can be put into words
for this magical realm,
where a leaf is a miracle
and a red fox sheer brilliance,
where the owl calls from the forest
in her quavery voice,
beckoning us in with her feathery wing,
where the grey wolf howls through our very souls,
where loneliness and fullness
compete for the same square inch
of living space in the hearts of the solitary,
and where daybreak and hellfire
alike streak the sky
with a Van Gogh's palette of vermilion and indigo,
whose silvery stars set us dreaming
into the soft sighing dark
of that welcoming Night.

* from W.B. Yeats

A poem from 2012, since I am pondering and processing death this week, with the passing of a dear friend. Apologies for its length. It was the only poem that spoke to me, for sharing with the Poetry Pantry at Poets United.

Thursday, October 5, 2017


We walk the fine edge,
between this world and the next,
trying to heal our pain, 

recover from our illnesses,
adjusting to the decline of the body
that has transported us so far.

You have fought a long battle, 
old pal of mine.
I am sensing your grasp on life 
slowly slipping away.
Your eyes are on the eagle, 
flying free of his fetters.
You are communing with deer 
in your garden.
The orcas pass by, 
your mind engraving
the vision and the joy.
Your heart is loving and mourning 
this beautiful earth
you are slowly leaving.
We are never ready to let go
of the beauty we have loved so well.

For 37 years, you have always been there:
at the other end of the telephone,
through my joys and sorrows,
on the other side of my screen,
sharing all I was learning.
We have witnessed, 
encouraged and supported
each other's journey,
collaborated on songs,
shared our love of the wild,
and music,
and sunsets.

You have been my friend, my mentor,
my guide, my guru.
You have shown me the way,
walking your pilgrim's path of the soul,
listening to your inner guides.

You can never really be gone from me.

On the other side, for you,
there will be a radiance:
your face shining as it did 
in coffeehouse days,
when candles flickered on you, 
smiling in the glow,
singing Gentle Jonathan 
and Forever Young.

I will see you forever
strumming your guitar, 
singing your songs
of trees and rivers 
and eagles in flight.

On the other side: 
Manders, curled,
purring on your chest -
and no more tumors,
shortness of breath,
fatigue and diminishing health.
Just an expansion of the soul
which has grown too large
for your chest to contain,
and needs more room 
in which to grow.

In memory, you will always be
on stage at Brock and Friends,
or, later, stalking the sunset,
camera in hand, 
at Chestermans Beach.

It is in sunsets I will 
forever see you,
old friend of mine.

Always remember, 
on the other side of sunset
comes the dawn.
That is where I'll find you,
once you're gone.


My friend from coffeehouse days, Matthew, departed this life night before last.  He passed peacefully, and was ready to go. He was always attuned to Spirit. He did walking meditations, where he said "I love you" to every rock, and dog, and tree he passed, and he told me that after a few minutes everything started loving him back. He was always Spirit-led and so I know he trustingly followed into the spirit world.

He was my friend, mentor, guru, supporter and guide. He knew me when, when I was just awakening, recovering from trauma. The coffeehouse in the 80's was filled with souls living gently on the earth. I walked in the door and I was home. They watered my parched roots, and gave me space, and acceptance, till my petals slowly unfurled. I have such gratitude for the gift the coffeehouse, and those gentle people, were for me. Matthew was one of the special people in my life. I sent him the above poem when his health began to fail. I wanted him to know what he meant to me, and he told me my poem moved him. 

I will miss him. And I will be forever grateful for having had such a friend.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


photo by Stephanie Oien
taken from her balcony

They live in families,
like us.
They feel happiness, love, fear,
loyalty, devotion, pleasure,
heat and cold,
hunger, pain, distress,
like us.

They help each other,
protect each other,
sacrifice for each other,
grieve for each other,
like us.

To my heart's distress,
so many of them
are treated cruelly,
as if they are.......
not like us.

for Susan's prompt  at Midweek Motif: Animals. I have written so many poems about animals through the years. But if I had to distill my thoughts about them in a nutshell, it is the fact that so many of them suffer terribly at the hands of humans that weighs on my heart the most. We, as human beings, should long since have demanded that all animals, especially those in "factory farms",  be treated humanely during their lives - and their deaths. At the very least. 

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
Mahatma Gandhi

In North America, we are not doing very well.