ode to the snout-nosed butterfly

img_5018
if you live south

look out

look out

you might demise

this little snout

i must have split

poor little wings

a thousand times

such fragile things

~

yet slicing through

these clouds of life

i thought to stop

upon the side

of littered roads

with bodies thin

& hold       one

death

against my skin

 

(c) d. ellis phelps

Snout-nosed butterflies have been migrating south through San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country for the past few days. High summer temperatures and drought plus recent  rains have caused the exact right climate for this phenomenon. The last time it occurred was in 2012. 

As I drove to lunch with a friend today, killing probably hundreds of these delicate creatures, their bodies, sacrificial on my windshield, on the grill of my GMC, I cringed & wondered how it might change our world (my world) if, when this kind of natural phenomenon occurs, we would stop:  declare a national holiday, pull up chairs beside the road, in the forests and witness, in reverie, these powerful mysteries happening right before our eyes.  

leonard-cohen-portrait-by-bill-strain-via-cc

image:  “Leonard Cohen” used by permission of Bill Strain via Creative Commons.  Rights reserved.

new publications: art & poetry

 

how many painters does it take to change a nation 12X12 in mm on paper 2016

how many painters does it take to change a nation 12X12″ mm on paper, 2016 (c) d. ellis phelps

Voices de la Luna

A San Antonio based, Quarterly Literature & Arts magazine has published this painting and one of the poems I wrote for the  Tupelo Press 30/30 Project in March, 2016.

These two pieces represent the beginnings of an increasingly political bent in my art & writing.  To my surprise, the painting has sold.  So much for trying to “make things pretty” when they are decidedly not.

Here you see the matriarchal warrior goddess questioning:  how many painters does it take to change a nation; how many $ does it take to trump justice.

It is not simply a female leader we need.  It is a compassionate, honest, dignified, just, intelligent leader (of any gender) we need.  & since the populace seems blinded and deceived by drama and captivated by fear, I wonder what kind of cataclysmic event it will take to bring us again to our metaphorical knees or whether All that is Whole and Good and Pure and True will move us to redemption.

How does Great Spirit move in you?  This is how it moves in me:

if 

i had attended

the workshop

i would have missed

this:

visitation of cranes

follow this link to read the rest of the poem in Voices

 

 

i wish you every gentleness

The Cloak Brandi Strickland

“The Cloak”  18X18″ Mixed Media Collage.  Image courtesy of the artist, Brandi Strickland.  Used with permission and gratitude.  All rights reserved.  Please visit Ms. Strickland’s website here to view more of her work.

Today is the thirtieth day of the season of non-violence–a sixty-four day block of time between Jan. 30 and Apirl 4 (the anniversaries of the assassinations of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, respectively) which is set aside annually & was originated by Ghandi’s grandson.

Why designate a season of non-violence?  Of course, it is a celebration of the contribution these and other modern day public figures who have lived out their lives passionately, teaching the way of non-violence.  But most importantly,  it is one way to engage ourselves in a conversation about the power of gentleness.

I have never heard nor have I ever spoken these words:  Happy season of non-violence!  And though I think, Happy season of gentleness! evokes more of the resonance I personally want to create in the world, these are not words that have ever occurred to me to say.  Hmmmmmm….

There is a season in which everyone walks the streets wishing everyone else everywhere merriness and joy and P.E.A.C.E!  Culturally, however, we only give ourselves permission to show this much good will publicly for the thirty days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  The rest of the time, we might say, “Have a nice day,” or “Be well,” but these phrases don’t carry quite the same message.  They don’t really speak to the practice of non-violence the way, say, May you know gentleness today, or I wish you every gentleness might.

I write about gentleness, confessing my own need for it, my own need to practice, practice, practice, confessing that I lapse into violent thought and sometimes (still) words and actions that come from habits deeply imbedded in my neuron-pathways from pre-birth.

I write to watch myself.  I write to know myself.  I write to change myself.  I write, hoping that what I have experienced will move others into their own way of being present to themselves and their own needs to watch, to know, to change.

What follows are excerpts from a talk I gave to women gathered for the Diocese of South Texas Episcopal Women’s Spring Gathering at Camp Capers in Waring, Texas, April 4, 2014.  I share it with you today, celebrating my own season of non-violence, celebrating how far I have come, celebrating my own willingness to carry on.

bend them with gentleness meme flickr

image:  meme by Brett Jordan.  Use with permission via Creative Commons.  Rights reserved.

Part I:  Why Am I Here?

 I started writing Making Room for George because I needed to tell the story of what was happening in my life.

But as I wrote, the writing morphed from a simple account of the events in my life into a journey itself–through my life’s history and choices– and as I wrote, it was much like taking an inventory, bearing witness, explaining, and grappling with the transformational journey I have been making from the person I used to be into the person I am.

After I finished the book, I realized that I would be speaking to people about the book.  I had to decide what it was I really wanted to say besides, “Buy my book.”  And as I asked for guidance and began to receive it, I had great resistance to the clear message that surfaced.  But it was so clear and so profound and it scared me so much that I knew this was what I was being called to do.

So this is what I have come here today to say:

The woman sitting next to you  in church every Sunday, well-dressed, intelligent, raising a straight-up child, holding a good job could be the very woman whose husband sitting beside her threatened her life and the life of her child the night before.

Statistics show that as many as one in every three of us has experienced some form of abuse by an intimate partner.

We must realize this is happening, maybe even to the woman sitting next to you right now.

We must talk about it openly.  We must hold the door of our hearts wide open so that disclosure can happen.   We must proactively educate ourselves and our children as to what constitutes a healthy relationship.  We must teach each other how to practice respect and gentleness.

peace is every step cover tich nhat hahnimage:  “Peace is Every Step” (Book cover) by Thich Naht Hanh.  From my suggested reading list & a favorite of mine.

We must tell the truth. We must heal this abuse. We must stand together, become formidable, and thrive toward a culture of gentleness.

Part II:  Why Doesn’t She Just Leave?

As an adult, I asked my mother why she didn’t just leave my father.  After all, she had a job.  This was her answer:  “Because he said he’d kill both of us if I did.”  So my mother risked her life and sacrificed her happiness to save our lives.

That’s valid.

As it turns out, this threat is a common one made by many perpetrators.  Sometimes, in spite of such a threat, women summon the courage to leave and succeed, finding new lives in other cities or carrying on where they are, but with restraining orders in place, finding that their spouse’s bullying behaviors subside once they realize she has finally, really left and isn’t coming back.  Sometimes, the perpetrator hunts them down and carries out the threat.

A woman who lived across the street from one of my friends in an affluent San Antonio neighborhood was being held hostage by her husband, locked inside and not allowed out alone. None of the neighbors suspected anything was wrong until her sister called one of them to say there was going to be an intervention

Sometimes a woman has children and no job and no idea how she would survive and care for her children, so she tells herself after every beating or insult that he didn’t really mean it and that he won’t do it again.  In fact, that’s what most perpetrators do say.  They experience and express real remorse, but somehow cannot keep their aggression from surfacing again and again.

Sometimes, the woman is well-educated and has an excellent job and could easily care for herself and her children financially, but she has been brainwashed into thinking that the whole mess is her fault and if she would only do this or that differently, he wouldn’t lose his temper the way he does.  So the woman jumps through hoops:  taking cooking classes; losing weight; changing her hair; never going out; clinging; not-clinging; and so on and on and on…

The other reason women stay is because they love this man and because they would rather stay and risk a broken arm than endure a broken life with a broken heart.  My mother loved my father until the day she died and I love my husband despite all of our difficulties.

what on earth am i here for flickr Cc

image:  “Good Question” by Bob Jagendorf. Used with permission via Creative Commons.  Rights reserved.

Part III:  You Can’t Get There From Here

Have I experienced violence at the hands of someone I love?  Yes.  I am one in three.  But why did I choose a man who slapped me to the ground and treated me with such disrespect and why didn’t I just leave him?

Einstein is quoted to have said:  “a problem cannot be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

I can speak most authentically to this point by telling my own story.

I cannot leave the place I inhabit unless I leave it consciously, by first identifying the energetic pattern-cause and then by practicing the vigilant work of choosing again and again a new way of inhabiting my world.

D. Ellis Phelps

In order to move on, I must embody a new energetic pattern.  Otherwise, I will simply find myself back in the same circumstance or with the same kind of partner who may be slightly more or less abusive because that’s the kind of energetic space my consciousness inhabits, because that’s what’s familiar, because that’s what I’m attracted to subconsciously.

So when I found my husband, what kind of energetic-pattern did I embody?  What were my deepest systems of belief?

From as early as I can remember, I learned that violence is a way of life.  That it is part of loving someone.  That it is the way to handle anger, disappointment, and frustration.

I watched my father become enraged with my mother, hit her, knock her down and bruise her.  I watched her cry and mourn and grieve and then I watched them reconcile and stay together for twenty-eight years.  I heard my mother say repeatedly that she loved my father, so I learned that this is how you behave when you love someone.

I learned that violence is funny.  I watched the Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner do territorial battle on Saturday morning cartoons.  I watched the Roadrunner drop the big rock or anvil on the Coyote’s head and squash him.  And then I watched the Coyote spring back and do it all again and I watched this week after week along with many other cartoon characters who did the same things, smacking each other in the face with skillets and brooms and the like.

Implanted in those cartoons was the notion that these kinds of violent actions do not hurt, after all the Coyote never died.

And the same idea was implanted in my experience because though my mother was sad and I was frightened, no one died.  So I became accustomed to living in tension and because I didn’t know better; I couldn’t know better.

Love and Hate by Mai le via CC

image:  “Love and Hate” by Mai Le.  Used with permission via Creative Commons.

I agreed subconsciously with the idea that violent action, tension, and pain are all just part of the landscape of love.

My psyche studied the roles:  the aggressor rules; the victim submits; and the belief system:  when there’s been an attack, pass judgment, figure out who’s to blame, and punish them by attack.  This belief system implanted itself into every cell of my being, into my psyche, into my emotional blueprint, and therefore into every future relationship I would have, especially into the relationship I have with my own self.

I decided early on that to survive, I would be perfect.  And I vowed that no matter what, when I grew up, none of this would ever affect me.

I graduated high school, President of the Drama Club, Student Council Officer, in the top ten percent of my class, an outspoken, upstanding, virgin, non-drinking Christian who attended church beside my parents every Sunday morning, Sunday afternoon and Wednesday Prayer Meeting.  I looked like a young woman who was just fine.

When I got to college, I started drinking, having fun, and enjoying freedom–until I wasn’t having fun anymore.  Within four years, alcohol had released the rage within me to the degree that I had already blown through two serious relationships and I had become spiritually bankrupt, anorexic and suicidal.

So, I had left home, but I had failed to leave what I learned there behind.


Do you live in an emotional landscape, longing to be in a different place?  What ideas, patterns or habits might you need to relinquish in order to move on? 

Are you one of the one in three?  If so, call for help: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

I’ll be posting more of this story over the next few days.  Click the follow button to the right to get my updates in your email inbox.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, a love story.  Balboa Press, 2013.

#RRBC Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons; Part Three, Beast of Belonging (or not)

Mysticaltree1024

image:  “Mystical Tree” Used with permission of the artist, Sya at Deviant Art

Because, as an artist, I work in multi-media (prose, poetry, painting, mixed media collage) and because my creative process is the tether to my sanity and sense of purpose in the world, I wanted to know about this author’s process.

Because my own dreams (and power animals) are my guide, the way, if you will, I  receive from “between the worlds,” and because much of my work is conceived in the Dreamworld, I wondered if the same is true for this author.

Because I stand in solidarity alongside women and men who have experienced misunderstanding and persecution for using their innate powers of intuitive wisdom; because I stand alongside women and men who have experienced sexual abuse at the hands of those in religious authority, both unconscionable misuses of power, and since these themes recur in Corvus Rising, I wanted to know what personal experiences this author has had with these intense social issues.

D:  Does your own experience of the creative process mirror that of your character Jade?

Mary:  In many ways, yes. I bury myself in art like she does, though I do not paint. My mother was a painter, and I opted for the 3-d art forms of ceramics and jewelry.

I am haunted, like she is, with a great many creations pushing to get out of me and into the physical world. Note: I did not say “real,” as this inner world is every bit as real as this surficial one that has its own illusions.

I live in this “underneath” world where Jade does, where the mystical and intuitive are the ways of knowing. And I am often haunted by the beings I encounter.

I fret less than she does and I don’t consciously remember most of my dreams.

D:   Are the dreams Jade has actually dreams of your own or adaptations of your own dreams? Describe your relationship to the dream world.

Mary:  Waking dreams, perhaps. There is such a fine line, you know. I have a vivid and energetic imagination and that underneath world I live in probably would seem like a dream state to someone else. I like to tear away at that boundary between the real and the imagined. There are secrets behind the curtain of illusion in which the real world cloaks itself.

D:  Have you ever feared or experienced being locked away for perceived “insanity,” for being different?

Mary:  If only they knew….bwahahahahaha!

Remember that Waylon Jennings song: “I’ve always been crazy but it’s kept me from going insane….”

Me to a T.

Seriously, I have never been afraid of being locked away or of being different.

My fear all comes from a profound sense of not belonging. In my book, Charlotte’s graying tells about that. I can see, hear everything, but people are all speaking a whole different language that everyone understands but me. Nobody sees me, no one understands me. I belong nowhere.

That is the lock up: a tremendous illusion that seems to have run my whole life.

Crows Rock by Hartwig HKD flickr CC

image:  “Crows Rock”  Used with permission of the artist, H. Koppdelaney via Creative Commons.  Rights Reserved.

D:  What is your own experience with “animal speak?”

Mary:  I speak to cats all the time, as I believe I am part cat. We just get each other, cats and I.

I’d love to have a crow start hanging around me. I do speak to them (and ravens too) and sometimes it seems they hear me.

I do believe we have misunderstood the speech of animals. If they make any sound at all, we think it’s a mating call. This is a pretty weird idea, considering that animals that make any noise at all do it all year long, not just in their mating season.

Sometimes I wonder what the crows think about our language. All they hear is what we shout at each other. Perhaps they think we lack vocabulary. Or that “F*** YOU! is a mating call.

D:  Have you ever experienced a trance-like state like the one you describe in “The Keeper’s Trance,” like an Ayahuasca ceremony or other hallucinogenic states of consciousness?

Mary:  Not sure I would call it a trance, but I do get carried off by Gregorian chants. It helps to NOT to understand the words.

The trance sequence in my book came from an unknown corner of my imagination; it is outside of any experience that I am aware of, and just came as I was writing.  I hadn’t been thinking of trances or hallucinations at all. That is so cool when that happens.

I was thinking of brains: ours, that of Crows and how we know so much more than we think we do. We have it all in there, but use so very little of it. I imagined our brains as a vast lattice of space that you could walk around in, like a library of sorts. I think we carry a good amount of collective knowledge of our complete history on Earth, if we knew how to access it.

That’s where the trance came in. In the book, the early Patua’ gave the crows and ravens their entire history to preserve as they went underground.

More on that in Book Two.

D:  Have you studied Reiki or any other form of energetic or healing practice?

Mary:  No. My path seems to be through art and writing. Reiki and the other healing practices are a life-long effort, and I am engaged elsewhere. But, because I live in the “underneath,” I know there are different ways of knowing, and different ways of healing than what is out there in the “real” world.
Do I believe in ‘laying on of the hands’ as a way of healing? Absolutely!

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image:  “church at Abiquiu”  New Mexico, d. ellis phelps.  Rights reserved.

D:  You mention the “sex abuse” issues “the church has been sweeping under the rug” more than once in this writing. Do you have personal experience with this unconscionable misuse of power about which you would be willing to speak here?

Mary:  I grew up in New Mexico, where they sent the pedophile priest for rehabilitation. New Mexico is the place where the lid blew off Hell, because a great many of these rapists were sent there. The first prosecutions of priest sex abuse were in New Mexico.

I had no idea that the place in the mountains my family and I passed on our way to a picnic—it is still there, called the Servants of the Paraclete—was where they were sent for rehabilitation before being turned out into the parishes of NM.

New Mexico is very poor and very catholic and the American bishops of the Roman Catholic Church cynically sent these rapists into New Mexico churches as Spiritual Leaders. I say ‘cynical’ because I think these self-serving bishops sent the troublesome priests to New Mexico, to sweep them under the rug.

Though it infuriates me, I have no personal experience with sexual assault from priests.

The subject comes up in my book because of one of my main characters, a Jesuit priest who is deeply flawed, but is not a predator. I wanted to confront it head on, as this is not what the book is about at all.

I admire the Jesuits more than the other orders, as they’ve always been about science and education and they haven’t engaged in the exploitative and hateful, bigoted practices of say, the Franciscans, who were quite brutal to native populations (including those in New Mexico).

D: Are the Patua’ a non-fiction tribe in history or a fictional tribe?

Mary: I invented the Patua’–a fictitious and ancient race of humans who spoke to the crows. They do represent what I think we all look back wistfully to: a Garden of Eden where we were one with all of Creation.

Patua’ is a real word, however—it means ‘dialect’ more or less.   They were humans who were more attuned to the natural world of growing things and they figured out the secrets of the plant world. Because they were so connected, they had not forgotten everything humans were given when we got here. They didn’t forget the language of the crows.

Book Two will have more about the history of the Patua’, the Church, greed, hubris, and how their agricultural prowess got them to the same place we are now with corporate farming (a euphemism for ‘starving the people’).

D:  Are the fictional Patua’ in your book symbolic representatives for shamanic and witchery practitioners that were forced underground and persecuted by the rise of Christianity?

Mary:  Yes. There will be more of that part of the story forthcoming in Book 2.

In Corvus Rising, Book One, however, the Church as an institution does not pay the Patua’ any attention at all. Two characters who are priests are actually Patua’ allies, but not on behalf of the church, at least not officially.  Another character who is the elder priest, however, is aghast at the very idea that the other animals are intelligent, sentient and can communicate with humans.  This concept is heretical to Church teachings of all stripes, both in the story and in reality.  The church teaches that humans are God’s chosen, therefore the animals are here for us to use and eat.

The Patua’ were looked at as heretics. Humans are not supposed to speak the tongue of the crows, or any other animal. But they also knew how to grow things far, far better than anyone else. Some thought this was unnatural and perhaps portended an unholy alliance with the powers of darkness.

Though they guarded their secrets, the Patua’ weren’t doing anything magical; their botanical lore was based on many centuries of observation and experimentation.

But what is magic? The thing we point to when we don’t understand how something works. I heard a Baptist professor once comment that scientific knowledge over the centuries has shrunk the ‘God of the Gaps’—meaning that we attribute to God (or magic) what we cannot explain.

D:  Have you experienced building a wilderness abode such as the tree house you describe?

Mary:  I have not, though I was happy to spend six weeks sleeping in a tent when I was in graduate school. I’ve fantasized about caves as well. When my father took me and my brothers to Carlsbad Caverns when we were kids, I fantasized about getting lost from the group and disappearing.

I would LIKE to build an ‘off the grid’ place far enough away from cities to have animals and quiet, but close enough for companionship.

D:  How far along are you on Book Two? When do you anticipate it will be ready for readers?

corn farmer digging by hand

image: “Smallholder farmer prepares maize plot for planting with CIMMYT improved varieties, Embu, Kenya”  Used with permission via Creative Commons.

Mary:  I am hoping to publish Book 2 within the next four to six weeks.  Its working title is Teosinte after the ancestral plant that got bred into the corn plant we know today, more than 7,000 years ago in southern Mexico. By the time Columbus showed up, corn as we know it, properly called maize, was all over the Americas.

D: Tell us how you really feel about cookies.

Mary:  Mmm cookies! In fact, I am more a chocolate freak than cookies. Really, I like to bake, so I gave that to the priest. I bake the most awesome sourdough bread. So does he, thanks to me!

D: In a few words, tell us who you are.

Mary: Enthusiastic. Obsessively creative. Curious. Outspoken. Raucous. Irreverent. I am an extroverted reclusive. Or perhaps an introverted socialite. I love freedom.

D:  Ahhh!  Methinks you are part crow!

Dear Reader: 

Do you have a special relationship or kinship to certain creature-beings?  Does your daytime or nighttime Dream World guide you?  Do you experience a profound sense of not belonging?  How does this show up in your life and work?  Please, tell us about it here.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

#RRBC Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons: Part Two, City Mouse or Country Mouse?

Avatar Grove gnarly tree - full blend 1 - 1 Thomas Dawson pd 4 1 time use

image:  “Guardian of the Grove” Used with permission of the artist, Thomas Dawson.  See more of his STUNNING images here.  OMG!!  All rights reserved.  You can interact with this talented photographer more on FB here.

Thick and imposing, rich with humus and root, a lifting mist, palpable silence:  this image personifies wildness.  It is what I saw as I read about Wilder Island, a mythical place in Corvus RisingI can hear the Raven calling.

Since childhood, I have been drawn into the woods, playing in an Oak grove behind my grandmother’s house in Central Texas for hours, swinging from the trees on ropes, building tree houses out of sticks and grapevines or hiking with my grandfather in the East Texas Piney Woods, listening to the crush of pine needles underfoot, listening to him call the birds.

To this day, I fantasize a simple life:  a wooden bowl, a rudimentary shelter, a fire and solitude.  And reading Corvus Rising allowed me a few precious moments in such a life.  As I read, I wondered if the author felt the same, so I asked her:

D:  Have you ever lived in or wished to live in a forest or jungle? Where do you live now?

Mary:  Yes of course! Not a jungle though. Forest, yes. As a young girl I fantasized about living on an island with a black bird and a cat. And a rowboat so I could go into civilization when I needed food or other necessities. I reckon that was a huge inspiration for Corvus Rising!

I live in the North Fork Valley of the Gunnison River in Colorado, at the foot of the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. Only about 5500 people live in this valley; it is very quiet—people complain about crickets…sheesh!

Mountain lions and bears stalk the streets of our towns (really), raising a stir, but strangely no one has tried to shoot them, strange, because this place has a goodly share of gun freaks.

Politically, we go from wingnut to wingnut here. Plenty of everyone. I like it that way.

D:  How do you think living environment— personally and ancestrally— influences who we are and how does this influence our relationship to the planet and other humans?

Mary:  I was born and grew up in New Mexico, as an adopted daughter of the desert—

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Both my parents were born in greener places (Mom in MN and Dad in NJ). They moved to NM in the late 1940s/early 50’s. My mother lived in Roswell during the ‘alien invasion’ of 1947.

Wilder Island in my book was inspired not only by my girlhood dreams, but by Nicolette Island on the Mississippi River, which cuts through Minneapolis. There is no other resemblance, however to this fine city. Minnesota calls to me sometimes, the green land of plentiful water, lots of fish. Hard to be hungry in a place like that—ghastly cold winters, though (Did you hear that MN closed schools last week? Never heard of them doing that before).

In New Mexico, white people are the minority(not by much)—but they are the dominant culture in terms of money and privilege. However, the influence of the Mexican and Indian cultures is prevalent everywhere, and it makes for a richness that is absent in other places where white people dominate the population as well.

I taught geology at the University of Southern Indiana in Evansville for four years. Can we talk culture shock? Flattish land of cornfields and few rocks exposed—a nightmare for a geologist! No mountains…no green chilé, which is not only grown in New Mexico in great quantities, and the air is full of the aroma of roasting green chilé in the fall. I grew some chilé here in Colorado last summer. Not bad! It’s tasty, and hot enough.

Astounding humidity in Evansville, something that is hard for a woman of the desert to get used to. I spent summers in dry, mountainous New Mexico and Colorado.

Evansville is about 98% white. I missed the Mariachi music blaring out of open car windows.

I think growing up in the West had a profound effect on my life. Would I have loved rocks and mountains as much had I grown up in Minnesota or New Jersey?

Brooklyn Eagle by Gary H. Splelvogelimage: “Brooklyn Eagle” (composition) Used with permission of the artist, Gary H. Spielvogel. Via Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.

My son lives in Brooklyn now (he grew up in NM also). It is noisy and exciting, the city that never sleeps. It has no crows. I surmise this is true due to rat poison used by people to rid the buildings of rodents.

Crows would eat a dead rat long before they’d peck at an apple.

I have mule deer nibbling at everything in my yard and a flock of wild turkeys that stroll through every day or so, and I hear an owl in the early morning. My son never hears or sees any of that.

In New York, there is plenty of noise and art and coffee shops and theaters and all the great and awful things that humans do. We live at opposites ends of all that, my son and I.

I think being a Boomer probably had the most effect on my attitudes toward the Earth and the environment. The rights of the earth have been part of our collective unconscious ever since the late 1960’s, as is also true for civil rights and women’s rights.

What do you think about how living environment effects one’s attitudes toward or love of nature & other humans?  Tell me where you live and how you feel about it.  Post a link to a photo of your favorite spot on earth!

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

a dime’s worth

Though this poignant, haunting video features worthy men and though this song was written in 1930 in the heart of the Great Depression, this unconscionable, societal neglect of our own who have served and yet, who suffer greatly also includes women.

In the song a beggar talks back to the system that stole his job.[3] Gorney said in an interview in 1974 “I didn’t want a song to depress people. I wanted to write a song to make people think. It isn’t a hand-me-out song of ‘give me a dime, I’m starving, I’m bitter’, it wasn’t that kind of sentimentality”.[6] The song asks why the men who built the nation – built the railroads, built the skyscrapers – who fought in the war (World War I), who tilled the earth, who did what their nation asked of them should, now that the work is done and their labor no longer necessary, find themselves abandoned and in bread lines.

Wikipedia

And here, I ask:  why should a women who has served society– birthed our children, cooked our meals, washed our clothes, raised our young, nurtured our health, AND OFTEN ALSO worked a full time job as CEO, secretary, CPA, teacher, care-giver–ever find herself in danger, in need of shelter or food, and unable to find a safe, honorable place in the world?

My volunteer work at Haven for Hope in San Antonio, Texas brings me face to face with this need on an up close and personal level.

Saturday I met a woman who has been living at Haven temporarily. I’ll call her Darla (not her real name).  She has brain damage that causes her speech to be halting, says “I forget things.”  She told me that Haven’s social workers have found subsidized housing for her and last week they took her to see what will be her new apartment home.

I’m thinking that’s great!  Right?  I looked into her green eyes.

“Are you looking forward to having a place of your own?”    She took a deep breath, hesitating.

sadness_149 from hipish.free.frimage:  free stock from hipish

“I’m afraid the man who gave me this brain damage will find me.  I’ve been thinking I need to hire someone to check on me everyday.  I mean, I know this is silly, but I’ve been feeling safe while I’ve been here.”

My heart clenched.

“Does this man live in San Antonio?”

“Yes.  He does.  I don’t contact any of my friends I used to know or go anywhere I used to go so he can’t find me, but I’m afraid he will.”

This story is not unusual.  One in three women worldwide will experience violence against them in their lifetime:  that equals one billion women.  And the fact is, this violence is no respecter of persons.  Regardless of whether a woman is intelligent or not so much, employed or not, married or not, beautiful or not, popular or not, she is devastated and usually debilitated by domestic violence.

We must purposefully nurture loving kindness and let the choice for beauty, gentleness and harmony dissolve hatred and let the Great River carry all that does not serve downstream.

D. Ellis Phelps

What I want for this woman and for all women (and men) who are ready to go to any length to change their lives and leave abuse behind is a culturally ubiquitous commitment to healing this societal disease. I am not alone in this.  Many have joined to bring awareness to the need to stand against violence.

I am for standing together.  And of course, I want perpetrators to be held accountable and to be rehabilitated.  I want those who experience suffering to be comforted.  I want provision for all who experience lack.

But most importantly, I want to be part of a culture reconsidering the current reactive approach to widespread abuse and rage.  What we do now is like sending in the National Guard and the Red Cross after the fact to clean up the mess of a natural disaster.

These entities are necessary and powerful forces for good, providing aid in times of crises.  And let’s face it:  no amount of education will turn a tornado from its destructive pathway.

But education will stop abuse.  Education of the spirit.  And practice.

there is nothing so strong as gentleness meme

image:  meme used with permission by the artist, Brett Jordon via Creative Commons.  Rights reserved.

The practice of loving-kindness.  One word at a time.  One glance.  A smile.  A gentle in-breath and exhale replacing a mean retort. The decision not to hit or yell.  Ever.

The decision to ask for help. The decision to give help in healthy ways.

These are actions we each can take one moment at a time, actions that will change our world for the better.

Ask:  What simple (but not often easy), let’s say a dime’s worth of action can I take today to make my world and that of those around me more gentle, more kind?  How can I change even my thinking, especially my thinking  (this requires spiritual intervention), around someone or something I think I hate or feel the need to punish.  Can I offer forgiveness and loving-kindness instead, even for one instant?  Yes.  One Holy Instant can change everything!

Share your victories and positive choices here and share them with others.  Collect a #formidableWoman badge from this page (at right) and post it on your own website or blog.

Help us reach critical mass and tilt the collective-consciousness toward a culture of gentleness.

peace eLKayPics flickr CC

image:  “Peace” used with permission of the artist, eLKayPics via Creative Commons. Rights reserved.

d. ellis phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

#RRBC An Interview with #IndieAuthor Mary C. Simmons: Part One

Scars Self-Portrait Run Jane Foximage:  “Scars Self-portrait” by Run Jane Fox. Used with permission via Creative Commons.

What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it);…

D. Ellis Phelps

From page one of Corvus Rising, I was enchanted, its pages calling me into the world of dreams & of wildness and justice reclaimed.  As I read, I wondered how much of the story was autobiography written as engaging fiction and whether or not the strong social commentary I was reading was aligned with the author’s own opinion.  So, I wrote my questions down as I read and corresponded with Ms. Simmons regarding an interview.  She graciously agreed.

I anticipated a juicy dialogue and I am not disappointed.  I will be posting our interview in parts over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy getting to know Mary C. Simmons as much as I have.  Read on…

D:   Are you a “woman of faith?” If so, would you describe your faith? If not, can you describe your cosmology?

Mary:  I am a woman of faith.

But I am not a woman of religion, in spite of my upbringing in catholic schools and church. My mother’s catholic family emigrated from Northern Ireland, and my father’s from Poland—there is no country on Earth more catholic than Poland….my father’s sister was a nun, could speak fluent Polish, had a PhD in theology and was Pope John Paul’s liaison to the US for a while.

I don’t go to church, but have all kinds of time for the teachings of Jesus.

While I was in geology graduate school, I was fortunate enough to be a crew member on a river trip in the Grand Canyon, which mostly amounted to cooking for a group of twenty-two men from an organization called Young Life, which is a Christian group that outreaches to youth.

Sunrise at Grand Canyon Florian F via Flickr

image:  “Sunrise at Grand Canyon.” Used with permission of the artist, Florian F. via Creative Commons.

I learned that you can cook just about anything in a Dutch Oven, when the captain of my boat baked me a birthday cake in one. Eight coals in the top is all it takes.

Food is a big deal in the Grand Canyon. For five days you’re hundreds of feet below the known surface, a long way from anywhere in any direction. Food service, then is huge. Breakfast, lunch, snacks in between, and dinner.

Enchiladas, Beef Stroganoff, Lasagna.

We geologists thought these twenty-two men were pretty weird with their noses stuck in Bibles after dinner rather than gazing in awe and wonder at the five hundred million years of time towering above us, pygmies as we were in the scale of a half billion years of rocks.

stargazin zach dischen flickr

image:  “Stargazin”  by Zach Dischner.  Used with  permission via Creative Commons.

I had a few discussions with the two younger men on the trip, and one of them said: “Jesus gave but one commandment for us: Love One Another. There is nothing in the Bible about excepting anyone from that love…”

As a person who has studied geology, I cannot make a distinction between the Creator and the Creation. I love the Earth, the animals and plants, the rocks and water, landscape and sky. This is my temple.

This is my faith, my religion, and in this Creation, I too speak the language of God.

Wonders Never Will Cease

image:  “Wonders Will Never Cease” by Brian Wolfe.  Used with permission via Creative Commons.

Look for the rest of Mary’s interview with me, appearing in parts over the next few days.  In the meantime, I wonder:  Where do you speak “the language of God?”

 

#RRBC Book Review: Corvus Rising Book One The Patua’ Heresy by #Indie Author Mary C. Simmons

Corvus Rising Book Cover

This is a book of dreams: tree-houses; talking birds, the lost feminine, found.
Wilder Island, a mysterious, mythical island that symbolizes (in my mind) the earth herself, is inhabited by the Corvus (crows or ravens), keepers of an ancient, almost lost language. Almost lost, that is, to humans.
Fortunately, there are humans known as Patua’ who can communicate with the Corvus in this language. Alfredo Manzi, the lone Jesuit priest and professor of ornithology who comes to Wilder Island with the intention of turning it into a bird sanctuary, is one of them.
As the story begins, we witness Jade’s nightmare: crows, shattering glass, a precious medallion given to her by her unknown mother (we think) who disappeared when Jade was very young. Jade’s husband Russ, an academic peer of Manzi, comforts her, tries to convince her that her dream is merely an echo of the previous day’s events and conversation.

But Jade, an artist and believer in beauty, knows her dream means much more.

H. Koppdelaney raven image

image:  “Reflections of Winter”  used by permission of the artist, h. koppdelaney via Creative Commons license.

As a student of dreams, a lover of earth and believer in beauty, I am often one who speaks a language almost lost. I often find myself at odds with what is: too much noise, too many things, too much doing, so I deeply identified with one character in particular, Charlotte, she having been institutionalized her entire adult life and unable to communicate with most humans in language they could understand.
What happens in this eco-fantasy happens in reality: women stand up for their sanity and autonomy (with help or without it); money changers pollute and plunder the earth; people, acting alone or banding together, go to war over pieces of this planet (who owns it or how to treat it), all the while trying to understand or completely ignoring the language of the other.

Enter: the hero.

ravens at the tower 2000 Stephen B Whatley

image:  “Ravens at the Tower” 2000  used with permission of the artist, Stephen B. WhatleyView more of his work  here.  Read his profile on Wikipedia here.

The author of this layered allegory, Mary C. Simmons, has successfully given the role of hero to her crow characters. They are funny and wise, silly and sly and believable. These savvy creature-beings indeed point the way.

I don’t know about you, but I have to believe that together we can make the kind of relationship between animals (human and creature-beings) and between animals and earth happen that this author postulates can happen.

I loved this book.  -&-having never dreamed of crows before, and after reading the first few chapters of it, I did dream of them and then wrote the following verse:

for Mary C. Simmons

crows

carry
fallen oak

trunk of peace
these
do not
fly

they rise

~

such
a thing

i have
not seen

but dream

~

of trees
& crows

constructing

—architects
scrubbing

sky

~

how
(i wonder)

what if

dreams
are crystal

what if

feathers

ruled:

soft
curious
gesture

clever
ubiquitous

aim

~

// men //
are stone

ether

gathered
stacked

& after?

Look for an interview with Mary C. Simmons coming soon on this blog!

D. Ellis Phelps is the author of Making Room for George, Balboa Press, 2013.

mourning: lost & found

mourning mother flickr image attributionimage:  “mourning mother” by Jinterwas.  Used with permission of Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Yesterday, I met a young woman whose only child died last year.

Through tears, she told me that those close to her want her to “just get over it already.”

If you are one who feels uncomfortable when in the presence of pain being experienced by another and so you tell them to buck up and move on, please know that in an emotionally healthy individual, the grieving process takes time.  Lots and lots of time.  What is lost, is lost forever.  And mourning is never “over.”

The pain comes in waves, unexpectedly, profoundly.  And sometimes, for years.

As for me and my own experience of grieving, most recently the loss of both of my parents, and within that context, the perceived permanent loss of any possible reconciliation with them, the process has been ongoing since I first realized they were both in the process of leaving their bodies, until this very day.  It has been more than five years.

The pain has subsided.  It is distant now and thoughts of my loss do not always cause me to dissolve into tears, but I do still mourn for them, for myself, and for this planet full of others mourning.

I continue to allow myself whatever form of process-release I need:  wailing, talking out loud to the deceased (believing they “hear”  and respond to me),  furious dancing, receiving bodywork and energetic intervention, talking with a trusted friend, writing and making art.

Hard-Times-Require-Furious-Dancing-Alice-Walkerimage:  Walker, Alice.  Hard Times Call for Furious Dancing, (New World Library, 2010), book cover.  Illustrations by Shiloh McCloud with Michelle Noe

I am clear on this point:  relationships do not end when one “dies,”  but they do become more difficult to navigate because the other now lives on another plane of existence, communicating in non-linear dream-time, thought waves and forms, scents, signs, nudges, and yes, even visions.

For me, writing and making art are the most significant way I move forward–toward the Light.  The point is movement, not resistance to apparent darkness.  Seeking new insight and understanding regarding what is lost and moving gently toward integration of the new understanding into my life-view and way of being in the world, in relationship, transmutes all negative energy into positive, allowing all experiences to be used for the Highest Good.

When I can truly assimilate and put into practice what I have learned from a relationship and from purposeful, deep reflection on its relational qualities and nuances, studying and accepting which is my part and which is the part of the other and how we became who we are (were) together, then the essence of the relationship is not lost but found because the essential life of it lives in me and, indeed, in all whose lives I touch.

touching water by Augustine Ruiz flicker creative commons attributionimage:  “espejo” (mirror) by Augustin Ruiz.  Used with permission of Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

This process work is a profoundly spiritual experience.  My most recent series of art,” the surprising” and my full length book of poetry, what holds her (under submission) are both examples of living this process

Further, when this kind of profound interaction between the worlds takes place, each of us heals and can then, and only then, organically move forward with living our lives as they are now, resurrected in this new form, moving more freely within and between the realms and planes of existence toward Harmony and Love–the Highest Vibrational Frequency.

Om symbol creative commons attributionimage:  “OM” symbol by Karen.  Used with permission of Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.