Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Getting to the Point

Nibbling on leaves and twig tips
gnawing at a rind of bark
enthroned within a cottonwood crown
I squint up at the distant moon
Listening to the whispering songs around me
susurrating through the gathering dark.

Inhaling scents like memories
A thousand quills at the ready,
Although I’d write most 
of life’s every renewing wonder,
of innocent faith and trust.
A barbed retort might become my only resort 
should I find myself crossing swords 
with some diligent foe or stubborn swain
Though rattling my hollow display assertively
is often enough to get my point across
all the defense necessary for my humble domain.

Stout though never porcine, chisel-toothed
yet proud of my lustrous locks.
I am content to watch as others forge their paths,
confident that mine is the only one tailored to me.
I’ll slumber in my solitary chamber
hidden in the hollows of these roots
content and secure as I have been
since Coyote armed me from the Hawthorn tree.

Come winter we folk may gather in some cozy lodge
to share tales, warmth and company
picking our teeth with discarded cervid points
sanguine in our survival, certain to adapt.
I can help you through Life’s prickly situations
guiding you to the salt of truth
through the maze of humanity’s traps.

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? 

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.” 

― Bruce Lee

"On a cold winters day, a group of porcupines huddled together to stay warm and keep from freezing. But soon they felt one anothers quills and moved apart. When the need for warmth brought them closer together again, their quills again forced them apart. They were driven back and forth at the mercy of their discomforts until they found the distance from one another that provided both a maximum of warmth and a minimum of pain. In human beings, the emptiness and monotony of the isolated self produces a need for society. This brings people together, but their many offensive qualities and intolerable faults drive them apart again. The optimum distance that they finally find that permits them to coexist is embodied in politeness and good manners. Because of this distance between us, we can only partially satisfy our need for warmth, but at the same time, we are spared the stab of one anothers quills." Arthur Schopenhauer

The Porcupine (aka quill pig, thorny pig) is an herbivorous member of the Rodent family. There are around 2 dozen species of porcupines found in Africa, Europe and Asia as well as the Americas. Approximately 25 to 36 inches ( 60 - 90 cm) of head and body with an additional 8-10 inches (20- 25 cm) in tail; Porcupines are the third largest rodent in the world, second largest in the Americas. Primarily nocturnal, they like to curl up in tree hollows, cozy forks, convenient nooks like under porches or sheds, small caves, and crevices during the day before browsing the night for tasty treats.

Their large chisel-like teeth make quick work of the barks, twig tips, stems, leaves, flowers, grasses and berries that make up the bulk of its diet. Trees from Cherry to Hawthorn to Pine are important Balancing Energies to this Teacher and study of them, or any of the Plant Nation, will benefit those called by Porcupine. Wolverines, Fishers and large species of Owls are their biggest natural predators. Mountain Lions, Bobcats, Coyote and Wolves have been known to take out their fair share too. Although their dens may be neighborly close, Porcupines are largely solitary creatures, preferring to live alone unless mating or raising porcupettes (aka pups or piglets). They are less active during the bad weather of Winter, but do not hibernate. They may gather in groups of up to six though, especially during this season of solitude.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? ~Shakespeare

When I'm feeling
I get nasty,
I get whiny.

Stay away or
I might stick you.
My sharp words are
quills to prick you.” 
~Laura Purdie Salas,
Stampede!: Poems to Celebrate the Wild Side of School   

They have soft fur as well as approximately 30,000 quills making up their coat -hard protective hollow hairs, sharply pointed and barbed- which act as the porcupines' main defense. Some tales say that Porcupine was too proud of his lovely soft fur and was given quills to teach him humility. These protective quills can be raised and rattled as a warning display to potential predators or rivals. Many once curious critters will give the Porcupine a comically wide berth in later encounters!

Respect is as important lesson from this Teacher as Protection. Respect for self, respect for others, respect for the World around us are all important goals and intricately bound together. It is nigh impossible to practice healthy respect for others if you cannot respect yourself too, for example. Porcupine with his solitary ways teaches us the importance of being comfortable with only your self for company. Being aware of and attending to your own needs opens the door to being aware of and respectful of the needs of those around us. If any one view is unbalanced, it will affect the other two.

Although loosely attached to the porcupine, their quills cannot be launched as once believed, but are regrown to replace those lost. They can be extremely difficult to remove as well as painful to those meeting the pointy ends, and in some cases may even be fatal to those on the receiving end! Each quill has between 700-800 barbs at its tip, and will continue to work its way deeper unless removed. Each point is also pre-medicated with a natural topical antibiotic to prevent accidental self-quilling! Infants are born with soft quills which harden in just a few days.
Hair brings one's self-image into focus; it is vanity's proving ground.  Hair is terribly personal, a tangle of mysterious prejudices.  ~Shana Alexander

Porcupines are rather self sufficient and typically move out on their own by six months old. They typically only have one young at a time though twins are not uncommon. This swift independence indicates challenges early on in life for those called by this Teacher. Porcupine people learn quickly to rely on and take care of themselves. They often have a "prickly" attitude, their game face for protecting their vulnerable selves. Those who rely too heavily on these protective techniques may isolate themselves to their own detriment. Loving Kindness can make us targets for predatory people, but keeping everyone at a distance isn't healthy either.
Those native to the Americas are excellent climbers, while Old World quill pigs are more noted for their swimming. The buoyancy lent by their signature quills is an important trait when looking at this Teacher's symbolism. Hair most often symbolizes Strength/Vitality/Virility; a sensitivity or more direct connection to the Divine as well as an Awareness of the world around us. Hair can represent our emotions, political alignment, religion, self-esteem, thoughts; tangled, defiant, or neatly braided. In fact our views about our crowning glories can be rather complex and a great deal has been written on the topic throughout history. Perhaps the most important thing I can say about it here is that Hair is potentially the most powerful symbol of both individual and group identity. 

Coupled with the symbolism of this rodent's powerful jaws and teeth (Be careful with your words), their Quills are a reminder that thoughts come before speech. They can protect us but they can also potentially hurt us. Be mindful of the gates preceding statements, please... Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind? Keeping our thoughts Mindful, healthy, reasonable is the first habit to developing a mindful tongue! Remember too that we hear our unspoken thoughts, and the cells of our bodies will react either positively or negatively accordingly. Do you find yourself belittling or berating yourself? Do you feel weighed down and confused by the abundance of thoughts bouncing around in your head? Do you turn your barbs outward by verbally lashing out at those around you? Nobody ever made themselves feel better by making others feel worse. 
Time to take a break! Curl up for a nap, have a refreshing drink, color a picture, step outside for a few minutes, take a shower, wash your face; whatever circumstances and time allow we Must make time for ourselves in order for those healthy habits to flow outward. Meditative techniques are very helpful. If you don't know where to start or feel unable, buy yourself a coloring book and crayons. Any steps you can take to become comfortable with both Silence and Solitude will be beneficial. There is tremendous power in simple confidence which allows us to explore our own potential as well as allowing others to follow their own path in peace.
What soap is for the body, tears are for the soul. ~Jewish Proverb

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. ~Kurt Vonnegut

Perhaps Porcupine's biggest message to us is to not only be Aware of, but hang onto your most innocent joys and simplest pleasures. A great deal of strength flows from being able to laugh with the joy of a child, to simply enjoy the moment you are in fully without doubt or fear. With historically few exceptions, not a single human being yet has died from too much laughter. We've all met (or occasionally been) that person who believes themselves allergic or immune to the need for fun.
"No time" "Not productive" "When?!" "Too tired!" "with what?" "what would people think?" I hear people complain in a variety of ways on this topic. What are you waiting for? Life may have handed you a cactus today, but nobody made you sit on it! Being happy is a choice we are asked to make over and over every day. Being wise enough to seek out a little time each day to do something that makes you happy is never wasted or pointless! 

When was the last time you played? Play is important business and if you can't remember the last time, then you haven't been making time for it! I once advised a dear friend, "As soon as you hang up this phone I want you to get in your car. Drive immediately to the nearest playground and get on a swing; you need fun NOW!"  The point being... no excuses, no thoughts; just go have some fun! Tell a joke, or at least try to get through an entire day without complaining about a single thing. Smile more; whatever it takes! Trust me, so worth it.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi
Porcupine gently reminds us that it takes a lot of Faith and Trust to maintain a healthy sense of Innocence and playful Fun. Children typically don't worry about what the neighbors will say, where their next meal will come from, or how to make ends meet. In normal circumstances, children simply trust that things will take care of themselves while they handle seriously important tasks like pretending to be super heroes or blowing bubbles. Porcupine asks us to remember that joyful innocence, and take active steps to renew our sense of wonder by practicing this important lesson. These are the things that balance our strong protective measures and need for both Silence and Solitude.
Porcupines love salt and discarded deer antlers, so may be found gathering over either. Deer (and other Cervid) antlers are full of calcium, phosphorus, and mineral salts making them very attractive to the Porcupine. They have been known to gnaw painted surfaces like tool handles or picnic tables, clothing, canoe paddles or even through doors to get salt! Salt intake is something Porcupine people should be aware of for obvious health reasons. Too little can be just as bad as too much! Symbolically, Salt is most often representative of Life or Truth. While porcupines may get sufficient salt through their love and consumption of salt-rich plants, concentrated sources will most definitely get their attention.

Porcupine people also tend to seek out Truth and life-affirming activities. Truth is important to supporting their lessons of Faith and Trust, but can also become a fear or obsession if focused on too much. Porcupines don't see very well but have an excellent sense of smell. Listen to your instincts. Porcupine people can easily overlook the big obvious answer in searching for hidden truth, or simply because the particular truth before them is uncomfortable, potentially painful. If something in a situation doesn't "smell right" to you but you can't see why, accept that your instincts are serving you well. Don't drive yourself crazy trying to find out the whys and wherefores, just follow your instincts. Truth will always reveal itself eventually, and sometimes we need to step back from a situation to see it clearly rather than stick our noses in closer.

There is a vast difference between Solitude and Isolation. Porcupine says there is nothing wrong with being social, provided you balance it properly with time for yourself. Pro-Solitude is not the same thing as Anti-Social. If you spend all your energy helping others rather than attending to your own needs and issues, you may have unbalanced Porcupine energy. Trust issues, lack of self-confidence, lashing out verbally as a reaction to your own thoughts or emotions, placing too much faith in others, and a complete lack of Joy are all indications that you may need help from this humble Teacher. How does Porcupine appear in your life?

"I'm antisocial, they say. I don't mix. It's so strange. I'm very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn't it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this." She rattled some chestnuts that had fallen off the tree in the front yard. "Or talking about how strange the world is. Being with people is nice. But I don't think it's social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you?" ~Farenheit 451

“At any given point you can release your greatest self. Don’t let anyone hold you back. Don’t let anyone dilute you. Don’t be peer pressured into being less than you are. People willing to dilute themselves for the sake of others is one of the great tragedies of our time. Stop letting others define and set the pace for your life. Get out there and be your best. Do your best. Live your best. Make every day count and you’ll see how exponentially more exciting, thrilling, successful, happy and full your life will be.” 
― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

KEYWORDS: Trust, Instinct, Innocence, Protection/Security, Boundaries, Faith, Kindness, Personal Path, Humble Strength, Renewal of Wonder, Recovery from Grief

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Ancestral Trumpets

Through trackless forests 
sun-ripened fields 
Like clarion trumpets  
rumbling drums
this Singer’s steady 
Wisdom is revealed.

They come…

we forge our forest trails 
Removing obstacles 
like waving away flies 

Our quiet ways 
contrasting with our Strength
 our Power 
Wise in council
 vast in intellect
 happy to advise
carrying all 
upon our broad backs 
like a grand tower

We sing of 
 Earthly might
Loyal Motherly care
for Elder and Child 
Divine blessings
in sacred white
Don’t just look straight ahead 
you may find yourself
 dangerously beguiled!

Trumpet ancestral Wisdom
across the miles
Dig deeply with ivory blade 
for the hidden Truth
Gather to mourn
Respect the bones 
of your Ancestors! 
Patience and Remembrance
 are essential keys 
Wisdom can be gentle
 or sharp of tooth
Mighty winds 
comically created 
with a single sneeze
When danger threatens
draw a circle of protection
around youth  

We never forget
Life’s great circus 
may teach us magical tricks 
but a thick skin and healthy pride
sees us through most conflicts."

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? Congrats to Chris Smith, Chris Brockman, Jan Neavill Hersh and Jaguarwombyn for naming this Teacher! 

“I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant’s faithful, one hundred percent!” Horton Hatches an Egg by Dr. Seuss

“Even though you can’t see them at all … A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Horton Hears a Who by Dr. Seuss

“…And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

So, oft in theologic wars
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean;
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!"

John Godfrey Saxe

There are two kinds of Elephant in the world, Asian and African. Africans have only four visible toes on front feet instead of five, and three on their back feet. They have larger ears, straighter backs, and two “fingers” on their trunk tips rather than the one on Asian trunks. Their tusks are larger and both sexes have tusks in the African species, where as Asian female elephants have much smaller tooth like projections known as tushes. African elephants stand a bit taller. Males average around 12 feet and females about half that, and Asian males stand around 10 with females half that high.

Elephant’s four legs remind us to stay grounded and in balance with the Earth. The elephant’s foot is quite interesting because so much of it is composed of fibrous fatty tissue which acts as a shock absorber. These elastic, spongy qualities enable the elephant to walk almost silently even in dense forest, to grip the ground, and allow the enormous elephant to walk even in deep mud without difficulty! The foot’s circumference becomes smaller as it is withdrawn, which reduces the suction.

Metaphorically, this makes Elephant very at home in its earthly existence, sure-footed even with the emotional element of Water added. In fact, elephant is almost at home in the water as she is on land, and all elephants use mud and earth as a protective coating for their skin! Elephants are excellent swimmers, drink between 100 and 300 liters of water a day, and love to squirt themselves with this cooling liquid. Stability, Intellect and Emotion in harmony speaks of the great heart of the Elephant, which weighs between 40-60 lbs and beats 30 times per minute! It takes a lot of heart to be the largest land mammal on Earth.

They are, of course, more well-known for their unusual trunk than for their feet or hearts. Elephants do not drink through their prehensile proboscis, but they do suck water up with it and then squirt it in their mouths or on their skin. This extremely flexible muscular organ is a fusion of nose and upper lip. It is used as a means to explore, to manipulate objects like a hand, as an aid to feeding, drinking, and a variety of playful or loving actions. Adults are capable of uprooting trees, or plucking a single blade of grass with their trunks. Even calves can lift 4% of their total body weight!

“It has always seemed miraculous to me that these colossal animals can move noiselessly through the bush, and are thus able to surround one without warning.” Joy Adamson in Born Free

“There is nothing quite like an elephant. Nothing with which it can be compared, though the proverbial Six Blind Men of Indostan did their best, likening each part encountered separately to a snake, a spear, a fan, a wall, a tree and a rope. Taken altogether, these ingredients add up to a most singular animal whose trunk alone is enough to justify removing the elephant from the rest of the animal kingdom and setting it aside, along with ourselves perhaps, in categories of our own.”

“’And yet, when you see an elephant embedded in its own earth, comfortable in its own skin, carrying its great weight effortlessly along on cushioned feet, the only possible response is: ˜Of course. How could it be otherwise?” Lyall Watson, Anthropologist

This is an encouragement to engage fully with your environment and life choices, and to be as flexible as you are curious! The elephant’s best senses are hearing, touch, and smell. This is a reminder to look beyond the surface of things, look from a variety of angles, and to be open in body, mind and soul to the Universe that we may receive the answers to our questions. Their large ears, and small mouths are a reminder to listen more than we speak.

In the language of metaphors, teeth are transmitters. An elephant’s teeth, including the tusk, are very important to them. They only have a finite number of teeth to see them through life after all, much like Horse, and many an elderly elephant has starved to death because they were unable to eat enough to sustain them with the deterioration of their teeth. The tusks that are present in newborns are like milk teeth which fall out after the first year, and are soon replaced by more mature tusks at 2-3 years old. Tusks, unlike the grain-grinding molars, are used to dig up roots, tear edible bark from trees, uncover salt sources, and as a defensive weapon.

They also serve as a handy shelf when your trunk gets heavy, and elephants tend to be right or left-tusked just as humans are right or left-handed. Elephant people should be mindful of their teeth, what they put into their mouths and especially what they allow to come out of their mouths! Elephants are truly powerful creatures, and as such should take extra measures to be mindful of their actions, their choices, and their impact on the Universe around them.

“Awake. Be the witness of your thoughts. The elephant hauls himself from the mud. In the same way drag yourself out of your sloth.” Buddha

“I shall endure hard words As the elephant endures the shafts of battle. For many people speak wildly. The tamed elephant goes to battle. The king rides him. The tamed man is the master. He can endure hard words in peace.”

“A friend, well behaved, prudent and wise… Fare alone as a king renouncing his conquered land, and as an elephant roaming alone in the wilds.” Buddha

Mature male elephants (6-10 years) live a solitary life occasionally joining small bachelor herds, while females exist and travel in matriarchal herds throughout their lives. Sometimes sisters and their respective families will travel together. When food grows scarce, families will split apart into smaller groups to maximize resources. Long respected as very intelligent and deeply feeling creatures, science and observation certainly support these qualities. Elephant brain development and growth are very similar to that of our own people. Elephants are born with 35% of their adult brain mass, and people are born with about 26%. Like us, as the brain develops so does the elephant’s ability to learn. Elephant social structure is still not fully understood.

Their acute hearing and ability to speak in deep rumbles that register in the infra-sound range allows elephants to communicate over a range estimated to be within 50+square kilometers. This range was tested out under normal daytime conditions. Dusk increases their range with the night time temperature conversion, but such communications do not go on during the predator-active night. Messages of distress, danger, and mating can be sent and received this way.

“In order to leave nothing to chance, elephants plaster themselves with mud and dust as a further protection against both heat and flies. In the animal kingdom, it is not necessary to be thin-skinned to be sensitive.” C. Court Treat in Out of the Beaten Track

“A king who always cares for the elephants like his own sons is always victorious & will enjoy the friendship of the celestial world after death.” Kautiliya, scholar of Buddhism in India

They display humor, joy at the birth of a calf, during bouts of playing, and in the greeting of a friends; human, elephant or otherwise. Tales of joyful greetings from these amazing creatures, even after a separation of many years, are common. Did you know that there is an Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee? text can be linked I forget now which show I caught on television that introduced me to this delightful haven for old, sick, or needy elephants who have been retired from zoos and circuses across the U.S., but it was a captivating set of tales. I remember best the tale of two young elephants who’s paths separated in their early years, only to be reunited after much trial years later at the Sanctuary in Tennessee. After much wild trumpeting and dancing about, the tenderness with which one elephant’s trunk caressed the face of the other took my breath away, and brought tears to my eyes.

The innocent cavorting of young elephants is truly marvelous to behold, but fun and games aren’t just for calves either! Elephants have been observed at play at all stages of life, when alone, in groups, in captivity or in the wild. This very expressive behavior is fascinating in such a large and powerful creature, although it is not the only animal to be observed involving itself in the serious art of play. Elephants will also tend the sick and dying with a tender compassion, and they will mourn them with obvious grief. Many observations have made it evident that the Elephant has a deep emotional need to mourn and remember those that they have lost. To the matriarchal herds family is everything, and a precious newborn is just as loved as an elderly mother. All of which are excellent reasons never ever to buy anything that even looks like ivory.

“Curiously symbolizing profligate luxury as well as purity, ivory has for uncounted millennia been procured from vast distances and masterfully carved into objects of rare beauty. Since elephant tusks are its chief source, and since Man is the elephant’s only serious predator, ivory is at the root of the African elephant’s threatened extinction…” (Robert McCormick Adams, “Smithosian Horizons,” Smithsonian 19(12):14, 1989)

“Ultimately, the only power to which man should aspire is that which he exercises over himself.” Elie Wiesel

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ’Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.” Thomas Paine

“Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used.” Richard E. Byrd

“Wisdom is your perspective on life, your sense of balance, your understanding of how the various parts and principles apply and relate to each other. It embraces judgment, discernment, comprehension. It is a gestalt or oneness, an integrated wholeness.” Stephen R. Covey

Ganesha, the Opener of Ways, Destroyer of Pride, and Lord of Success, is the elephant-headed son of Hindu gods Shiva and Parvati. Worshiped as the god of education, knowledge, wisdom and wealth, Ganesha is one of the five prime Hindu deities along with Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Durga. Like the sacred Cow, different parts of Ganesha represent different things. His head, for example, symbolizes the soul or atman, the ultimate reality of our spiritual existence here on Earth. The sweet so often held in his trunk is a reminder to find and savor the sweetness in atman.

His body represents the bounty of physical earthly existence. He carries a goad in one of four hand which he uses to encourage us forward or remove obstacles. He also holds a small noose with which he captures all difficulties, and an axe with which to separate us from attachments like Pride. A broken tusk in one of his four hands represents the necessity of sacrifice within our lives, although I have also seen him depicted holding a shell either empty or filled with coins, or a water lily. A snake coiling around Ganesha’s mighty girth is also common, so a quick look at Snake might also be in order as a balancing energy.

His mount, the humble mouse, also reminds us to use different perspectives when examining a situation. An elephant’s eyes are small compared to the rest of him, and their positioning makes it difficult for them to see anywhere well other than straight ahead. Elephant people can’t always believe what they see, because they often aren’t seeing the whole picture. Elephants rely on their ears much more than their eyes not only for the sense of hearing, but flapping their large ears helps to cool them! The balancing energy of Mouse helps Elephant people look at things more closely and in greater detail. Despite many years of amusing cartoon propaganda, elephants are not at all afraid of mice, and those called by this mighty Teacher would do well to examine Mouse’s lessons too.

Other than man, the elephants’ only predators are Lions, and wild dogs like Hyenas which makes them a potential balancing energy. They do have close relationships with many avians like Tickbirds, and Oxpeckers. The far-seeing eyes of Hawk or Eagle would also be useful to review. Dragonfly’s clear vision is a wonderful gift to the Elephant, which impacts on this insects’ breeding grounds in the wild. Flies and Vultures are always a possibility too! The Grasses, Trees, and Fruits that elephants eat can also be examined for their lessons. Turtle is often associated with Elephant in lore. Mammoths from our ancient past are more closely related to the Asian elephants than either of the two African strains, and is the Elephant’s link to Ancient Wisdom.

White Elephants are considered to be especially sacred beings, often heralding the birth of a great Teacher or Boddhitsatva. As such, they who should be attended with every care. How this came to represent a purchase worth far less than what we paid for it is probably an interesting tale! Elephants have represented power, strength, royalty, wealth, success, fertility, wisdom, understanding, discernment, earthly stability as well as it’s tremors, strength, government from self to societal, faith, noble gentleness, and calm majesty. For all it’s nobility and wisdom, how did it become the animal in the corner that no one talks about? Are we being to thin or thick skinned? Are we really looking at the whole situation? How does this amazing Teacher appear in your life?

“Elephants are symbols of might and memory, harmony and patience, power and compassion. We are equivocal about them, as we are about anything which evokes strong feelings in us. We love and fear them, kill and revere them, see them as beasts of the moon with crescent tusks or as buffoons in baggy pants.”

“My roommate got a pet elephant. Then it got lost. It’s in the apartment somewhere.” Steven Wright

“One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I’ll never know. " Groucho Marx

“No matter how much you feed a wolf, an elephant still has bigger balls.” Popular Russian Saying, translated by Vladimir Ivanovich Shlyakov, 1993

Potential Balancing Energies: lion, eagle, mouse/rat, hawk, fly, wasp, ant, bee, mosquito, elephant beetle, lepidoptera, spider, snake, turtle, plants like caladiums, carrot, cabbage, sugar cane, bamboo and grasses, trees like acacia, banana and apple, birds like Tick birds or vulture, hyena, sea cow, hyrax

Key Concepts: Ancestoral wisdom/power, Strength/Power, Endurance, Royalty, Luck/Fortune, Sexuality, Fertility, Earth energy, Discernment, Discretion, Purpose, Moderation, Responsibility, Leadership, Natural Law, Memory, Respect for All including Self, Sensitivity, Loyalty, Familial Devotion, Co-operative effort, Compassion, Humor, Faith, Feminine energy, birth/death/rebirth cycle, Community, and service to Divine Purpose

Associated with: Ganesha, Laxshmi, Durga, Indra, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha, Alexander the Great, Hammurabi, Hannibal, Pyrrhus, Noah, Ut-napishtim

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Between Lightning and Thunder

Eye of the Sun
observing the big picture
for the smallest sign
singing Wisdom
grateful Prayers
before he dines

"In the Moment 
Between Lightning and Thunder,
power echoes in each beat I keep.
Visions unparalleled
Heights unguessed
Summoned by Zeus,
hidden by Apollo’s hem,
watching from on high
as along the ground you creep.

I clutch 
Mother’s ancient bones, 
into the East Wind I leap!

I carry
 the whispered Wisdom
of Creator’s Will
as well as your prayers
Inspire excellence 
in thought and deed
Cleanse souls
 Evoke Justice 
Banish all ill


I carry 
like Lighting in my fists
and Thunder on my back!
Great Mystery 
leaves subtle tracks,
 with me as your guide
the path will be straight.
All is well within your grasp 
so fear not Icarus’ fate!

Singed is better 
than fallen,
and life is best spent 
with a true mate."

For those new to the game, each poem is inspired by a Teacher found in Nature; a star, stone, animal, plant etc that holds lessons of Wisdom for us. Can you guess who is singing today? Congrats to Mary Trout, Alan, Poppy (O.R.M.E.), and Jan Neavill Hersh for naming this Teacher!

“We are obliged to respect, defend and maintain the common bonds of union and fellowship that exist among all members of the human race.” Marcus Tullius Cicero
“Keep your dreams alive! Understand to achieve anything requires Faith and Belief in yourself, vision, hard work, determination, and dedication. Remember, all things are possible for those who Believe.” Gail Devers
“One can never consent to creep when one feels an impulse to soar. " Helen Keller
“He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ringed with the azure world, he stands.
The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;
He watches from his mountain walls,
and like a thunderbolt he falls.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “The Eagle”

Bald Eagles build their nests in tall sturdy trees and craggy inaccessible cliffs close to large bodies of open water like lakes, seacoasts, rivers and marshes. They have specific territories for nesting, winter feeding and year-round residence. In North America, it can be found from Alaska to California, from Maine to Florida. Those that live in Canada and Northern U.S. migrate to warmer climates during winter and those that live in southern U.S. will migrate north to find relief and better food during the hottest moths. About half of all of America’s Bald Eagles live in Alaska!
Eagles live up to 35 years in the wild and 50 in captivity. Fish, particularly Salmon, is the key food in their diet, although they will also eat: ducks, muskrats, turtles, rabbits, snakes, rats, other small mammals like squirrels, young of larger mammals like fawns, and carrion, although they are excellent hunters and seldom need to eat carrion. They can only fly with prey less than half their own body weight, although they have been known to swim to shore with larger salmon, using their wings like oars! 
Eagles have been known to drown from going after fish that were too large for them. Males weigh around 9 pounds and females around 12 pounds. As with other raptors, the female is larger as she protects the nest. Males bring the necessary items to construct the nest, but it is the female who actually puts it together. Eagles mate for life, and their courting displays involve aerial acrobatics which end in a mid-flight mating which can end in death for the couple. These are important factors to note when looking at it as a Totem.
“I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman.” Anais Nin
“It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power.” Alan Cohen
“You cannot believe in honor until you have achieved it. Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.” Sir Walter Besant

Eagles mate for life. Courting behavior begins in early April, and 1-3 eggs are typically hatched between late May and early June. Eagle people need to pay particular attention to whom they choose as a life mate. Only a true equal will compliment or satisfy the loyal Eagle, and lesser mates will most likely result in a dramatic or traumatic relationship conclusion. Those early training feathers eaglets grow to assist them while learning how to fly indicates that Eagle people will have their own intense learning period in which to develop. 
They may feel awkward or more capable than their role models, but Eagle people must have a period in which they test their wings and learn to become proficient in however they choose on flying through their life. When it comes to nest-building, males are driven to provide all that the best materials, and females have a definite plan on how to set up their home and keep it in order. Both will be dissatisfied if they are not given control of these areas, even if they themselves don’t understand why they are upset.
“Children are remarkable for their intelligence and ardor, for their curiosity, their intolerance of shams, the clarity and ruthlessness of their vision.” Aldous Huxley
Eagle children often experience extremely difficult childhoods, and Eagle parents can experience all kinds of difficulties from loosing faith with their children to death in childbirth. Early challenges in the lives of Eagle people are necessary to develop the excellence and tempered spirit that marks all Eagle people. It takes Eagles five years to achieve their adult plumage, every feather must be earned. 
Such people are used to hardships, sacrifice, and the harsher realities of Life. Others may view them as aloof, cold, blunt, intimidating or remote because of these qualities, but Eagles care deeply about the World around them, especially those individuals that they have welcomed into their lives. Truth, honor, duty, order, peace, balance,service are all important to the Eagle, and they have an uncanny knack for seeing deeply into whatever they are looking at, to look beyond masks and see clearly Truth from Deception.
“Liberty is rendered even more precious by the recollection of servitude.” Cicero
“A life of peace, purity, and refinement leads to a calm and untroubled old age.” Cicero
“A mind without instruction can no more bear fruit than can a field, however fertile, without cultivation.” Cicero
“Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.” Confucius

In fact, Eagle people need to be actively caring for their World, whether this is through individuals or through greater works that affect many lives. It is a vital part of their spiritual make-up that keeps them healthy and happy. These intimidating and remote raptors are deeply feeling individuals, and others often do not realize just how deep an Eagle’s still waters run. It is not uncommon for feathery parent Eagles to suffer from “empty nest syndrome” by the end of each summer as their offspring take to the skies for themselves, for example. Eagle people are much the same, and need the loving kindness of their own loved ones to help them over painful transitions in the best way.
Their powerful talons are capable of exerting approximately 1,000 pounds of pressure per square inch in each foot, and they have also been known to kill prey or rivals by slamming into them midair at speeds up to 100 mph! Their large hooked beaks are designed for rending and tearing. As a Totem, this reminds us that Eagles need to be very careful about how and when they speak, for their words will be received with unusual power and are capable of tremendous damage. Likewise, Eagles need to know exactly what, when and where to grab at a situation or person for their grip is crushingly potent. 
Knowing when to let go can be a matter of life or death for Eagle people, for if you hold onto something too long, even that which you hold most dear… you will hit the ground at lethal speeds! Eagle people are potent communicators, both physically and spiritually. Even their prayers carry in a louder voice! Thus, they quickly learn to be careful what, how and when they speak. Eagles also reflect the power of Thunderbird, the Winds, and Storm energy.
“Just as the bird has to find the courage to let go of the branch in order to fly, so we also must let go of our branches if we are to know the exhilaration of soaring to the highest potential of our life. The branches we hold to are our inner attachments- our beliefs, ideas and memories. And then there are the outer attachments- people, possessions, positions, and privileges are a few. But as long as we hold on to them, we will live in fear (of letting go and loss) and we will never be free. And just watch those birds, by letting go of one branch they are able to spend the rest of their life alighting on a million branches… and they enjoy the view from each. Are you flying and soaring in your life? Or are you stuck on one branch, cursing others as they fly past. Go on, try it… Let Go!” ~ Innerspace

Their scientific name, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, translates as “halo” sea, “aeetos” eagle, and “leukos” head. The word “bald” is an archaic term for the color white and does not refer to hair loss as it has come to mean today. So this raptor is defined as a large white-headed bird that lives by the sea. These mighty raptors have 7 foot wingspans, can fly up to altitudes of more than 10,000 feet, and can soar for hours on thermals and wind currents as they search for prey which they can see up to a mile away! Level flight speeds have been recorded at about 44 mph, and they prefer to descend gradually rather than perform a potentially lethal vertical dive. 
They are amazingly quiet in flight, and most often fly in low to take prey by surprise rather than dive from above. They are most noted for their tremendous soaring ability, keen sight, strength and majesty. Totemically, Eagle people are capable of reaching astounding heights. The sky, literally, is the limit! Don’t be afraid of flying too close to the sun to achieve your goals. You may get singed a bit by setting your goals so high, but ultimately you will attain them.
Golden Eagles are the only other eagle native to North America, although Natives did once refer to the Red Tail Hawk as the Red Eagle. It is one of 12 species of Eagle found worldwide, and there are six subspecies of Goldens that vary in size and plumage. The number 3 is a creation number and 3’s are important to eagle people. Golden Eagles prefer rugged terrain with abundant updrafts. It takes four years for them to achieve their adult plumage, again referring to an important learning period in one’s life, but also reminding us of the hidden 4th face of the Natural World that can represent all things Spiritual or Rebirth. 
Golden Eagles often make me think of the mythic Phoenix, and people called by this Teacher often find themselves going through a continuous forge of lessons and challenges in life that motivate them through a personal cycle of spiritual deaths and rebirths. This seems to be a vital piece of their soul journey through this life, and like all Eagles spiritual matters are of great importance to such people.
“Vision without action is a dream. Action without vision is simply passing the time. Action with Vision is making a positive difference.” Joel Barker
“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” Jonathan Swift
“Vision looks inward and becomes duty. Vision looks outward and becomes aspiration. Vision looks upward and becomes faith.” Stephen S. Wise
Eagles are the carriers of visions, prophecies, divine messages, and prayers. At one time, the Golden Eagle lived in temperate Europe, Japan, Northern Asia, America and Africa. They are now predominantly mountain-dwellers but in earlier years they were so numerous that they were adapting to life in the plains and forests too. It is uplifting to note at this time that the lowland areas around Sweden and Denmark have begun to see eagles returning, and that efforts are being made to re-introduce this powerful Teacher back into Ireland where it has been extinct since about 1912. In April 2007, a pair of Golden Eagles produced the first chick to be hatched in the Republic of Ireland in nearly a century.
Golden Eagles can be trained for falconry and in Kyrgyzstan, they are still used to hunt foxes and wolves. The smaller Fox is usually killed outright by the eagle, but wolves are typically pinned down by the bird until the falconer can finish them off. While I personally don’t feel that either Foxes or Wolves typically need to be hunted, I do find this relationship between man, eagle and canine very interesting, and suggest that those called by Eagle also examine the Canine Teachers, as well as other potentially complimentary or balancing energies. Special attention should be paid to Salmon as he is the Eagle’s main sustenance, and the link between Eagle and Bear Medicines. All three Teachers, Eagle Bear and Salmon, are held in equally high regard.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.” Thomas Jefferson
“When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Goethe
“Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” Sophocles
“It is in the character of very few men to honor without envy a friend who has prospered.” Eschylus

Elder Michael Thrasher once told D’Arcy Rheault that Eagle feathers have two sides. On one side is mind/intellect, body/movement and spirit/emotion. When these things are in balance a person is in balance. On the other side is institution/education in all it’s forms, process (the movement on one’s life path) and ceremony. When these things are in balance, a person’s life is also balanced. When these two sides are balanced there is good behavior and the Eagle flies. 
Of course, the Eagle doesn’t think about that. It just opens its wings and flies as Creator directs! For the Eagle’s protection, only those of proven Native descent are legally allowed to carry, use or wear a true Eagle feather. In these Traditions, to carry/use/wear an Eagle feather carries certain responsibilities and causes Creator to take immediate notice. The Eagle is Creator’s messenger and speaks with a louder voice than any other because of this Divine connection.
Those who carry such feathers must protect them, smudge them with sacred tobacco, wear or carry them to sacred ceremonies, and ensure that anything that changes the natural state of ones mind (like alcohol and drugs) must never come in contact with these sacred objects. To be given an Eagle feather is saying that this person is being acknowledged with gratitude, with love, and with ultimate respect. It is important to know these things. I
t is also important to remember that the feather of any bird can be held/used/carried not only for it’s own Teachings and strengths, but also serves as a connection to the Teachings and Powers of any other Avian Teacher. Did the humble Sparrow gift you with a perfect feather from it’s wing as it flew overhead from it’s nest? Then you may use the Sparrow’s gift to ask for Eagle’s puissant aid, Raven’s wisdom, Owl’s advice, etc etc. Ted Andrews is the author of several books including Animal Speak, in which he discusses at some length the care of one’s Feathers and how to connect to this type of energy. Birds of a feather flock together!
I have my own pine box in which I keep my Feathers along with Cedar and Tobacco. It is often a challenge for me to find time while in a receptive and well-balanced state to regularly smudge my Feathers, but such efforts are well worth my time. Not only do I have an opportunity to learn and strengthen, but I also honor these gifts I have been given, which honors the World, Creator, and Self in a healthy cycle of healing, respect, love, and rebirth.
“Oh, Eagle, come with wings outspread in sunny skies.

Oh, Eagle, come and bring us peace, thy gentle peace.

Oh, Eagle, come and give new life to us who pray.” Pawnee Prayer
Eagles appear largely in every culture that has any contact with them, adorn many flags, and have represented: freedom, duty, honor, liberty, honesty, vigilance, vision, courage, kingship, strength, wisdom of the Elders, omens, dreams, prophecy, Creator, Creation, the Tree of Life, the Sun and solar energy, majesty, Spirituality, Justice, living in a state of grace, illumination, and knowledge. Griffins, a cross between Lions and Raptors,would share the Wisdom of both those Teachers with a special touch of Faery magic.
Guardians of the Faerie realm, Griffins combine the elements of Earth and Air to become the King of both. Sacred to: Zeus, Taranis, Vishnu, God, Jesus Christ, various Angels, King Arthur, Agni, Bel, Ganymede, and Sumul. It’s colors are white, brown, black and gold. It sits in the North on the Wheel, and Winter is also linked to Eagle. Eagles ask us to look to the skies for signs and messages, to connect with and care for the World around us. To move forward bravely, with faith and purpose, to create a better World through our lives. How does this Teacher appear in your life?

“Above all other birds it is the soaring eagle, with its size and weight that gives the most abiding impression of power and purpose in the air. It advances solidly like a great ship cleaving the swells and thrusting aside the smaller waves. It sails directly where lesser birds are rocked and tilted by the air currents.” Edwin Way Teale, “Bird of Freedom” Atlantic Monthly 1957
“In the beginning of all things, wisdom and knowledge were with animals, for Tirawa, the One Above, did not speak directly to man. He sent certain animals to tell men that he showed himself through the beast, and that from them, and from the stars and the sun and the moon should man learn.” Eagle Chief
“When humans participate in ceremony, they enter a sacred space. Everything outside of that space shrivels in importance. Time takes on a different. Emotions flow more freely. The bodies of participants become filled with the energy of life, and this energy reaches out and blesses the creation around them. All is made new; everything becomes sacred.” Sun Bear