Monthly Archives: August 2014

CHEWING THROUGH THE LEASH: Prayers On The Canyon Floor

Wazo 102005

Outlined against the dark of an SUV interior rides a white wolfdog, eyes bright but constrained. His companion is Lisa Dvorak, assistant police chief of a near-by city. Lisa named her companion after the hero of a vision song given to a vision quester years before–Wazo, a tribal word for wolf.

 The snazzy car slides to a halt on solid limestone that doubles as an old ranch road and my current driveway. Wazo waits somewhat patiently as Lisa attaches a thick, leather leash to his collar. Somewhat patiently, I say, because the hours the police chief had spent training her trusted companion were many and supplemented by expensive, professional training. Wazo jumps out of the car and immediately heels behind Lisa, a proud hybrid who knows his way around fancy cars and ranch roads become driveways. As I look at this handsome creature with kerchief around his neck, he looks like any other large and beautiful dog.

Not so!

A Wolfdog Description

Sometimes called a wolf hybrid, this magnificent mammal calls out to humans in a unique way; in fact, USDA estimates that there are 300-500,000 wolf hybrids in the USA alone. Wolfdogs tend to have somewhat smaller heads , larger and pointed ears, and one more hind toe than pure wolves. They have longer canines than pure wolves, form larger packs in the wilds, and appear in studies to have greater endurance. In a Siberian research project, wolf hybrids tracked down a target in 15-20 seconds while it took well trained police dogs four minutes. The American Veterinary Medical Association notes that wolf hybrids are, no surprise, healthier than domestic dogs while at the same time, like their wolf parents, resistant to rabies vaccines. Some experts advise against having wolfdogs as companions because of unruly behavior issues while other human companions contend that the larger the percentage of wolf, the more companionable.

A Wolfdog Heritage: Teotihuacan

Humans and wolfdogs share a deep code of connection. Evidence of common hunting endeavors of humans and wolfdogs stretch back 10,000 years in the Americas. This is not a johnny-come-lately relationship. In December of 2010 scientists announced they had found remains of many wolfdogs that had been kept by the Toltecs in Mexico’s central valley as far back as 3,000 years ago. Previously, animals in Toltec art thought to be coyotes or unusual dogs turn out likely to be wolfdogs. Archeologist Raul Valdez, after four years of studying petrified jawbones, concluded that inhabitants of Teotihuacan had dogs, wolves, and coyotes, but they almost always used the hybrid wolfdog in ceremonies at the pyramids. Something about the hybrid carried a different kind of power and courage that fascinated the ancients. We now can grasp that these wise people at Teotihuacan knew about the solar system 2500 years before Copernicus discovered that Earth rotated around the Sun.

Did they also know something about the wisdom of the hybrid?

And are there clues for us humans evolving toward a form of humanity returning to the cycle of life after a long estrangement?

Path Down Into the Canyon

Back in my driveway, Wazo follows obediently at Lisa’s side as we begin our hike down into the small canyon near where I live. Since I had known Wazo as a rowdy pup, I am amazed at how well-behaved he is, hardly straining at the leash as we leave the driveway and the office in my house behind. Lisa and I converse casually about any number of subjects, and I mention how civilized Wazo has become. The lessons of civilization are taking hold, I comment, a little disappointment in my voice. As we descend into the arroyo and pick our way through limestone rock 140 million years old, Wazo sniffs at petrified sea creatures preserved in the sediments of a Mesozoic sea that covered all this area.

 In the sweat lodge we respectfully haul in these limestone, sedimentary rocks at the outset of the lodge because they are layered and peel off the overlays of our usual psychological patterns. The rocks, hybrids themselves of compressed sea urchins, lead us to our cores, that energetic dimension unfettered by culture.Our descent seems to have a similar effect on Wazo as the dog gives way to the wolf with every step. Off to my left crashing through a juniper forest comes an eight-point buck pawing the ground restlessly, and Wazo’s yellow eyes glisten as something stirs.Lisa’s hands turn white at the knuckles, white as Wazo’s fur, as the pressure he puts on his leash increases.

Black Cherry Grove And Hidden Springs

A favorite hangout of mine looms before us, a grove of wild black cherry trees. A spring gurgles at our feet, and Wazo laps while looking alertly to the left and right. Lisa and I settle to sit awhile on a limestone shelf, but Wazo has none of it. He pulls her off the comfortable shelf, jerking her arm. Glancing at me Lisa moves to a nice black cherry tree and ties the leash securely. We return to talk about the healing balm of black cherry trees, the way grown-ups do when a child misbehaves. My great grandmother knew the recipe for a healing tea from this tree, but it is now lost in the mists of time. Even so, we soak up the powerful energy of the grove.

Chewing Through The Leash

Suddenly, a deep growl comes from the tree, and I turn to see Wazo in the last moments of chewing through his leash. Before we can respond, he is off and running, splashing through the trickling spring as he bounds about. He stops and makes eye contact in water up to his chest, and then he sprints up the steep canyon walls. My first response is to chase him and bring him back to more orderly concerns, but then I see the futility of that maneuver.

The Wild Heart

A message of non locality passes between us as I am drawn  out of my own constraints. Mouth and eyes open I am, for the moment, chewing through my own leash. A line of energy shoots straight into my heart. You know that point. It is the inner motion of the quantum self with all of its microtubules reaching out to the eco-filed all around.

The Mother Tongue

A different mammal strides by both in Wazo and within me. He is different from the dog with a bandanna around his neck, though it is still there. He speaks a base language. He stops and listens to every little sound in the vibrant, intertwining of soil, grasses, insects, trees, water, deer, snakes, and, yes, humans. Together we compose this tiny eco-field. These exchanges of signals within the web happen faster than the speed of light. On second thought they may not be information laden signals so much as a nonlocal knowing throughout the field that is present when the leashes of culture are chewed through.

Return To Civilization

We puzzle—do Lisa and I—about how to corral our dog transformed into wolf. But as we stand up and start the ascension out of the canyon, he slowly falls into step. Lisa ties what is left of the leash to his collar, and soon we are shuffling along the driveway. Thought I have written and taught about such moments for some time, this particular experience is so vivid that I stumble to express it even to myself, even now. I could say we went from the order of the driveway eco-field to the chaos and disorder of the deep, shaded canyon. Maybe.

But I would soon find out it is just the other way around.

Night Journeys

That night about 2:00 a.m. when the veil is thin Wazo appears and takes me on a pathway from the domain of the manifest particles of my bedroom to the waves of the canyon. At first, he beckons me, and then grabs me by the scruff of my neck to take me in dreamlike fashion to points unknown. My usual life that I have worked so hard to provide as a safety net now appears to me as disorder when compared with the majesty of the ride on Wazo’s back. Fears, depression, and addictive urges disappear as we glide down the canyon pathway. This journey consists of Wazo and Will in waves of possibility gathering mass to collapse into cultural actuality when I awake in the morning.

Wazo The Wave

Some time back Wazo made a journey over the great white mountain to the domain of waves, but he is still with me from time-to-time. With our dream and visionary bodies in tact we romp through waters and stare at stars. Recently, I have been going through rough waters with Judith’s treatment, with my sister who is in a similar process, and with friends who sort through a cancer healing. At such times, especially in the dead of night, Wazo comes as ally and drags me by the scruff of my neck out the disorder of tangled feelings and thoughts into deep canyons and groves of trees.When I can’t do it myself, he chews through my leashes for me.

 Then, in the morning with the dawn of new light, I know that I experience a wild form of prayer, those utterances in the visionary path that open up possibilities I could never know if I stayed on the drive-way on my leash with bandanna around my neck.

A TREE THAT COULD SAVE YOUR LIFE

Unknown

One day I was on a picnic with the President/CEO of Roseburg Forest Products, Allyn Ford, and we fell into a jolting conversation. RFP is a closely held corporation that owns 650,000 acres of viable timberland in Southern Oregon and Northern California, or about the size of one of our smaller states. I consider Allyn to be a friend and one of the more enlightened capitalists in the lumber industry. When I asked him about his view of sustainability, he replied, “The more we know about forest lands, the more we can do to keep them healthy. The healthier they are, the healthier our business. Call us tree-huggers if you like. I don’t mind. I love trees. Wood never ceases to amaze me, and I am always finding new ways to put trees to good use.”

I checked his statements out with locals and informal research. Allyn’s foresters plant over 5 million new trees each year. He reuses 300,000 lbs. of residual material annually to make high-grade particle board. Through sustainable energy practices some of RFP’s facilities are off the grid. When I inquired about the health of the forest land he owns, he replied, “We have more trees now on that land than when I took over from my father. I plant more than I cut.”

That’s the good news, and I appreciate Allyn’s efforts. Every step in awareness and respectful practice assists and underlines that we, as a human species, are in this endeavor together with the forest. Indeed, as you know from previous blogs, I identify myself as an aspect of the forest. When the forest is healthy, I am healthy. You, too.

The bad news is that RFP and other less enlightened lumber companies utilize a method called clear-cutting, and, embracing that method, have decimated a tree that could save your life. Let’s see how.

The Inconspicuous Oregon Yew Tree

The Pacific or Oregon yew is an evergreen usually growing to a height 24-30 feet and a diameter of about 30 inches. Sometimes in droughts yews appear as shrubs in the forest floor and can easily be overlooked. The Oregon yew, thus, grows inconspicuously and very slowly beneath a conifer forest canopy; it requires dense shade. It grows best in cool, moist flats, and its seeds are disseminated mainly by wind and birds. It also is a favorite browse of deer, elk, and moose, who in turn distribute the seeds fertilized by their waste.

To the 20th Century trained forester and profit hungry lumber industry the yew appeared as useless, a trash tree. It merited no attention whatsoever because it didn’t produce lumber, wood as the lumber industry calls it. As large lumber companies clearcut, the yew tree became a casualty. No big deal, they thought. Collateral damage.

The lumbermen would have done well to talk to my mentor, Bear Heart, who once said to me,”So-called trash trees and weeds often are big medicine not yet discovered by white folk.” But like most of our mainstream culture, the lumber industry pays little attention to indigenous wisdom.

Indigenous Medicine and The Yew

A significant number of indigenous tribes well knew the value of yew trees. They used the bark, foliage, and fruits of the yew medicinally, as Bear Heart knew from his trips to the Northwest. Bella Coola Indians used leaf tea for lung ailments. Chehalis natives employed leaf preparation to accompany sweat lodges in the purification of body/mind/soul. Cowlitz created yew poultices for wounds. This indigenous partnership with the yew tree’s healing powers reaches back into the mists of prehistory, several thousand years ago. It is a well-known fact that there was little, if any, cancer present with the indigenous people when the European invasion began. Native shaman knew the anti-cancer powers of the yew and a variety of other plants.

Mainstream Culture “Discovers” the Yew

In the early 1960’s Jonathan Hartwell of the National Cancer Institute realized that native peoples used plants as sources of anticancer drugs. Plants were shipped from the field to chemistry laboratories where experiments were performed to see if the native narratives about the yew tree had any value. They did.

The history of modern medicine notes that in 1967 Monroe Wall and M.C. Wani discovered the healing properties of the Yew tree and named it taxol or paclitaxel. In an astounding example of the arrogance of Western Civilization’s historians, these two men were credited with isolating the natural product from the bark of the yew, a practice obviously known to indigenous folks for thousands of years. Those of us who as elementary age students believed Columbus discovered America should take note and develop a healthy skepticism concerning current historical accounts such as this account of the yew tree’s so-called “discovery.”

Taxol was then developed commercially by Bristol Meyer Squib. The 1970’s saw continued research into the uses of taxol as the wheels of its usage moved quite slowly in the United States in spite of the known promise of the yew’s power of healing to indigenous peoples.

In 1977 The Mainstream Wakes Up

In 1977 Susan Horowitz of Albert Einstein College of Medicine discovered that taxol interfered with cell division by binding to tubulins in the cells. Unlike other cancer drugs, which prevented tubulin from assembling into microtubules, taxol bound to assembled mirotubules and blocked them from disassembling. Without going into microbiological details, mainstream science was at last taking note of the unique healing qualities of the yew tree. The partnership of the yew with microtubules is fascinating, and I will return to this in some detail in a future blog.

Clear-cutting Yew Trees Continues

Meanwhile, back in the forest clear-cutting the yew tree continued. Senator Frank Church was concerned and in 1975 offered the Church Guidelines for clear-cutting in National Forests; the guidelines stipulated that clear-cuts would not exceed 40 acres in size on federal lands. In 1976 a law was passed by Congress greatly restricting clear-cutting in National Forests. But on private lands, like the ones owned by RFP, clear-cutting remains the silvicultural timber harvest method of choice, the yew tree be damned. The timber industry is currently attempting to remove most of the restrictions on federal lands. While it is true that the lumber industry plants millions of trees, they pay little attention to the understory where the intrepid yew grows.

The Amazing Yew Tree Continues To Heal

In spite of this gross crime against itself, the yew tree patiently continues to heal humans. It is estimated that 250,000 people are treated annually with taxol. It is used in lung, ovarian, breast, head and neck, prostate, and Kaposi’s sarcoma. The little tree and its offsprings earn over one billion dollars a year for American drug companies. Still, because the clear-cutting continues, the treatment is expensive, costing between $10,000 and $100,000 for each patient, depending on the number of treatment cycles.

How Plants Heal

Increasing numbers of researchers such as Stephen Buhner agree with my eco-field hypothesis that there is a mother tongue exchange of information and meaning within a specific landscape. Within certain space configurations there is a constant flow of, shall we say for the moment, conversations, ones mainstream culture is just now beginning to understand.

The Miracle of the Mother Tongue

The Oregon yew tree has been reaching out to humans through the millennia and ancient people knew the language. For me, conversations with the yew tree and its kin are the most effective form of prayer I know. I mentioned in an earlier blog that Judith, my life partner, was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. Together, we are choosing many forms of healing, including surgery and chemo therapy, as well as alternative forms. Prayer is at the top of the list.

But what form of prayer?

Each day I talk to the yew trees. I apologize for the arrogance of my fellow humans, including myself. I acknowledge the innate intelligence oozing forth in the plants as healing potential for those beset with cancer. Even though we continue to cut them down, they share generously with us through a sophisticated neural network their ability to survive, a survival strategy that doesn’t compete with us but collaborates with us.

To our delight taxol is the chemo therapy of choice by our oncologist at the moment. Judith’s prayers are immediate and sensual. So are mine. I hold her hand for a moment as she reclines in a chair with a bag of yew tree medicine(taxol) flowing into her body. Its intelligence is palpable. Our conversations in the mother tongue are not abstract. They are sensual and immediate. Soon, my courage and endurance waiver, and I leave the room. Judith persists in a longer conversation with the yew.

Sleeping With The Tree

If prayer is aware intimacy, then I link intimately with the yew tree. At night I lie next to Judith, and I can feel the wisdom of the tree surging through her body. I benefit. Its energy reaches out and embraces me. Sometimes, tears flow. Sometimes, giggles break through. Both come in waves. Western medicine offers us no guarantees. I understand. In the meantime I am in discourse with the plant world, and I would never have known this kind of intimate depth without this kind of struggle.

So, in that way, Judith and I are already healed, that is, more fully aware of our connection with the Whole. Such is the potential of our species as we painstakingly make our return to the circle of life.

THE WHOLE SIGNALS THE PART: Eco-field Messages

In my last blog post, I explored with you the sometimes annoying and sometimes consciousness expanding messages from a common titmouse. Recall that I resisted field-centric messages by covering my window with a blanket so that the titmouse would cease its pecking. I took that action even though I knew the fields were attempting to respond to my utterances and prayers; thus, I became for the moment a poster child for resistance at connecting more robustly to the Whole.

Pick up my story at the point where I supposedly had silenced the titmouse and the field.

Grace Persists

Two mornings later I walked out toward my Prius, perhaps fifty yards from my house and the infamous window I had covered to silence the titmouse. As I ambled enjoying the fresh air, I could hear a faint tapping once again. Mumbling to myself, I returned to the window inside the house to see if the titmouse had returned, but there was only silence. It seemed like blessed silence, but, then, silence was not what I wanted when I prayed.

What kind of intimate was I?

I wrestled with a terrible truth: I yearned for a Universe to be responsive to my communications but only if it was pleasant and under my control. I teach and write as a harbinger of the Great Return of humans to the web of eco-fields, but it was apparent—at least in this instance—that the return had to be on my terms.

Satisfied that my house was quiet, my morning walk took me to a car port some distance away where I followed the tap-tap-tap sound. Low and behold there was my spirit visitor tapping on the rearview mirror of the car, on the driver’s side, the side where I usually sit. In spite of all of my resistance, the surrounding eco-field seemed to persist with some message. If I covered up the windows of my soul with a blanket because the tapping was inconvenient, the field in the form of the little bird persisted by following me to the mirror of my car. My little friend seemed a bit frustrated with my recalcitrance and left a few droppings near the door handle, just to inject humor into the equation.

But isn’t this just natural behavior that I need not take personally? Isn’t all of this connecting behavior just coincidence in a random Universe?

Natural Hearing and Stereophonic Messages

Maybe, I reasoned there were two channels of information available.

Stereophonic sound is achieved by using two or more independent audio channels through a configuration of two or more speakers. This effect creates an experience of hearing music or other messages from different directions, or, as sound engineers say, natural hearing. That describes my experience with Mr. Titmouse. Through one speaker I just get the behavior of a male bird pecking on the window image of an imagined rival, such is the description of reductionistic, 20th Century Science. When I covered up one window, he merely sought out another. Such reasoning is the message from one of the stereophonic speakers.

Quantum fields and indigenous people are helping us discover another speaker, one connected to our holographic brain. That speaker is the channel that sends a response to our utterances, our ceremonies, our prayers, our drumming, and the music of our souls. Such a speaker transmits through the language of the mother tongue and is one Western Civilization turned off as being magical thinking. This speaker responds to us and gives us guidance, very specific guidance through the eco-fields.

Both channels are important and are not mutually exclusive. They are both paradoxically and antinomially true. They are in tension with each other, but out of the dynamic relationship we get a message. That is the way of the hybrid on the return path. We live simultaneously in two worlds listening to two messages.

I do want to point out that there are 20 windows within a short distance that the titmouse might have chosen to carry on with his reflected intruder. Yet, he chose to fly a distance to my car and chose not the passenger mirror but rather the mirror that I would have to open. His droppings were next to the door handle I would need to grasp in order to drive. Such observations are not to be taken as cause-and-effect but correlative to my prayers.

 Decoding The Message

This form of prayer was very different from those that rely on a priest or a book or even a disincarnate spirit as the mediator of a reciprocal and intimate exchange. This communication was initiated by a force field outside myself. True, I had been blowing the conch, burning the sage, chanting, and singing songs for some time before the titmouse showed up. So, it is a chicken and egg discussion, as are most forms of intimacy.

What moves me, though, is how sensual the tapping is and how persistent is the motion from outside myself in the face of mainstream, cultural reasoning that sometimes dominate my inner council. This indigenous way of prayer is immediate, within the world where I live, and imminently practical. It requires a form of work that reminds me of the existential immediacy of any of my human-to-human intimate exchanges. Here is a likely sequence in most intimate exchanges: a heart-felt utterance, a response from the other; a defense if the response challenges my current reality; a persistence of the other; a softening to the message

Here are a few of the messages that came to me in the dialogue as I listened to the titmouse in nightly meditations.

  • The beauty of a lasting and loyal love ;titmice often mate for life.

  • Life endures in spite of vulnerability; titmice can be very long lived

  • I will guide you to the center of the circle, home; titmice stay within a select set of eco-fields.

  • Most important, just be with me. Listen to me. Making meaning is secondary.

Reflections for the Day

Recently, a researcher writing a book about nature-based spirituality asked for an interview to see if she wanted to include conversations with me in her work. We talked leisurely under a tree not far for my car port. “I know your life has taken a meandering path through psychology, spiritual communities, the study of quantum fields, alternative academia, and studies with tribal elders. If you could put in one sentence what you have learned, what would it be?”

Long moments passed.

“The path of enlightenment is through the marvel of our sensual perceptions and a trust in the natural order to guide us toward greater consciousness.”

As I read these words to Judith before I post them on my blog, the titmouse flies to the window, looks in, but does not tap.