Thursday, April 17, 2014

Earth Day 2014

Gaia, mother of all,
I shall sing,
the strong foundation, the oldest one.
She feeds everything in the world.
Whoever walks upon her sacred ground,
or moves through the sea,
or flies through the air, it is she
who nourishes them from her treasure-store.

Queen of Earth, through you
beautiful children
beautiful harvests,

It is you who gives life to mortals,
and who takes life away.
Blessed is the One you honour with a willing heart.
One who has this has everything.

Their fields thicken with life-giving corn,
their cattle grow heavy in the pastures,
her house brims over with good things.*

It is you who honoured them,
sacred goddess, generous spirit.
Farewell mother of the gods,
bride of starry Heaven.

For my song, allow me a life
my heart loves.
Homeric Hymn to Gaia XXX, translated by Jules Cashford.

* The original pronoun was, of course, "he".  I changed it to remember that not all Beings of the Earth are "he".  I suspect Gaia, in all Her magnificent diversity,  would approve.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Eclipse of the Moon

Mass of the Moon Eclipse

Not more slowly than frayed
human attention can bear,
but slow enough to be stately, deliberate, a ritual
we can't be sure will indeed move
from death into resurrection.

As the bright silver inch by inch
is diminished, options vanish,
life's allurements. The last silver
lies face down, back hunched, a husk.

But then, obscured, the whole sphere can be seen
to glow from behind its barrier shadow:  bronze,
unquenchable, blood-light.  And slowly,
more slowly than desolation overcame, overtook
the light, the light

is restored, outspread in a cloudless pasture of
spring darkness where firefly planes
fuss to and fro, and humans
turn off their brief attention
in secret relief. 

No matter:  the rite
contains its power, whether or not
our witness rises toward it;
grandeur plays out the implacable drama
without even flicking aside our trivial
fail to respond.

And yet
we are spoken to, and sometimes
we do stop, do, do give ourselves leave
to listen, to watch.  The moon,
the moon we do after all
love, is dying, are we to live
on a world without moon?  We swallow
a sour terror.

that coppery sphere,
no-moon become once more
full-moon, visible in absence.
And still without haste, silver
increment by silver
increment, the familiar, desired,
disregarded brilliance
 is given again,
given and given.

Denise Levertov
from This Great Unknowing:  Last Poems,
1999, New Directions Press

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Calling All Pagans: Your Mother Earth Needs You

Here's an article, written by someone who is unaware, perhaps, of the decades long work contemporary pagans, Goddess workers, eco-feminists, and other Gaians have been doing.  Huzzah - pass it on.  He addresses what we have been talking about for so many years, the urgent and potent need to re-myth our world, to re-sanctify the Mother. 

 Calling All Pagans: Your Mother Earth Needs You

 "Sadly,  we’re far more prepared to go to war than
 we are to make peace with the planet."
Somewhere between these two quotes lies the future:

“And I would like to emphasize that nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”

“The Judeo-Christian worldview is that man is at the center of the universe; nature was therefore created for man. Nature has no intrinsic worth other than man’s appreciation and moral use of it.”

The first quote is from Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, summing up the dire and much-discussed findings of its recent report: Human civilization — its technology, its war games, its helpless short-sightedness and addiction to fossil fuels — is wrecking the environment that sustains all life. Time is running out on our ability to make changes; and the world’s, uh, “leadership” — political, corporate — has shown little will to step beyond more of the same, to figure out how we can reduce carbon emissions and live in eco-harmony, with a sense of responsibility for the future.

"But maybe we can start learning, at long last, that we are not the masters of the universe and that “dominion” and exploitation are immature expressions of power."

The second quote is from radio talk-show host Dennis Prager, writing recently in the National Review Online. He goes on, in his remarkable rant against environmentalism, to point out that “worship of nature was the pagan worldview” and “for the Left, the earth has supplanted patriotism.” Eventually he compares environmentalism to loving wild dogs more than mauled children.

Prager’s diatribe isn’t my normal reading matter and I only bring it up here because I think it has relevance to the leadership void I’ve been pondering. The contemptuous dismissal of nature as lacking intrinsic worth — an unworthy competitor with God for human allegiance — may no longer have mainstream credibility, but, like racism, it’s part of the mindset that has shaped Western civilization.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

We’re still caught up in the momentum of dominion. Thus: “. . . for all the alarming warnings generated by the scientific community and confirmed by the IPCC’s comprehensive analysis of that science,” according to a recent Common Dreams article, “world governments and the powerful private sector have done next to nothing to meet the challenge now before humanity.”

Indeed, as Elizabeth Kolbert points out in The New Yorker: “Currently, instead of discouraging fossil-fuel use, the U.S. government underwrites it, with tax incentives for producers worth about four billion dollars a year.”  We’ve got, as the IPCC report states, “a 15-year window” to start making serious changes in how we structure our world. Human society will need, the Common Dreams piece says, to “revolutionize the structures of its economies, food systems, and energy grids.”

This is not going to happen — not at current levels of awareness, concern and empowerment. This is the dawning realization I find myself less and less able to live with. Climate change and global weather chaos — droughts and fires, tsunamis and tidal waves, crop failure, undrinkable water, devastating cold, rising oceans, new levels of social turmoil — are the future we are unable to hold off. But maybe we can start learning, at long last, that we are not the masters of the universe and that “dominion” and exploitation are immature expressions of power.

My only hope is that, in so learning — as humanity finds itself increasingly entangled with environmental chaos and recognizes its utter vulnerability to nature — we will begin to transcend our isolated sense of entitlement to do with Planet Earth what we will and revolutionize the way we organize every aspect of our social structure, rethinking ten millennia of dominance-motivated social organization. Nobody, after all, no matter how wealthy and fortified, is immune to the impact of a changing climate.  We’re all in it together. We’re part of nature, not its master. This concept is the missing foundation stone of contemporary civilization.

It was in this state of mind that I read Prager’s essay, wondering if such an awareness change were possible, or whether, as the consequences of unsustainable living intensified, we’d become, instead, increasingly isolated and survivalist in our thinking.
“Worship of nature was the pagan worldview,” he wrote, sounding the note of ultimate contempt for any suggestion that environmental sustainability matters and our way of life needs to change profoundly.

Perhaps the word “pagan” embodies the most deeply embedded prejudice in the Western, civilized mindset — the first and last justification for global dominance. Pagans are the ultimate “other.” We’ve built a moral structure on this prejudice, and as a consequence the U.S. government continues to subsidize rather than tax fossil fuel production. As a consequence, we’re far more prepared to go to war than we are to make peace with the planet.

We have to undo this prejudice before it undoes us.

Robert C. Koehler
Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at or visit his website at

Thursday, April 10, 2014

"The Blessing Way".....

Navajo sand painting
In the house made of dawn
in the house made of evening twilight,
in beauty may I walk
with beauty above me,
with beauty below me,
with beauty beside me I walk
with beauty all around me I walk
with beauty it is finished."

                .......Navajo (Din`e) 
This is a prayer/poem  I sometimes read as a way of remembering how to "walk".  I love the Navajo understanding of the continual motion and transformation of life,  and their so very important understanding that, from the "house of Dawn" to the "house of Twilight" we can choose to realize beauty all around us.  And their understanding of "beauty" means all that is good, beneficial, worthy of gratitude.

The Rainbow Bridge, an important sacred site for Navajo mythology

"As opposed to the other Navajo [Diné] Chant Ways, which are used to effect a cure of a problem, the Blessing way [Hózhó jí] is used to bless the "one sung over," to ensure good luck, good health and blessings for all. It is sometimes referred to by English speaking Diné as being "for good hope." The name of the rite, Hózhó jí, is translated as Blessingway, but that is certainly not an exact translation. In the Navajo language (diné bizaad) the term encompasses everything that is interpreted as good - as opposed to evil,  all that is favorable for man. It encompasses such words as beauty, harmony, success, perfection, well-being, ordered, ideal. The intent of this rite is to ensure a good result at any stage of life, and therefore the translation of Blessingway.”
Spider Woman weaving

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Stop Telling Women to Smile

 Image Detail

Here's a wonderful series of posters created by artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh that ring true.  Remember the song "Give Me The Night" (Give me the silvered streets............)?  A young woman's urban  experience is a very different experience from that of a young man.  For one thing, it's scary to walk the streets at night, full of menacing men, fear of rape.  In the daytime, young women are often subject to harassment, and a different kind of predatory attention that, instead of innocent flirtation, often veils a hostile undertone.  I remember it well, the fear and the sense of  psychic, and sometimes physical,  invasion.  Being old has it's perks, and one is that I'm invisible to men, which I thoroughly enjoy.

Stop Telling Women to Smile is an art series by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. The work attempts to address gender based street harassment by placing drawn portraits of women, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces. Tatyan Falalizadeh is an illustrator/painter based in Brooklyn, mostly known for her oil paintings. Having recently branched out into public art as a muralist, STWTS was born out of the idea that street art can be an impactful tool for tackling street harassment.   STWTS started in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012. It is an on-going, travelling series and will gradually include many cities and many women participants.  Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide. This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street - creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe. 
Image Detail 
 Image Detail

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

False "Realism" and a Culture of Possibility

 Thanks to my friend Barbara Jaspersen for forwarding this article by Arlene Goldbard to me, and I was so struck by what she had to say that I felt like sharing it here.  Struck because that spirit of resignation is to be found in me as well, that inner virus she calls the “internalization of the oppressor”.  Certainly confronting the proposed  loss of ACCESS TUCSON, which has served the community for over 30 years,  (see below) makes this article all the more relevant.  

“Realism” and Its Discontents

by Arlene Goldbard

 "I focused especially on the way Corporation Nation has consigned artists to a trivial and undernourished social role, instead of understanding artists as an indicator species for social well-being......................What does it mean that in many places cultural allocations are less than a hundredth of a percent of prison budgets? Who are we as a people? What do we stand for? What do we want to be known for: our stupendous ability to punish, or our vast creativity?"

This has been a strange time in my little world: I’ve been traveling for work while my computer stayed home and lost its mind.  I’m glad to say that sanity (i.e., memory, software, and general order) has been restored, and while I still have the sort of compulsive desire to tell the tale that afflicts survivors of accidents, I will spare you most of the saga. 
What both journeys—mine and the computer’s—have given me is the opportunity to reflect on the workings of human minds, including my own. In particular, I’ve had a close-up look at the desire to believe, especially to believe the reassuring drone of those in authority.
Earlier this month, I gave a talk at Harvard that focused on some of the key ideas in  "The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future" ( 

I focused especially on the way Corporation Nation has consigned artists to a trivial and undernourished social role, instead of understanding artists as an indicator species for social well-being akin to the role oysters play as bio-monitors for marine environments. I pointed out how arts advocacy has steadily failed (e.g., President Obama asked Congress for $146 million for the National Endowment for Arts [NEA] in the next budget, $8 million less than this year, when he should have requested $440 million just to equal the spending power the agency had 35 years ago). Yet advocates keep making the same weak arguments and pretending that losing a little less than anticipated constitutes victory. There’s an Emperor’s New Clothes flavor to the whole enterprise, a tacit agreement to adjust to absurdity and go along with the charade.***

After my talk, a student asked me what arguments should be made instead. I pointed out that what we are actually spending our commonwealth on seldom gets engaged in this conversation. What does it mean that we spend more than two annual NEA budgets a day, seven days a week, on war?*** What does it mean that in many places cultural allocations are less than a hundredth of a percent of prison budgets? I posed the questions that ought to guide this debate:

Who are we as a people? What do we stand for? What do we want to be known for: our stupendous ability to punish, or our vast creativity?

The student nodded vigorously as I answered. I could see that she was with me: that the curtains of default reality had parted, affording a glimpse of the truths beneath the charade. And then something happened, something I’d seen before: some students’ excited expressions began to fade, shoulders slumped a little, breathing returned to normal. “Realism” had set in. What I mean by “realism” is the self-ratifying notion broadcast by every power elite: the message that the existing order of things is so firmly entrenched, so well-funded, and so effectively guarded that it is pointless to resist. Be realistic: surrender!

This is the real obstacle we’re up against. The pull of “realism” is felt in nearly every mind, even the minds of those whose lives are devoted to righting injustice and expanding liberty. Paulo Freire called it “internalization of the oppressor,” pointing out that when we hear often and insistently enough that we are weak, that we should cede our power to others who know better, we start to mistake that voice for our own.

There is one skill that every power elite possesses, and that is the ability to persuasively assert its own mighty rightness. But there is one power that each of us possesses, and that is to cultivate the ability to recognize and reject this propaganda. It takes awareness, commitment, and choice to hack through false consciousness and begin to see clearly. It takes all those capacities to recognize that the voice of “realism” is generally propaganda for the existing order of power (and powerlessness).

*** Remember that 59% of the national budget goes to the military, and the corporate interests that profit.  The NEA, along with the Food Stamps administration, is not even 1%.  Not much sustenance for inspiration, or hunger, with those patriarchal priorities.

My astirisks.  Currently artists in Tucson are disgusted that the city of Tucson, although raising salaries once again, are proposing doing away with ACCESS TUCSON****, selling the building that has housed it, and ending the program that has enriched the community for over 30 years.  I myself was able to produce and share a video presentation ("When the Word for World Was Mother"") through ACCESS in the late 80's.   We keep losing things, one at a time.  We keep becoming impoverished, and going along with agenda this author speaks of resignedly.  

*****What is Access Tucson?

Access Tucson was established as an independent, non-profit, membership based organization for the management of public access in 1984. Access Tucson provides the training and facilities for Tucsonans to communicate with the community utilizing electronic media. Public access producers provide the ideas, information, and diversity to create the most visible part of our organization, the programming.
Access Tucson is funded by cable subscribers in the form of franchise revenue fees to the City of Tucson, by corporate and individual donations and fundraising efforts. Public access television is the only forum where individuals can express their opinions and perspectives to the community through cable television. Access television provides the community an important venue for First Amendment rights, the right to free speech. Public access television makes the use of electronic media possible for many groups that are under represented, or not heard or seen at all in conventional broadcast television.

  • Production classes.
  • Youth after-school programs
  • Access to production equipment.
  • Cablecast of programming produced locally or outside of Tucson.
  • Stand-by Scholarships for classes
  • Project consultation.
  • Production opportunities for non-profits.