Becoming Whole – #15: Honoring Diversity

Last week’s post concluded with this blessing:
May we experience the joy of solidarity:
grieve together,
 celebrate birth together,
honor our seasons,
both personal and planetary,
laugh with love’s demands,
root our trusting souls in humble ground,

Today, I ask,
what does it mean to come together?

When I see a forest in my mind’s eye, I see a vast diversity
of trees, dependent on the bio-region. Here in the Pacific Northwest I witness
cedar and hemlock, fir and willow, cottonwood and big-leaf maple,
sometimes spruce.
Back East where I grew up, it was another kind of maple,
 tulip, oak, elm, before disease hit, hemlock and sometimes spruce.
In Montana, where I lived for thirty years, it was pine, before disease hit, tamarack,
hemlock, fir, cedar, aspen and alder, and sometimes spruce.
Diversity, diversity, diversity.

Think of a backyard garden,
My folks grew roses – each one a different color, with a different scent,
a different growing habit. Every petal slightly different from all the others.
Heralding Spring with a riot of color, form, and pattern:
lily of the valley, daffodils, tulips of all shades and shapes, peonies, forsythia.

Remember your dog?
Short legs or long, smooth tail or fluffy, stand-up perky ears or droopy silken ones.
No judgment but delight, Yeah, this is my pooch, Heinz 57 varieties.
What about wolves, coyotes and foxes?
Each one a unique voice,
 a different color and pattern of fur, a different way of responding to life,
a different role to play with their kin.

Every galaxy a trillion stars in different stages of evolution,
every planet in a billion galaxies,
each different in form, size, and composition…

Would it not be boring if there were only one kind of anything?

Why do we NOT protect the natural diversity on which we depend?
War is a major contributor to climate disruption.
Corporate greed is a major contributor
to destroying Earth’s diversity,
despite its necessity for LIFE.
Awe strikes me every time I “take in”
the sacredness of so much uniqueness
all around me.
I bow to Creator’s creation.
Why do we NOT honor human diversity?
Why do we NOT come together? 
Imagine the symphony we humans will sing when we DO!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming Whole – #14: Growing Up…

This post is for subscribers

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Becoming Whole – #14: Growing Up…

Becoming Whole – #13: What About Reparations?

I recently meet a young farmer with whom I resonate. We could be soul-sisters though I’m old enough to be her grandmom. As we squat across from each other at parallel rows of onions, we uproot tender green plants who are not onions. No thinking required for this task so we chat. I tell her about my recent posts exploring the concept of indigeneity and my conclusion that all life on this planet, including that of humans, is indigenous. With concern in her tone and compassion in her glance, she asks,
“But what about reparations?”

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I have to think for a moment before I can respond.

What about reparations?

My first thought: How can we ever make amends for the extreme harm we humans have done to each other?

Second thought: How can my old-world lineage ever be repaired from the horror of losing the women who knew Earth medicine, the men who experienced divinity in the trees, the rivers and the stars?

Third thought tumbling quickly on the coattails of the first two: Reparations remind me of bandaids. The dominant culture thinks we can address our current climate poly-crisis with pay-backs: programs like carbon credits, so we can keep traveling as we always have, planting baby trees to replace the mature ones we cut down to pave another parking lot, or electric cars so we can keep driving whenever/wherever we want. The colonial mindset continues conjuring up offsets so we don’t have to change our lifestyles.

Is this what we mean by reparations: A plaque on a park bench somewhere in Germany reminding us that Jewish people used to live here?


How can we repair bodies damaged by chemical warfare or lives permanently impaired and diminished
by living in an affordable home deliberately built where toxicity from a nearby dump contaminates the water table and fouls the air.

Money given now doesn’t bring back lost lives.

Standing in the field with my new friend, I’m still fumbling with my streaming thoughts and then a lightning bolt flashes inside – goosebumps pop,  eyes glisten, nose tickles- all signs that something true is about to spill from my mouth:

I blurt: Not in my backyard!
 True reparations will be to recognize that
we all share the same backyard!!!!
( Many years ago, Julia Butterfly Hill said, “Where is away?”,
referring to  the dominant culture’s mindset –
 oh, just throw it away, out of sight, out of mind,
ie: put the bad stuff in someone else’s backyard…)

With all life at stake on this atmospherically limited globe,
we need new ways of seeing, thinking and behaving.

Imagine that we took seriously that last sentence in my prior post
May we heal our alienation from Earth
and come together
as extended family
where reverence abounds,
inclusion in the circle of life
guides every decision.

Imagine how we will live when human decisions are guided by
 reverence and inclusion.
a kinship worldview.
Imagine that if YOU didn’t want IT in YOUR backyard,
and I didn’t want IT in MY backyard,
that we would choose NOT to proceed with whatever
process required IT to be put in anyone’s backyard.
Imagine how we’d behave if we all knew we shared the consequences
equally in the present moment
warring, damming, poisoning, destroying.

We would have taken a step as a species toward maturing,
don’t you think?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming Whole – #12: All our Relations

This post rejoices in the healing medicine of creative expression.
I must confess to defining creativity broadly. Absolutely every decision we make, every movement comes from the universe within us – in response to the cosmos outside us. Whatever we do is creating something that wasn’t there a moment before. Whether typing on the keyboard, as I’m doing now, or deciding to sigh, as I just did, to recognizing I’m thirsty, as I just did. Think about the miracle of aliveness! How do the bacteria inside our bodies, to which we are beholden, though we tend to forget that, make the decisions and coordinate their actions to keep us alive? How do the microscopic cells which birth, die and birth again, how do those miniscule beings allow us to do anything that we do??? Truly, isn’t that humbling to think about? Our lives really are nothing but creative energy, moment to moment to moment…AWE some.

Below I express my appreciation for our native souls with poetic words and mixed-media image.

All our Relations
Each being,
born of this planet spinning in this galaxy,
belongs to Earth’s family.
We are all indigenous,
 though thought forms,
developing civilizations,
 dominating, expanding empires,
torturous religions
have separated billions of us
 from our native roots.

May we grieve this horrific loss,
this trauma of separation
from the ground of our being.

May we be forgiven
 for projecting that pain onto others.
 May we heal our alienation from Earth
and come together
as extended family
where reverence abounds,
inclusion in the circle of life
guides every decision.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming Whole – #11: Embrace Indigeneity

When our cultural story changes, then the paradigms guiding our behaviors change, and so will everything else.

Who will we become? I hope we have enough time to find out.
Part of the new story has to be to value older chapters of our human story. We all began as indigenous people. Homo Sapiens, as upright two leggeds, emerged on the planet as long ago as 750,000 years ago according to Smithsonian Institute. We learned how to live by relating to, responding to, the world around us.

How did we know what to do? I can only imagine, but it makes sense to me that because we didn’t have language in words back then we paid attention to our feelings. We used our bodies – our gestures and sounds – to communicate how to behave. An ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh is different from an ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

We behaved in response to what we needed. And how did we know what we needed? By feeling it. Have you ever noticed how some feelings stiffen your body? Some feelings contract our muscles, give us goose bumps, bring tears to our eyes, elicit involuntary sounds of awe or make our knees vibrate so quickly that it’s hard to stay upright. Other feelings send warmth and relaxation through our bodies.

Have you been paying attention to those sensations? It’s not surprising if you haven’t been, because our contemporary culture for the last two thousand years, give or take, has encouraged us NOT to feel.

And when we don’t feel, we lose a great deal of our intelligence.

One of the ways we have separated ourselves even further from Earth and each other is the split we’ve created between indigenous and non-indigenous. Since all humans are linked to our origins as native to Earth, springing up from the miracle of life complexifying, that unnatural split has uprooted those of us with old European ancestry from our own native roots. And the pain of our traumatic severance from our earth-based wisdom, spiritual traditions, languages and belonging, has turned us into violators, oppressors and disconnected automatons.

Martin Lee Mueller in Being Salmon, Being Human on pp 194-95 describes my perspective more articulately than I: Indigeneity is not a status…nor is it a title one holds. It is a competence, a capability, … (a) fine-tuning (0f) your presence in an ongoing dialectic with the places you inhabit…you negotiate and renegotiate the terms of your presence with those who dwell there alongside you – with salmon, otter, whale, raven, with other human communities…Rather than a remnant of the past, rather than a certain ‘developmental stage’ in our ongoing creative adaptation as human animals, and rather than an ethnic category, indigeneity describes a lived quality that is possible anywhere, at any time. More than that, it describes a quality of participation with Earth that is necessary for any community, if they wish to endure within the storied unfolding of a fully animate, living planet.

His description of indigeneity illustrates a way forward to a new story for all humans.

All of us need to embrace our indigeneity.

We need to forgive each other.  We need to recognize that what we Europeans have done to the native peoples all over this globe is what we did to each other earlier: remember   “witches” being burned, drowned, tortured to appreciate the persecution we’ve done – caucasian to caucasian. All life has been traumatized. Let us stop the carnage now and embrace instead the shared miracle of being alive on this tiny, fecund planet, alone amidst a universe which science keeps discovering is vaster than our wildest imaginations.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming Whole – #10: Who Are We Humans?

Tethered to my neck by a leather strap, the binoculars bang against my chest…
A hot potato, I want to fling the binocs into the forest. Instead, I push them into the bowels of my daypack.

How did I learn to be so thoughtless? I wouldn’t stare at my neighbor’s family this way. Peeping-toms are arrested, aren’t they?

Soothed a bit by the continued, rhythmic munching, I soften my gaze on the pond. The beaver, who has shaken my notions of who I am as a “good” human, has disappeared, but two smalls and one middling are still paddling back and forth around the base of the lodge facing me. I know it’s probably past time for me to leave, but the munching sounds pull my gaze out to the far log once more.


Only one beaver munches at the dinner log. Where is the other?

Swimming toward me. Maybe it’s headed to the lodge, but no, s/he swims right by it. Keeps swimming in a straight line, a very straight line, toward me. Forty feet away now. Then maybe thirty. I pose a silent question to the intelligence around me:
Do beavers attack humans?

I stand up. Twenty-five feet away now and still swimming. Twenty! I want to flee but I am frozen in place. Fifteen feet away s/he slows, stops, unflinchingly glares at me. Then s/he whacks her tail hard, then whacks it again with another ear-splitting crack. Then, s/he turns aside and heads toward the bank to their left, which s/he now scrambles up and finds something to chew. The dinner-log beaver still munches away. Though the constant rhythm of eating reassures me and makes me want to linger, I know it’s time to go. As I turn to thread my way back through the sapling forest, I cast one last look over my shoulder and gasp at the beauty of the world I’m leaving. The beaver on the bank to my right, anger forgotten, has been joined by a placidly chewing twin – body silhouetted by the soft pastels of twilight framed by leafy greens in a mirror of calm water.

As I walk back to town, I am stunned by my insensitivity, shocked by my unthinking disrespect.  The popular story of human superiority destroys my morals. That story’s accompanying assumptions: separation from the living body, planet as resource, universe as dead, life as machine, controlling behavior and power-over thinking as the only sources of security – all these assumptions defy living, loving, celebrating, and mutual flourishing.

We humans have become rapacious consumers, cancers gobbling up the body we depend on… We spend millions every year on the war against cancer, not yet realizing we ARE the cancer. I don’t want to be a cancer destroying my life’s body.  Do you? Of course, you don’t.

Luckily the human story of separation and superiority is brand new in terms of evolutionary time frames. But at every level possible in our thinking, we act as if this new story is the only one we’ve ever lived. We act as if the current story is the FINAL story, the culmination of our human destiny, as we frantically deny our continued evolving potential. Let’s join together and start living into a new story of humans contributing to the flourishing of life. What an exhilarating time to be alive! We can contribute to the future flourishing of life on Earth!!! When our cultural story changes, then the paradigms guiding our behaviors change, and so will everything else. Who will we become? I hope we have enough time to find out.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Becoming Whole – #9: Eye to I

And yet…
Glued to my face, the binoculars zoom me in close. I lose track of everything else as I marvel at water droplet stars sparkling on whiskers, twitching facial muscles, rolling eyes, claw glimpsed as a paw reaches. So close am I, I am gamboling with them.

And yet…something niggles my gut.

I shift the direction of my head and watch the adults work on that beached log. I can hear their munching, though their backs are to me.

Disquiet ripples from my belly to my brain.

I return to the younger ones “playing” nearer to me.  I fling myself into their activities through the magic of magnification. Denying my disquietude, I am mesmerized by intimacy with a family so unlike my own. Here I experience three generations enjoying each other’s company, teaching and learning the skills for thriving. No criticism or belittling that I can see. Everyone participates, allowances are made. Work and play seem seamless. Beavers belong to each other and to their world. Or so it seems.

They are fully capable of taking care of themselves. No need for transportation other than their own bodies well suited to their surroundings. No need for a grocery store, a bank, a job with health insurance, a mortgage – or even life jackets, paddles, and a raft. No need for anything other than what Earth generously provides, what they are born to be, living how they are meant to live.

I am quite frankly, jealous.

I suddenly begin thinking about how helpless we modern, urban humans are. We have no wings, so we build planes, rockets, balloons, and hang-gliders to fly. Because we can’t hold our breaths very long, we design diving suits with oxygen tanks and submarines to plunge far under the surface of the sea. We design little tiny metal rooms to put on top of a scaffolding which holds wheels, a steering mechanism and an engine. Gets us around faster than walking or running. We invent microscopes and telescopes, and yes, binoculars, to see farther than our optic potential allows unaided. Without compasses and gps systems, we think we can’t find our way home. We build amplifiers, speakers, microphones and ear plugs to manipulate our hearing capacities. The litany in my head loudly proclaims: without technology we humans are really pretty helpless.

I’m mortified by this recognition.

Who the hell are we humans really? Oh yes, I just remembered. We have opposable thumbs. But so do gorillas and chimps. Aha! We have imagination and self-reflection. We can think! A great gift, virtue and skill, and the reason for all our technological advances. But thinking, separated from life’s body, distorts, confuses and confounds. We are so afraid of acknowledging our vulnerability as modern humans, of losing our precarious hold on superiority, we have defined rigid boundaries for ourselves, which leave us feeling –


I can’t fill my emptiness fast enough. I yearn to be included. I stare and I stare, lost in the thrill of imagining somehow I belong, when suddenly – horrifyingly – fur rimmed brown eyes glare directly into my thinly skinned blue ones. I mean DIRECTLY. No accident. Eye to I through the binoculars. The unblinking stare confronts, accusing:
You obnoxious, intrusive voyeur.

Tethered to my neck by a leather strap, the binoculars bang against my chest…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Becoming Whole – # 8: Wild Communion

The last post ended: Looking like an island, the vegetation covered dome of Beavers’ lodge rises in the middle.

I stop. I breathe. I gaze. At first, I notice little, so immersed am I in the happy feelings of success. I found THE pond. Then details begin emerging. The lodge is elaborate. It appears to have several rooms, maybe even hallways connecting them. Many plants grow on it, so I conclude it’s been here a long time. The scene before me is bucolic in contrast to the jagged mountain silhouettes to the West. A tight knit family of ducks carves a rippling V from the bank to my right toward the center of the pond. They appear to be coming from hummocks of tall amber grasses in shallow water. I can imagine they have a nest in that tangled wateryearthy world.

On the opposite side of the pond, an anomaly catches my eye: bright royal blue and “high-viz” orange. Humans have left life jackets, paddles and a raft leaning against an aspen trunk.

An owl hoots. A loon trills. I see neither source.

I want to sit but see no easy place to do that. Alders, poplars and aspen closely ring the pond’s perimeter all the way round. I don’t want to meander far from where I emerged from the trees for fear of losing my lifeline of a trail back home. So I decide to scrunch up right where I am.  I plop down. Toes almost meet water, knees close to chest, back against tree trunk. I have wriggled my day-pack off, but before I can extricate my binoculars, I see water rippling out by the lodge. A dark roundness pops up. A head. Beaver! A back. It’s gone…concentric circles, tell-tale signs where someone has been… Again, a head appears. Stays long enough for another head to appear – smaller – much smaller. Riveted with my eyes, I hear birds all around me – singing, chatting, calling. Another dark head pops up. It, too, is small. A second big head arrives. I watch with my naked eyes, a family playing, working, teaching, learning. I see them communicate, responding to the moment. A big body rolls a log, lets it go, backs away, ”treads” water watching, waiting from a few feet away. One of the small bodies, approaches the log, paws it, splashes, paws again and then again… Rolling a log is not so easy.

I slowly, quietly, ever so slowly, extricate my binoculars from my pack. Through them I watch another head appear. Bigger than the two littles, smaller than the two bigs. An elder sibling perhaps? They frolic – twirling, diving, rising, spinning. They root for greenery under the water. Drag it up to the air to eat. The elders tail slap and the youngsters imitate. Two more medium sized heads appear. With three “baby-sitters” present, the two adults take off. They head for the far side of the pond where a “fresh” log is beached. They amble onto land to investigate it.

Meanwhile, birds are everywhere feeding in the air and under the water. One particular bird makes “incredible dive bomb calls” before it plummets from the sky to pierce the water. Splashing, scrabbling, ripping, gnawing; sounds abound of life being lived.

I am enthralled. I am immersed. I am engaged.
I have lost my boundaries in this seamless community
communing with life nourishing life.

And yet…

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Becoming Whole – #7: Losing our Boundaries

I found my Alaskan Journal!

It’s 1988 and I am attending the Sense of Wilderness Writers’ workshop in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park/Preserve east of Anchorage, Alaska. Home of the Kennicott Glacier and the remnants of the Kennicott Copper Mine, the region is an extraordinary wild place – at least it was 35 years ago. I experience an ongoing onslaught of awe-struck moments. Human hubris suddenly seems ludicrous before the enormity of this living landscape. My ego softens. My brain races on circuitous paths while my body just wants to surrender to an endless: OH MY GOD.

I am breathless with amazement.

One morning a conversation with other writers sets loose a swarm of thoughts in my brain like bees buzzing around a honey pot labeled: boundaries. Someone says, “It’s dangerous to identify with nature because we can lose our boundaries. Losing our boundaries means we might go crazy. Or we might appear stupid, actually it’s impossible to identify with nature ANYWAY.”

I am shocked! And then I am horrified when the person continues:
“We need to keep our boundaries distinct so we can remain separate.”

BUT but but – I don’t want to be separate from nature. But I don’t say this out-loud for fear of being laughed at.

However, I see a Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary on a table in the work room. I look up the definition of boundary: a fixed limit/ a separating line. Separating line reminds me of how dangerous boundaries are when they separate us from each other. Boundaries in that form allow us to think that dark skinned people are different from
light skinned people, that four legged animals are different from us two legged animals. In each case different from translates as less than and allows us to rape, pillage, violate, dominate, etc. My journal continues with how boundary making, in order to separate, allows rampant cruelty, violence, war and fear mongering.

Remember, I am having these thoughts 35 years ago.
Nothing much has changed.

My thinking won’t quit circling round and round the concept of boundaries: rigid or flexible/ impervious or permeable/ separating or merging/ less than or better than – I have to take a break from people and their endless conjuring of thoughts…

Someone has told me about a pond where Beaver lives. So after dinner, I decide to go look for it. Supposedly, it’s only a mile or so from town. I imagine I can find it myself.
I know it’s dangerous to be out there alone. A moose can “tree” a person! A bear can climb after a person scrambling up a tree!! But I need to take the risk to soothe my soul. I want to push my boundaries that define me as human. Who am I really as an animal among animals in the Alaskan wilderness?

I sling my daypack on my shoulders. I think I’m all set with water bottle, notebook and pen, hanky, binoculars, flashlight, red and silver Swiss army knife, bandaids, bag of nuts and dried apples. (No cell phone because I didn’t have one back then!) I begin walking. The sun, low in the sky, showers the forest of deciduous saplings with benevolent light. I walk and I walk. Trail is narrow, but clearly defined. Easy going. No trail markers though. I have to trust. I walk and I walk – for a long time it seems. I figure I just have to keep walking and eventually I will find the pond. Luckily, for me, that premise is accurate.

Something sparkles to my right. I keep walking and the glinting sparkle enlarges as it keeps pace with me. Could this be it? But I see no path going toward it. I gingerly step off the trail and quietly, slowly make my way toward the sparkling, shimmering, glittering…water. A circular pond of water. Not huge. Maybe half of a football field rounded out. As I emerge from the saplings and see the whole pond, I gasp.

Looking like an island, the vegetation covered dome of Beavers’ lodge rises in the middle.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Becoming Whole – #6: What is our True Nature?

On March 4th, 2023, a small group gathered at the base of a former blackberry slope to learn about plans for watershed restoration.  As we disbanded, an old friend joined me on the trail. Talk of salmon surfaced – how almost none return to our streams. (I’ve been a volunteer monitor for the last 12 years, and I know how their numbers have declined.) As we strolled toward her farm, her eyes filled with tears as she remembered a one-man performance called SalmonPeople. Experienced nearly 15 years ago, Peter Donaldson’s truthtelling story still moved her. Over all these years since, she’s searched for a video of that sacred theatrical experience, but all she could find was a 7-minute collection of highlights. She sent the link to me the next day. I watched: I cried.

Said sardonically, his repeated refrain sticks with me:
Everyone knows how the real world works!
The audience laughs uproariously as the enormity of the lie hits home.*

In the real world of today’s marketplace, we humans think we are in charge. Inflated like balloons, our egos are “gonna” collapse when the truth finally pierces our skins.

We are actually kind of pitiful.

Now before you get in a huff, think about why I, and many of our ancestors, used that word, pitiful, as one descriptor of being human.

First we need to remember recent human history. Only 400 years ago or so, when Copernicus discovered that our Earth home is not the center of the universe, European culture trembled. Insecurity rained on the human parade and also reigned supreme. Something had to bring back stability, bring us humans back to being the center of everything. With a seismic shift, a new story arose. Descartes thought about doubt, and thought some more and eventually suggested that humans must be special in some fashion. We think!  The idea took hold that humans are exceptional, separate from all other life forms, and superior too. The people concluded that we are the ONLY animals who can think. If we think hard enough, we can create an immaculate, perfect world, no longer vulnerable to outside influences and once again, the center of everything.

But many cultures refused to buy into this new “truth.” It didn’t fit their experience. So to preserve the new found “security,” the dominant culture tried to mute those voices. Europeans snuffed out Europeans. White people snuffed out white people, men snuffed out women, children were taken from parents, people were forbidden to hold ceremony, to make prayers in their stone circles, to honor the wells and the medicine trees, to talk the old languages. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?

Eventually, Empire-hungry Europeans began wiping out all the other colorful cultures who refused to believe in a new human story of separation and superiority.

Everyone knows how the real world works!
But do we?

This is where that word pitiful rises to the forefront of my thinking.. I lived in Montana for thirty years and was graced in the early 1980’s by meeting local members of various tribes living nearby. Attending talking-circles and participating in sweat lodges, I heard tribal elders refer to us humans as “pitiful.” I’m sure my mouth hung open with horror. At the time I thought I was pretty special!

I eventually came to recognize that their use of the word, “pitiful,” had a different meaning. At some deep level I must have always resonated with that descriptor, because long after I had given up playing with dolls, I asked for a Poor Pitiful Pearl doll to take to college. Do any of you remember her?

My Mom knit her a sweater to match my college colors. She embroidered a college logo on the front. I pinned my pledge pin on her after my sorority initiation. Poor Pitiful Pearl sat on my bed, maybe sometimes on my lap when I was despairing, until I graduated. Now she lives in a box in the storage shed.

As I write about Pearl now, I think an unconscious part of me resonated with the truth of our human “pitifulness.” But it took 25 more years for me to understand that truth consciously. And it was Beaver who ripped me open to deeper understanding!
Thank you, thank you, brothersister.

I’ll tell you that story next time.

*(Peter Donaldson’s current work can be found at this link,
 though I haven’t yet found a reference on that website to SalmonPeople. )  

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment