Reader Response

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Issue #13     –     Issue #12     –     Issue #11     –     Archives: Issues #6-10     –     Archives: Issues #1-5

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Current Issue #13 “Dead and Alive: Being with Ancestors”

I’m finally reading this beautiful issue and while I still have a few pieces left to read, I just wanted to write to tell you how incredible and moving it is. Wow. So many weavings and interconnections and so much grief and beauty.

– Nancy Windheart, Santa Fe, NM

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I read the article by Miriam Greenspan in the middle of the night; it shook me to my core. This latest edition focuses on our relationship with the ancestors, whether these are people, oak trees, animals, or ecosystems. The courage the women writers exhibit — revealing what shook them to their cores, makes for some of the most visceral resonance imaginable. You cannot help being altered by diving into each entry.

I am so grateful to the editors for their vision — to create a safe space for such raw wisdom to be spoken from the earth of our body-souls.

– Andrea Mathieson, Port Hope, ON

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Dark Matter is such an essential part of our lives now. Thank you.

– Mary Fillmore, Boston, MA

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Azul Valerie-Thomé, “Being with Ancestors”

Stone deep, old beyond words, I resonate with this sharing from the cavern of my belly, my inner tree is singing an interweaving harmony of desolation, desire, dedication to that core sacredness of every passage. Something deep within me orients to this ritual of personality dissolving, to a different kind of human-ing in which body opens to include ecosystem, mind interweaving with the voices of wolf and stag, bear and fox, raven and mycelium and moon. Deep gratitude for your modeling of kinship, Azul. For those gestures towards rememberings, of tendings and witnessings and attuning to the emergences of beings who know so much more than we do. For invoking the medicine of death and passage, ancestralization, and apprenticeship to wildness. Thank you for teaching us another possibility for listening.

– Shante Sojourn Zenith, Wisconsin

Dear Azul—I want to respond by writing to you, sitting with you and with your grief.

I am 8 days into 40 days of saying crossing-over prayers for my friend, Peggy. There is something beyond what I know about the significance of these 40 days of prayers. Grieving is happening, of course, but these prayers are not for me or about me. They support Peggy’s passage. I guess this makes me also a “passager.” Still, there is something that happens in me, even though this is not about me. I am changed by this evening ritual—by the commitment to be with her every night for 40 nights, by these prayers of letting go and of transformation. I find myself feeling ahead into my own death, feeling how I might receive these prayers in my own passage.

Death is everywhere now, and extinctions. I prepare for my own death, but there is no “preparing for extinction.” Only grief. Thank you for voicing your grief so poignantly, clearly, heart-breakingly.

Thank you for your art: wolf, vulture, stag… So much power and love and reverence shining out from these beautiful images. I am nourished by them.

– Anne Dellenbaugh, Brunswick, ME

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Sharon Simone, “The Summoning”

Much gratitude for Sharon Simone’s The Summoning—a powerful teaching story for me and a courageous sharing of listening, surrendering, responding & connection, in ways seemingly unimaginable. I know personally the devastation emerging from “circuits long ago disconnected” and the deadness of separation. In a story, “Barkskin Tears,” I wrote recently about rebuilding my deck with only the thought of how to “get rid of” the old wood, I shared this: Appalled and Shocked at the extent of my blind colonized thinking: I want; I can have; I’m done; Get rid of it, I want a new one, I can pay for it so I can have it again..

Sharon writes about the energetic connection that happened while she was standing at the base of Grandfather Oak with her hands on the trunk. In my story I also stood at the roots of Douglas fir– and listened to the fir’s story as part of reconnecting “my circuits.”

– Lindsa Vallee, Brookline, MA

How alive are the dead?
What a question. It lingers on long after my eyes have left the page.

I loved the way time was torn open so that before comes after
And what is to be is hidden in the now.

I walk away with these talismans in my pocket:

Complete the circuit so a current can flow
Let the mending commence.
No separation

Thank you Sharon Simone. Thank you Oaks

– Lauren Banner, Abiquiu, NM

What is remarkable about this article is how many things it weaves together through time and space: Past, Present and Future. Dream, Vision and Action. It presents a way of listening to the stories of our lives and being guided by them and how this changes us and the world.

– Laurie Markoff, Holliston, MA

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Redwing Keyssar, “Gift from the Ancestors: My Work as an RN/Midwife to the Dying”

Her brilliance as a writer combined with her deeply compassionate experience and understanding of the multiple levels of dying brought me to tears.

– Dennis DeBiase, Santa Rosa, CA

This story felt like a religious experience – and i’m not a religious person. In fact i’m an atheist, yet i felt god in redwings words (I can’t explain that). Every word is perfect, resonating in me with power and glory. i want Redwing with me when i die. I want Redwing with me every day. Thank you for this wonderful experience.

– Carol Pearlman, San Francisco CA

I was so moved by these stories, beside the bedside and beyond, and Redwing’s ability to track the imaginal realm where the ancestors live and ‘breathe’ into us with such loving clarity that I have read the article several times and shared it with many friends. It is not easy to write of such things when our culture is so resistant to death’s mysteries, and when our own fears block out the love and wisdom available to us from the ancestors that would guide us, particularly in these dread-ridden times, but Redwing’s stories are grounded in her own authority. They are invitation to anyone whose heart is cracked open with grief and love. They are a balm to those who seek a sense of something ‘more’ beyond the grave. Thank you, Redwing, for your courage and passion to be a midwife to the soul, of the living and the dead. I wonder, did your connection with plants teach you (in part) how to let go and be present to all the cycles of life as they have done for me as well?

– Andrea Mathieson, Port Hope, ON

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Melissa Kwasny, editor. “Poetry by Sheryl Noethe, M.L . Smoker, Sandra Alcosser, J.I. Kleinberg, Ysabel Y. Gonzalez, Mariana McDonald”

Powerful, beautiful poems – all of them. After the first reading I felt the Grandmothers hovering.

– Sara Wright, Greenwood, ME

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M.L. Smoker, “The Book of the Missing and Murdered”

I am moved by this poem, as a call to bear witness. I fall hard into a line like ” A cold, empty breeze rising from the debris./ The first and last moment of her./ It is rage that pulls her up from this place.” I felt carried into an unforgiving landscape where bodies lie overlooked in ditches, splinter like glass with unblinking eyes.  I feel almost as if it is Walter Benjamin’s Angel of History with the frozen stare but instead of helplessness, here there is reclamation – what rises from the catastrophe, “stitches together the collective story of origin” and through that reclamation finds safety among the ruins. A powerful image. 

Andrea Strudensky, Montreal, QC

Wow. What a poem!

– Susan Pliner, Wilton, NH

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Sandra Alcosser, “Looking for Her”

The darkness in “Tremble” comes alive for me in her references to ancestors imagined on “nights they danced this grove/ lupine and snowberry….” — wonderfully specific awareness of plants… So, too, in “Marrow” the woman who cares no longer is envisioned on a “snapping night.” I almost jump at the suggestion! In “Animal,” the poet recalls how “an elk has calved…behind a deep hive of darkness.”

She makes me feel we’d travel with her anywhere, this poet!

Marcia Goldberg, Montreal, QC

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Miriam Greenspan, “There is no Light so Bright as that which Shines from the Darkness”

This is incredibly powerful writing out of Miriam’s experience of Holocaust, the loss of two children, spiritual quests, the destruction of the earth, the lessons we learn from animals and the spirits. So deep on so many levels.

– Rochelle G. Ruthchild, Brookline, MA USA

Staggering. Heartbroken for Miriam and Roger, Esther and Anna. And never cease to be amazed at the journey Miriam and her family have agreed to take for All.

– Susan Cerulean, Tallahassee, Florida

Miriam Greenspan’s piece is gorgeously written, deeply felt, profoundly moving, a gift to us all.

– Harriet Lerner, Lawrence, KS

Heartrending story…A red-tail hawk accompanied the deaths of my mother (smashed into my windshield), flew in front of the car when my grandfather died, and was present when I was finally able to bury my brother’s ashes 32 years after his death.This summer he came three times, once for a dog I loved, twice for friends I lost… My fervent hope for some kind of peace for you…

– Sara Wright, Greenwood, ME


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Issue #12 “How Do We Know? Part 2”

Sara Wright, “Crane Song: Finding my Way Home”

I felt tears well up at the betrayal of a community whose children you taught how to love and respect the trees around us, and again at your mention of the cruel signs and “presents” left on your driveway. Would that we could bring you baskets of pomegranates to thank you for helping us appreciate what the discovery of your Native ancestors has meant to you in terms of affirming that your love of Nature is right on target. Your service to all of us is admirable.
Marcia Goldberg, Montreal, QC


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Issue #11 “A Lesson. A Warning. A Flare: Voices from the Pandemic”

Feedback: I loved the conversation “Buried Seeds in Burning Times.” In fact, as a first-time reader, I enjoyed your whole journal. But I especially wanted to respond to Kathryn Smith-Hanssen’s “Healing with dirt and bones.” (in What is Coming Up for You?) Her dream and imagery evoked my own deep sense of longing for oneness with our ancient spirit-filled earth. As a Dutch World War II survivor, I literally owe my life to the bones in the earth of those who sacrificed their lives tofree the world of oppression. In this current challenging year I had been looking for an “altar.” Kathryn’s powerful reminder of the “ecology of soul” that tells us we can “lay our painful wounds upon Nature’s altar to heal” brought me to tears. Thank you, Kathryn. Hendrika de Vries, Santa Barbara, CA

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Anne Bergeron, “Pandemic Diary: The Mother Tree”

Feedback: When I was reading this piece I felt like I was reading my own story – like you I am hopefully/hopelessly tied to trees and have witnessed the dying of many on my own land, always the anguish.

Like you I dream of women in trees. Once I created sculptures of myself as part tree. I realize now that is no exaggeration. In Maine our trees are in trouble. With this year’s drought every maple oak beech ash is suffering from insect damage – the fruit trees have little or no fruit and much of it is deformed… Today when I mailed in my ballot I heard the words come “you no longer vote for presidents or people – you vote for trees, for mycelial nets, for the life of the precious Earth.”
Sara Wright, Bryant Pond, ME

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