Youngblood Blog

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Beating the Same Drum—for our Earthly Home

MONTHLY INSECURE WRITERS’ SUPPORT GROUP CORNER
Optimism as an Excuse for Delaying

Dr. Suess predicted our human dilemma in finding a balance with Nature

Dr. Suess predicted our human dilemma in finding a balance with Nature


“If we try to ‘save everything,’ we risk saving nothing of consequence. We’re already spread too thin, and losing ground every day”
Corporate ‘optimism’ of Dan Ashe, Director U.S. Fish & Game/Wildlife Service

One of the most facile excuses we have heard recently for the U.S. Government’s NOT upholding the Endangered Species Act.

Created in 1973 as Richard Nixon’s sole claim to humanitarianism on his exit from office, the Endangered Species Act is about to expire. And big business—along with its allies in the huntin’-shootin’-fishin’ aka “sports” community are just going to let it happen.

Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Dan Ashe told a small Defenders of Wildlife group that he sees a “giant clash” between those who favor conservation and those who favor economic development; he believes that conservationists “must accept a world with fewer wolves, salmon, and spotted owls.” The Director of the U.S. agency fully responsible for protecting the nation’s biodiversity went on to say that, in the name of compromise, we must accept “a world with less biodiversity.”

We already live in a world with “fewer wolves, salmon and spotted owls!” Humans used to be able to live in balance with nature, as part of nature. We’ve allowed ourselves to behave in ways that suggest we are above nature—where we have the right to decide which species deserve to survive.

During the current Obama Administration, anti-conservationists have launched no fewer than 100 attacks on the Endangered Species Act. Often hidden, attached as riders to must-pass legislation such as authorization bills for U.S. Dept. of Defense, appropriations bills for Dept. of Interior and other Federal agencies, nearly half of the bills prohibit protection of individual species, such as the grey wolf or the Northern long-eared bat.

The Endangered Species Act is also being dismantled from within. At critical leadership positions, U.S. Administration has chosen individuals uncommitted to preserving biodiversity.

Optimism as an Excuse for Decimating World Resources
It starts at the top. The Director of the Fish and Wildlife Agency, it appears, has the view, that we must live with less biodiversity. He states—

Clearfelling is illegal in CA, but Federal agencies turn a blind eye where conflict of business interests occur

Clearfelling is illegal in CA, but Federal agencies turn a blind eye where conflict of business interests occur


“Hellen Keller once said, ‘Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.’ The Fish and Wildlife Service, and the work we do, will continue to embody that spirit.

“That’s why we’re working hard to ensure that our organization is fit and capable to meet the challenges in front of us. And why we’re building and strengthening partnership-driven conservation efforts across the nation.”
Dan Ashe, Director, U.S. Federal Fish & Wildlife Agency

Helen Keller’s sentiments are laudable, but she was blind. So, it seems, are certain ‘partnerships’ chosen by U.S. government agencies to represent endangered creatures, once protected. Now no more.

Logging companies, careless in their custodianship of irreplaceable first-growth forest, are hungry to pick up scraps from the contested Klamath River watershed sell-off, in the wind-down to dam removal in 2020.

Green Diamond (so-called) Resource Company is one of these ‘custodians’. Touting in its conservation literature to hikers its success in saving the endangered California Spotted Owl from extinction merely two years ago, it is now implementing clear-felling in the bird’s target habitat of Humboldt County at the very moment its representative Endangered Species Act is becoming null and void.

California's Spotted Owl, survivors of forest fires, but  now unprotected—sweeties!

California’s Spotted Owl, survivors of forest fires, but now unprotected—sweeties!

In continuing to allow economic gain to dictate our future action—or inaction in the case of the Endangered Species Act—we the people appear to condone our political/business leaders’ attitude.

Is it not time to stop this blindness? Instead, to use our combined intelligence/compassion and search for a future where we may begin to see the Earth—our only home—recover?

Apologies to my fellow IWSGers—under our Space-Cap’n.Alex‘s superb guidance—along with his co-hosts—if I seem to bang on incessantly at the same drum. But we writers have always known we had finite resources—worked our way to make the best use of them—as the plight of the planet is dear to us, too. It is our only home. There is no Planet-B.

So, Dan Ashe and his fellow sportsman Neal Ewald notwithstanding, we need all the help we can get from the writers, creative people, those with a voice.

Thanks for listening and if you feel motivated, be my guest and speak up for us all.
And Happy Bealltainn!
©2016 Marian Youngblood

May 4, 2016 Posted by | authors, birds, blogging, culture, environment, nature, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drawing Breath—Speaking up for Lungs of the Planet

MONTHLY INSECURE WRITERS’ ENCLAVE—
IWSGers Speak up for the Planet

Thanks 2Alex for getting on our case—writing-wise

Thanks 2Alex for getting on our case—writing-wise

Happy New Year to all Insecure Writers! And to the world at large.
Mostly, thanks to our prolific host and Ninja Cap’n, Alex, for allowing us crazies free rein on his excellent forum. It opens writerly doors, and allows us to vent, when things go wrong. May we all survive—nay, plunge into—this year and follow our dreams.

Sore Patch hidden by powerful local  'Resource company' under umbrella of social conscience offer to 'open woodland to public'

Sore Patch hidden by powerful local ‘Resource company’ under umbrella of social conscience offer to ‘open woodland to public’

2015 saw many changes in awareness of common responsibility for our country’s finite resources, both nation-wide and internationally, bringing accord which would have been impossible a decade ago. Politicians are—with careful research—actually clearing desks, allocating reserve funds to deal with the atmosphere-environment.

It is no longer an ‘issue’. Climate has become real time—Western nations’ new goal—to do good by the planet, our only home.

But don’t hold your breath.

Rattle in Seattle as Farewell to Old Ways
West Coast shakes over New Year ranged from Mag.4.7 in Seattle through M.6.2 Nevada/Utah border, to M.4.1 off Ferndale, CA. Judging by whale movement—on late migration south delayed by warm northern waters—quakes and movement are happening on the coastal plate, where the Gorda fault fissures to join its subterranean sisters under (human habitat) the land. Several landslides along the coastal Scenic Drive route north of the Eel and Mad Rivers—in Humboldt County—have made travel ‘difficult’—official sources.

Once again we realize our Earth Mama is shaking her feathers—a little ruffled by now with all the oil extraction and fossil burning we’ve been up to.

Seattle, Nevada, Baja Mexico echo New Year Mediterranean quakes

Seattle, Nevada, Baja Mexico echo New Year Mediterranean quakes

Lieber kleiner blauer Stern [Pale Blue Dot auf Deutsch]
Menschen habt ihn endlich gern
Tut ihm nun nichts mehr zu Leide
Nicht den Bergen, nicht der Heide
Nicht den Wiesen, Mooren, Flüssen
Nicht den Wäldern, Vögeln, Fischen
Liebt den kleinen blauen Stern
Pflegt und schütz ihn
Habt ihn gern
courtesy M.Asgardh

Snakes, ants, beetles, redwoods and humans—we all travel the Milky Way together and share the planet’s blessings
John Muir, founder of Sierra Club

Volcanoes, dormant since the dinosaurs, generating lightning storms in Nevada-Utah

Volcanoes, dormant since the dinosaurs, generating lightning storms in Nevada-Utah


Latest round of seismic unrest included quakes in Oklahoma, causing power outages, and widespread flooding damage in Mississippi basin.

In Pacific NW, several dormant volcanoes shook over New Year, alongside multiple larger (Richter Mag.4.2 or more) earthquakes rippling along faults extending N-S along West coast United States. Authorities remain vigilant, with such heavy movement currently underway.
If Mama is shaking us, what is it we’ve done to get her so annoyed?

Well, let’s take breathable air, for a start—yes, we decimated Earth’s fossil trees—so, what are we doing about it?

Headwaters Forest—Tragedy of 1990s

Trying to measure up to 1000-year Old Growth Redwoods is harder work than forestry companies imagined

“Standing among these ancient trees, a thousand years old perhaps, I am humbled by how long it takes to restore these forests. As I take one last look up into the stratosphere of canopy before heading back into the glaring light of second-growth, I wonder at the rôle of restoration in recreating the beauty I see before me. I think it will be a very long time before our forest will be what it once was”
David LaFever, Bureau Land Management Ecologist, after 2001 restoration attempt

Headwaters Forest was purchased in 1999 by State and Federal government agencies, and put under permanent protection. Clear-felling practice was legally reduced to a 20-40-acre maximum.

The logging industry finally sat up and paid attention. Its own resource was decimated; salmon runs and ecosystems had suffered in a mindless race for economic gain, with only table scraps left, in the view of Humboldt State University forest scientist Steve Sillett. ‘The challenge now is to improve management on the 95% of redwood landscape (felled) that is just starting into regrowth.’

Old Growth Sequoia Groves
Old-growth redwood forests are structurally diverse, with a range of tree sizes, reiterated tree trunks—high tree and stand biomass—and with complex canopies. Headwaters old-growth is characterized by a mixture of redwood (Sequoia sempervirens, 50-70% of overstory) and Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga Menziesii, 30-47%) with a density of 70-80 trees per acre. Conversely, unthinned second-growth stands are dominated by Douglas Fir (60-80%), with density of over a thousand trees per acre.

Sequoia sempervirens, redwoods as big as a Boeing 707

Growing trees like a crop of grain is no longer the enlightened view. Scientists from HSU have discovered that the older the redwood, the harder and more disease-resistant is the wood, and the tougher its ability to withstand weathering, damage. That there is more life-support value in one 1000-year old Sequoia, than in a thousand 10-year olds.

Forestry attitudes are changing too. Heavy Caterpillar earthmoving tractors, that caused such erosion—skid trails—with consequent pollution to streams and spawning pools, are being replaced by smaller, lighter shovel loaders on tracks that leave the forest floor intact. State law now enforces a mandatory buffer zone of trees now, along streams and rivers.

Finally the salmon and other native fish are returning.

Forestry business mantra is that they are ‘on target to create new forests’ (in one hundred years), like the ones protected in the Redwoods National and State Parks, begun by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1875-92. He and John Muir should by now roaring with delighted laughter in their (redwood) coffins.

At the time Headwaters was established in 1999, 60% of the area had been logged. In some areas, forests were only beginning to regrow from clear-cut harvests of the 1980s and 1990s. Inheriting unnatural second-growth forests dominated by Douglas Fir, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) began restoration thinning in 2004. Goal of restoration was to accelerate forest development towards old-growth conditions, and restore a more natural species mix to each area—by cutting Douglas Fir and leaving Redwood and other less common species. From 2004 to 2013, BLM thinned 1,600 acres—approximately 21% of Headwaters Forest Reserve.

Thinning Understory in Attempt to Mimic Old Growth
In 2014, BLM began a second round of thinning with an idea of introducing more ‘spatial complexity’, to mimic conditions found in old-growth forests within Headwaters. BLM workers created a mosaic of tree density across second-growth stands, by building off recent restoration work completed in Redwood National and State Parks. They also completed their research project in partnership with Humboldt State University. Their report, published 2013: “Modeling Young Stand Development towards the Old-growth Reference Condition in Evergreen Mixed-Conifer Stands at Headwaters Forest Reserve, California”.

‘This study helped us understand the conditions in old-growth stands and allowed us to model trajectories towards old-growth under various restoration scenarios’
BLM ecologist D.laFever

Life without trees—lack of breathable air—would be a scenario more appropriate to Star Trek, CassaStar, or in our sci-fi leader*, Alex’s new ‘geek stuff’. But we breathe on, thanks to the lungs of the planet—threatened, decimated—broken but unbowed.
*If Alex can branch out into short stories—’geek stuff’—I can face the bureaucracy with a little non-fiction of my own—lol. Thanks, Alex and fellow IWSGers for listening.
Happy Epiphany!
©2016 Marian Youngblood

January 6, 2016 Posted by | authors, birds, blogging, consciousness, culture, earth changes, energy, environment, fiction, nature, rain, seasonal, seismic, trees, volcanic, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Survival: Celebrating Spring the Insecure Writers’ Way

MONTHLY IWSG GET-TOGETHER

Darth Vader snow sculptures help relieve ongoing weather stress

Darth Vader snow sculptures help relieve ongoing weather stress


Spring has sprung
Da grass has riz
I wonder where da boidies iz—

Da boid iz on da wing—

Dat’s a funny t’ing
I t’ought da wing wuz on da boid—
Ain’t it absoid?
attributed c.1940 to Two Black Crows

Writerly Guilt
While weather is usually a poor writing subject, we may be forgiven this month for waxing eloquent on continuing and (apparently) continuous freak weather circling the globe. If my writing suffers, blame the Cosmos, IWSGers. Or alternatively pleeeeze lay blame where it is due: at door of our long-suffering Cap’nAlex.

Spectacular aurora borealis mirror accelerated CME solar activity

Spectacular aurora borealis mirror accelerated CME solar activity

Were we of less hardy FANTASY Sci-Fi stock—blame that on our fearless Ninja leader, too. Space Captain Alex has a wizard A—Z challenge on Cult Classics—oooo😉 this month—
—And I am not forgetting all my [non-sci-fi but hugely scary] fellow insecure buddies here on the First Wednesday—we might hide our heads in metaphorical sand and write on.

There are, however, unforeseen dangers in the cosmic waters ahead.

SOLAR WIND INCOMING—Man All (Earthship) Decks
Last week’s coronal mass ejection was deflected by a freak shift in our father, Sol. This week’s CME is coming straight at us.
Duck.

Last week's CME missed us. This one won't:. Electromagnetic image courtesy SOHO

Last week’s CME missed us—deflected at last moment by Earth’s radiation shield. This one won’t miss. Solar Wind Incoming. Electromagnetic image courtesy SOHO

Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. In the extreme UV image, right, curved lines trace the sun’s magnetic field. Arrows indicate the flow of gaseous material (solar wind) out of the deep-purple coronal hole.

Because this coronal hole crosses the sun’s equator, the solar wind it spews is likely to hit Earth squarely this time—no misses. ETA: April 2nd or 3rd.

Italics and Earth Warning message are entirely those of SpaceWeather, but we might be prudent to prepare for a little more than pretty aurora ovals… just sayin’…

Nightly dose of cosmic fireballs add sparkles

Nightly dose of cosmic fireballs add sparkles

Within the inner solar system, left, all fireball orbits intersect at a single point–Earth. Orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue)

And, in case we were wondering if life can throw any more at us, enJOY the magnificent total lunar eclipse, Saturday morning, April 4th, sky watchers in the USA can see a brief but beautiful occultation of the Moon. Totality will be visible from Mexico, western Canada, across the entire Pacific Ocean, Australia, Indonesia.

Earthship or Jefferson Airplane? Home is Best
When all around are losing theirs———I don’t have to repeat favorite poésie to my erudite IWSGers to capture the mood.

When in doubt, do what Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin said a long space-time ago—with Big Brother and Holding Company and many of us singing along— in a famous long-ago song:
Keep Your Head.

Thanks, as ever, Alex, for letting me “rabbit’ on. :)
Happy skywatching. Easter-Passover has never had it so good.
©April 2015 Marian Youngblood

April 1, 2015 Posted by | astrology, astronomy, authors, birds, blogging, earth changes, fantasy, fiction, weather, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ladybirch shares the healing touch

FEATURED WRITERS CORNER

Vermont colors influence the heart, fill the mind of artist novelist, Genie Rayner

I first ‘met’ Genie Rayner electronically, when I read her heartrending poem Paradigm Shifts on KPN, a writers’ webcommunity we both belong to. Her fierce stance through personal pain struck me most significantly:

“In the grand scheme
the little things don’t
seem to make much difference …

Just as climate change
shrinks Mother Earth,
my father’s world
shifts too
and he’s lost his little girl.

As he bends closer to the ground,
turns off more lights
as he goes more blind,
he already wears his death mask,
shrinks deep into Alzheimer’s past …

Then a long, warm fall
with hints of the shadows
of spring,
one cat makes friends
with the others,
and new times to write,
to try to sing …
these little things
make all the difference in the world …

Even if
I’m no longer
his little girl.” Paradigm Shifts by Genie Rayner, 2009

For me it gave meaning to Robert Frost’s belief that ‘a poem begins with a lump in the throat’.

I learned more as we got to know each other. You know how these web friendships take time to unfold. Before the years of caring for her dad, Bill, she seemed to me somehow like a southern swallow homing in on her northern perch: originally from New Orleans, she just kept moving north until she found Vermont — and stopped. And stayed.

‘My soul had to find Vermont before I could gain the courage to call myself an artist,’ she says.

Genie Rayner, part migrant bird, part cat-woman, wholly writer

Maybe she is part-bird. Like me, she is deeply caught up in the seasonal movement of the flying creatures, owls, cardinals, hawks; also trees, flowers, anything green; she grows an organic garden, empathizes with frogs, deer, most mammals, autumn breezes. Like me, she has more cats than most people consider ‘sensible’. I make no excuses. I like her. In her writing on her ‘other’ wordpress blog, she goes by the name of Ladybirch — it is, after all, a Birch (B)log. She is poet, novelist, freelance editor, photographer, artist, quilt-maker, chair-restorer, writing mentor and consultant. Co-founder of Rutland’s BirchDel Poets and Druidfarm Creations, she encourages all talents focused on creativity for the wellbeing of mind, body, earth and soul. You get the picture: she’s a busy woman. At the moment she’s working on a poetry chapbook — or two — a novella and, if you need your own work edited, she’s your (Magiclamp Editing) woman. In her spare time she has written her first novel, Song of the Blessing Trees published by British small press Gilead Books.

i wasn’t certain I was being very kind when I asked her to take time in her busy schedule to contribute to my little Writers’ Feature Corner, but she readily agreed. And I’m so glad I did, because she brings to this sharing of our thoughts on writing — so many authors, budding or successful, with so many points of view — a gentle wisdom and deep perspective of what it takes to extract words from the subconscious and place them one in front of the other on the printed page.

Bless you Genie for this insightful piece.

The ‘Whole’ Meaning of Writing by Genie Rayner
When you think about it, words are funny things. There are, after all, easier and quicker ways to communicate: eye contact, touch, music, visual art, dance, even silence can all speak volumes – for good or ill – if we’re aware, attuned and receptive to the possibilities waiting to be evoked.

As writers – and speakers – we know all too well that words can be awkward, slow, difficult to find. They can cause pain or distress, tears, anxiety or fear; they can wound and cause irreparable damage. On the other hand, the right word(s), written or spoken, are among the most beautiful things in the world.

At least to this writer.

As much as I love and need the other arts, as much as I use the other ways to communicate, there is nothing quite like a beautifully-turned phrase, a thoughtful way of putting words together, to inspire a sense of meaning in one’s life.

Almost everyone is familiar with the popular definition – and concept – of logos. In his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, though, Viktor Frankl digs even deeper than the usual translation of ‘word.’ From his experience in a World War II concentration camp, Frankl explains that logos actually denotes ‘meaning’ first and foremost:

Genie at a recent BirchDel Poets' gathering in Vermont


“Frankl relates how he came to discover his new school of psychotherapy … in Auschwitz where he had been interned. He tells how, with his trained clinical eye, he began to perceive that his fellow prisoners were wasting away and dying physically because… they had no ‘meaning’ to live for, so they gave up the struggle and buckled under. Very unobtrusively Frankl started to pick up meanings in the[ir] lives… in casual conversation with them; then, he began very naturally and imperceptibly to feed these same meanings back into the lives of respective prisoners. What he noticed in sheer wonder… was that these companions of his, who had practically surrendered to their fate… came suddenly alive and could go through any torture, any trial, any hardship in the camp, thanks to the meaning or meanings that had been injected back into their lives….

“So it was that Frankl discovered and later developed his logotherapy – that is, making people whole (= therapy) by giving meaning (= logos) to their lives. For the primary signification of logos is ‘meaning’; its secondary signification is ‘word.'”
Discovering Your Personal Vocation: The Search for Meaning Through the Spiritual Exercises (NY: Paulist Press, 2001, pp. 19-20), by Herbert Alphonso, SJ, quoted in Genie’s Master of Arts thesis

I think one of the reasons for this is because words – and by extension, at least for writers, the written word – connect us to one another. They can and do create relationships, sometimes when we don’t even know the other person(s). A wise woman recently wrote to me of the ‘umbilical connection’ writers have with words; that most basic relationship, then, grows and connects to untold others who read our words.

That is one of the fundamental reasons I write: relationship.

Sometimes I’m lucky – and privileged – enough to know that my words have made a positive impact on someone, and that is thrilling. Even when the impact is negative, at least I know I’ve made a connection, made someone think enough to argue with me or want to discuss something further. That, too, is exciting. I’ve done my job!

I’m also enough of a writer to fantasize about the connections some of my now-unpublished works might make after I’m dead and gone. If anyone goes through my desk drawers and the boxes under my bed, they’ll find reams of old poems, essays, jottings, story ideas, and books in various degrees of progress. Maybe that person or those persons will care enough for my efforts that s/he or they will take the time to read them. Perhaps a poem will be found at a time when it’s needed to help someone through a tough spot; perhaps one of the unfinished books will stir up enough ideas for the reader to continue it to fruition; someone might even think something is good enough to submit posthumously and it will finally get published and reach others somehow, somewhere.

But even before then, one can – and does – hope that some of the same things will happen. Some of my poetry and other writings have engendered lifelong or important relationships, just as others’ works have inspired me to contact and connect with them because of something meaningful in their words or craftsmanship.

More often, though, I have no idea how readers take my words or respond to them. Most writers don’t.

So what’s the point of writing?

I keep coming back to ‘meaning’ and relationship and connection. Perhaps the most important relationship, the most meaningful one, is that with ourselves. Though I always hope others will find some kind of meaning in my work and my words, they can’t if I don’t first. I suggest this is why blogging has become such an integral part of our recent technological lives: people need to connect with themselves and with others.

Of course, there are always pieces that will never meet other people’s eyes, heart or soul, but I still had to write them for my sake. I hope I’ve become a better human being because of the letters, poems, stories and fragments that have helped me work through trauma, crises, heartache, joy, even silliness… but they’re too personal or not developed enough ever to crawl out of the desk drawers or boxes under the bed.

Sometimes just putting words to paper – especially putting words to paper, rather than typing on a keyboard – makes that vital connection between head and heart that, I hope, results in a more developed person. Though the works themselves may not be complete, simply making the creative effort to find meaning makes me more complete. If I’m lucky, working through something by writing about it will spark insights and revelations that couldn’t have come otherwise or in quite the same way, and I am even more whole.

Righteous!

It truly is. One understanding of the word ‘righteous’ in the Bible is ‘right relationship with God.’ Though it may sound selfish and self-centered, if I can’t or don’t make that critical connection to me – to what’s going on in and with my ‘I’ (as in Martin Buber’s I and Thou) – first, then I can’t connect to God, or the Other. And I sure can’t connect to all the unknown others I hope will find meaning through my words.

It is, after all, a cooperative creative process, this ‘thing’ writers must and can do. We writers may think we’re solitary, but we’re not really. Call it spiritual, religious, holy, or any other term with which you’re comfortable, writing is a co-creative endeavor that involves many others—some known or intended and seen, some unknown and unintended – and many layers of involvement.

Just as Frankl’s spoken, and then written, words were healing – and ‘wholeing’ – for others, I think most (if not all) of us want our words to do that as well, regardless of genre or theme or plot. At least on a fundamental, intuitive level.

We strive for that connection, those relationships that complete our work – and ourselves – with our work, by our work.

With that intent, we can’t help but contribute to a better, more complete and healed world, even if it’s person by person, reader by reader. It may be a slow process, co-creating a collective world of and with meaning, but it’s worth it, in my view. Maybe it’s even better to be slow, more one-on-one. There’s an intimacy to that concept that really appeals to me.

Regardless of how long or slow writing is, how solitary or collected writers are, I suggest that we are working for and toward the umbilical relationship of wholeness with others and ourselves. That gives a meaning to my work that can be expressed only through more words.

Every time I sit down to write, I look forward to the anticipation of possibilities and connections that will emerge – for something unexpected always occurs. I always find a little more of and about me and I hope I always find a little more of and about others, the world, the human condition, God, and the mysteries of the creative process.

It doesn’t get much more meaningful than that.
©2010 Genie Rayner

October 13, 2010 Posted by | authors, birds, culture, environment, gardening, Muse, nature, novel, publishing, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Swallow Language: the Voice of Light

‘One swallow doth not a summer make’
Aristotle 384-322BC

Alton Priors Swallow 2009

Swallows returned to their nesting sites in the chill temperatures of a shed in Northern Scotland on Monday last week. My heart rose to meet them. There were two of them. A third arrived yesterday. It seems like a very long time since I heard swallow song – that swooping, diving ‘weet-weet’ of recognition – in these cold north latitude skies. They left as a massing cloud on autumn equinox last September, fully three weeks early. And, as if on cue, winter started soon after and went on relentlessly until spring equinox. If you look at it from a swallow’s-eye-view, they’ve been gone fully six months.

Swallows: first sign of summer

No wonder we celebrate the sight of the first swallow. They presage summer. They symbolize transcendant spirit over adversity, They are the original bluebird.

I’m not alone in my excitement at their return: in the balmy skies of southern California, they’ve made a study of local ‘swallows’ into a science and tourist attraction. At the eighteenth century Alta California mission of San Juan Capistrano in Orange County, south of Los Angeles, they do special swallow tours and swallow welcome rituals, especially for the return of the winged beauties, Stelgidopteryx serripennis (there they’re actually martins, but who’s arguing?) on San Juan’s Feast Day, March 19th. That’s a month and a half ago. Lucky ducks.

In other parts of Britain they celebrate too. In Orkney and Shetland, the return of the ‘hirondelle‘ coincides with May Day, ancient Beltane, the festival that heralds summer. Meanwhile at Bretton Lake National Reserve in West Yorkshire their Hirundo rustica have been back nearly a month; that means they braved snow and hail to get here.

At least mine arrived on a warm wind. And a full moon.

When Britain was a naval power, the swallow was like a mascot, a bird of good fortune and luck. Swallows were invariably seen over the mainmast when a ship came within sight of land. They implied ‘safe return’ after a long voyage. In even earlier times, when tea clippers plied to and from the Orient, swallow tattoos were an oceangoing tradition, an unspoken language, if you like: one tattoo for crossing the equator one way; another when you came back. In vessels to farther seas, a mariner earned his swallow tattoo for going ’round the Horn’ – Cape Horn in Antarctic waters of South America, and the Horn of Africa between the south Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. In another tradition, a sailor had his chest tattooed after he’d sailed five thousand nautical miles (5750 miles). So a sailor with a couple of bluebird tattoos was experienced, trustworthy, one with the gods in his corner. He was first choice for a captain looking for crew. In legend, if the fates stepped in and he drowned, the birds would alight on his soul, lift it from the swirling waters and carry it to heaven.

The bird implied loyalty, faith, honor, love, hope and safe return.

In some cultures still, the first swallow of spring signifies an omen of financial success or a surprise windfall. Two swallows – popular as a tattoo in barrio culture – represent freedom.

In indigenous American culture the swallow or bluebird totem, as a herald of summer, brings warmth and protection to the home. She incorporates the spiritual principles of objectivity and perspective, as well as communication in a group environment.

Hollywood created the ‘bluebird of happiness’ for the song Zippedy doo-dah’ in Walt Disney’s 1946 movie ‘Song of the South’, and the cartoon was based on the totem principles of contentment and joy to be found in everyday life, in its suggestion that we dance and sing with every step. That we enjoy what is happening now, or what is about to happen in our lives.

Swallow formation Alton Priors July 2008, formed in two stages, presaged solar eclipse nine days later

Perhaps it is this sense of anticipation I feel at the little bird’s return to the North – such a tiny creature, such a long journey. The European swallow weighs no more than three-quarters of an ounce, 20g. She has flown – from southern Africa to the shores of Britain – a total of 6000 miles.

So what are we anticipating? What surprises do this year’s aerial messengers bring?

Not crop circles. Not a single apparition. Not yet.

None so far in Wiltshire and Hampshire fields. But it’s still early days. The oil seed rape (canola) crop is only just reaching its flowering height. And it’s far too early for a resonating mandala to appear in barley or wheat.

In previous summers, swallow crop circles appearing in Cotswolds and Plains farms have been interpreted as presaging solar activity: eclipses, solar wind surges. electromagnetic disturbances.


While this video shows an interesting rendition of NASA’s SOHO transmission last week (April 25-30, 2010), its interpretation is better explained at the following link which cannot be converted to an image for ‘security reasons’. The commentator explains carefully and meticulously the presence of ‘two suns’ – an unknown very bright object within the orbit and corona of our own sun, which does not coincide with the orbits of any of the inner planets. I recommend viewing it at:

http://www.disclose.tv/action/viewvideo/44078/Wow____Possibly_Two_Suns_/

While the crop circle phenomenon has in past years delivered consciousness-changing designs or peace-inducing sonic mandalas, this year it looks as if we may be treated to the astral phenomenon first before the glyph appears as an embellishment in the crop.

It is not surprising that NASA has so far made no comment about the bright light-object. Nor am I surprised by my inability to transfer a link from the ‘Two Suns’ video to this page. I eagerly anticipate the first crop circle immediately following this SOHO object’s appearance.

Perhaps the swallows’ return three days early this year is a good sign: an indication that this summer will be hot, nay, blistering, and the hirondelle population may burgeon once more. It needs to. Despite British birders (‘twitchers’) considering their number as one which hovers in the ‘normal’ range for a migrant species, what they call a ‘species of least concern’, I worry about them.

I hope the summer they presage becomes one we can enjoy: not one where earth changes dominate. We have already experienced three earthquakes of major proportions over the winter, a volcano which is still erupting – themselves highlighting human dithering and unpreparedness; and the present oil-spill mop-up operation in the Gulf of Mexico will take every available human resource from two continents to avert a wildlife and environmental disaster. If the swallow totem signifies hope and happiness – if the bluebird hirondelle has its say and we are prepared to listen once more – we might learn a thing or two. We might rekindle our ability to focus: to concentrate on creating peace, joy and happiness for ourselves and in our world. After all, as my last guest blogger remarked: we create our own reality. And what we focus on increases.

One swallow may not make a summer. But three? There’s hope.

Welcome home.

April 30, 2010 Posted by | ancient rites, birds, calendar customs, crop circles, culture, environment, festivals, nature, seasonal, traditions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

   

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