Beckoning, Boundaries & a Harsh Lesson


Beckoning is one of my favorite games. It is sort of like hide and seek, but much more fun. I didn’t learn how to play it until I was a parent with young children. When we lived on Osage Avenue and had a kind of “family compound”; two houses with connected yards, two of my sisters and their sons and my three daughters, we would play often. Our house was nearly perfect for this game with two staircases and an indoor trampoline for “jail”. One person is “it”. They close their eyes and count slowly to 20. Everyone else goes and hides- sort of… You could hide more or less permanently and wait to be found, but its more fun to just hide, then run away and hide again as the person who is “it” tries to “catch” people. You are caught if the person who is it sees you and calls your name. If that happens you must go to jail. If you are seen but called someone else’s name you do not go to jail. Anyone can free those in jail by beckoning them, e.g. sneaking up on the jail while the “it” is searching/chasing others and beckoning with a finger. In desperate circumstances you could even do a suicide beckoning, where you are seen by the jailor, but beckon all the prisoners before your name is called!  The jailor must count to 10 before catching anyone who was beckoned. The game/round ends when the jailor has caught everyone, or gives up. Its pretty hard to catch everyone, even so, there is never a lack of players wanting to give it a try!

I am nearly 64 years old and I still like to play, if I get a chance! I think this is partly why I get so into chasing the groundhog/s out of the burrows near our house to the borrows up the pasture. It has some of the flavor of playing beckoning! Unfortunately, this endeavor recently took a deadly turn alf events. When I noticed that the groundhog had returned to the burrow under the forsythia bushes once again, I tried the water treatment again, but did not observe if ki* had left. My husband suggested that I bait the humane trap and when we caught ki, we could just take ki and release it up in the pasture. I did and came back to check a few hours later. One of the apple halves was gone but the closing mechanism was not tripped. That should have given me pause. I checked the trap, unset it and set it again. We were leaving shortly to go into Philly and I would not be back until the next day- but I thought that I probably would catch anything, and if I did it wouldn’t be until the next morning. When I returned, there was a squirrel in the trap and it was dead! I was shocked and dismayed; I had not meant to catch a squirrel at all. Ki did not appear to be injured.  I tried to get some information on line about why ki had died. The only thing I found was a warning on one sight to not let a squirrel stay in a trap for longer than an hour or ki will die, but no info about why.

I am so sorry to have learned this lesson at the poor squirrel’s expense! Now I know that even humane traps can kill, so I will not be trapping anything else. I am, however, still engaged in this game or dance, if you will, with the groundhog. I feel sure there is a way to live near each other 9but not too near) without harm or encroachment.  The groundhog can live in the upper pasture where there is plenty for it to eat, and we can have our garden and our vegetables that we plant for ourselves. Is that so much to ask?

In the mean time, I have reconnected with the spiritual practice of animal medicine, or animal meanings from the Native American tradition. I first got interested in this about 15 years ago when I kept seeing foxes in West Philly! Up until then, I had seen  only one wild fox in my entire life! What beautiful creatures they are! A friend of mine recently loaned me his pack of animal totem cards and the book to go with them. Since I was engaged on such a level with the groundhog I was curious about groundhog medicine/meaning. But there  is no card for groundhogs in this pack or book. I went on the internet, but my first attempt produced nothing, in fact, one site even stated that groundhogs/woodchucks were not even mentioned in Native American lore or totems! I found that disappointing and odd since kin*are a native species.

Yesterday morning, upon seeing the groundhog out and grazing in the upper pasture, and noting my pleasure about that, I decided to try again. This time I found lots of information and I realized that I have a great affinity with this animal and much to learn from it.  Perhaps ki has even replaced fox as my primary animal totem, at least for this time in my life. Below is one description:

“A very difficult and powerful totem to have, 
Groundhog is the symbol of opening fully to the dreamtime. 
Of exploring altered states of consciousness more deeply and fully. 
Dreams will have great significance.
Lessons associated with death, dying and revelations about its processes will begin to surface. Groundhog can teach its people metabolic control. 
How to go into the great unconscious without harm.
People with a Groundhog totem need to have definite
 boundaries in their life and let those around them know those boundaries.
Groundhog’s power is strongest in Winter and two years is an important time period. 
Two years of intensive studying might be required to achieve 
true trances or alter states of consciousness.
This is often the totem of Shamans and Mystics.”

One thing that spoke to me right away is BOUNDARIES. I have needed to work on my own boundaries in the past, and even though I have made progress, its clear  there is more work to be done. I welcome this new teacher into my life and will continue my game of beckoning, but now with new found respect for this animal and its medicine.

*ki and kin are based on Robin Wall Kimmerer’s writing, asking us to stop using “it” for living beings. Ki comes from an Anishinabe word for other than human beings and she suggests kin be the plural, reminding us of our kinship with all life.


The Fullness

I went looking for the moonrise this evening. Jumped in the car and went madly roving up roads that seemed like they might offer an unobstructed view to the east. Finally went back past our street along Cheyney Road to the open field of Squire Cheyney Farm Park     and there it was, a huge round peach of a moon, the color of which I’ve never seen before. Orange, silver and yellow- but peach?!! That creamy pinkish gold color that delights like no other! Tears of gratitude sprang to my eyes, as I gazed; smiling till my jaws ached.

Cars rushed by. I wanted to shout at them to stop, stop and look at his incredible, awesome, gorgeous full moon! STOP! your missing it!!! None, did… There will be moon shadows and moon dancing tonight. Moon bathing, anyone? I have a friend in the city that has a tiny little “balcony” that’s really the fire escape from her 2nd floor apartment. She and her hubby, on warm summer nights sometimes lie down out there and moon bathe, if the moon is full.

The morning was a bit dull, the sun didn’t really come out until almost noon. But I went looking for signs of ramps (wild leeks) and found two more patches in the woods by the west side of the house. Then I lost one; for the life of me could’t find those little green spikes breaking through the leaves again. Ah, well… I’ll be able to see them when they get bigger, hopefully! Though, as they grow, the forrest fills in with leaves and much gets obscured! We shall see!

I stopped by a small farm I’d noticed on Rt 926 just past Goose Creek. There was a sign out saying eggs for sale! It’s called IMBY (In My Back Yard) at Misty Hollow. They only had 2 dozen for sale and I bought one. Also some peachsauce (like applesauce) and tomato paste made by Sally. I wanted to ask if the eggs were pastured, but did not. Jim is the master gardner. They are taking a sabbatical from their CSA this year, but fortunately still sell eggs! I hope to get to know them better. What a find!

The Boot

boot-stamping-on-a-human-face-1The same BOOT that is crushing the life out of Black lives, is crushing all life on this planet, even unto the extent of crushing the breath out of the planet itself. This BOOT holds down women, poor folks, People of Color, indigenous people… AND destroys the souls of those who wear it. This BOOT is a product of, if not synonymous with Empire. In its current iteration Empire is epitomized by Wall Street and the economic and social system that fosters rapacious consumption and exploitation of anything and everything- demanding new and increased profits; weekly, daily, hourly. Although it has counterparts in every country, this version of Empire is captained by the US, where the government is now openly bought and sold to the highest bidder.

In the US, our cardinal sin is racism. It is the reason, ultimately that every social reform movement has failed; for people divided will always be defeated! We must no longer cooperate with the BOOT. Resistance is imperative as we also build the new social and political structures that heal and regenerate rather than consume, wound and destroy. Racism must be acknowledged and repudiated in all movements oriented toward ending systematic oppression along with whatever else is their goal or mission.

In the  Christian Bible, this Empire is, perhaps, described most accurately as a seven-headed beast. Empire and it’s BOOT, have and have had a shape-shifting quality that has fooled us over and over again into complacency. While human beings have created Empire, and have seemed to recreate it over and over again, once created it seems to take on a life of its own, building power and convincing us that it is inevitable and even necessary. For those of us who receive the benefits and privileges of White Supremacy, whether we want to or not, whether we are aware of it or not- Take off the BOOT! Throw it away and let it rot on the the compost pile of history. Let it burn on the proverbial Gahenna! Then repent, turn around; come home, come home to the Kin-dom, to Beloved Community, where your soul can be restored and you can see with new eyes. Those who have had the BOOT pressed down on their windpipe, will  be revealed as the brothers and sisters we have longed for, as the leaders we have denied.

Beware!… Be aware of the fingerprint of Empire on all that we do- especially those things that we assume are our own freedoms operating.


Groundhog Day, Redux

I was meditating on a profound and deeply spiritual message this morning when I caught sight of the groundhog and suddenly all my equanimity vanished- just like that! It looked healthy, fat, probably pregnant, and disappeared into the bushes right next to where the kitchen garden will reside. I had thought I had managed to chase it (or some groundhog) off to burrows further away from our delicious crops last fall. Actually, we had  most of our garden ravaged by a groundhog last year and set a kill-trap for the culprit. When I discovered the dead groundhog in our garden, I was deeply dismayed. It clearly did not die instantly as the manufacturers promised and then it turned out to be a mother. Although, her children were already out and about on their own. We only saw one (probably the fox or another predator got the others). I immediately set about trapping it in a “have-a-heart” trap and relocated it off our property, most likely illegally.

I was not and am still not interested in turning our place into a “war zone” even if its a non-lethal “war”, but I do want to encourage the local groundhog/s to live in the upper pasture where there is plenty for them to eat, and not have them raiding and ravaging our garden. Last year it seemed that I had scared off the groundhog that seemed to quickly replace the one that met kids demise by depositing used cat litter in the burrows near our house and garden and also by letting the garden hose run for long periods into the burrow that was in the garden where the tomatoes thrived relatively unmolested. But most likely ki just went into hibernation! I did find two new burrows up the east side of the pasture last fall, which led me to believe the one (ones?) near our house had relocated.

I thought, I might be able to go back to my meditations, but no use. Seeing the creature left me distressed, I am sad to admit. I don’t actually dislike groundhogs. The little one I trapped was actually quite cute, but my husband’s violent reaction to our devastated garden last year left a seemingly permanent distress button that I don’t seem to be able to erase! So, having no used cat litter on hand, I decided to try the water technique.  I found the hose in a large coil in the basement,  hauled it up , untangled it, attached it to the spigot and dragged one end over to the borrow entrance that I assume the groundhog went into.

I let it run while I made breakfast and ate it, hoping ki would skedaddle back up the pasture! Who knows? I did not see it leave, but I feel a little more settled now that I’ve at least tried to encourage its relocation. Actually I’m not really sure why I find it so upsetting. My husband is about to install electric fencing around the kitchen garden with what he feels are sure-fire deterrents, but if they fail- it will not be pleasant around here. Actually, I’m being unfair, he is doing some great work on his own emotional sobriety, so only time will tell.

I have asked local farmers what they do about deer and groundhogs and the most frequent answer is dogs, though I have heard some other much more creative answers. I do not want a dog, primarily because it would also keep away the foxes, which I adore. But that may change when and if we decide to have chickens. I am not so sure I want to “farm” if it means coming onto conflict with the local animal kinfolk. Oh! There it is- leaving and heading up into the woods along the pasture! Yippee! I do believe the water persuasion may have worked!!!






Life Bursting Forth

A heat wave has settled upon us and what seemed like a too early forced blooming has turned into full blown early summer! A few days ago I saw a butterfly and was afraid for its life, having seen only one very early lesser celandine flower blooming. I had forgotten about the 100 or so snow drops that have been up for at least a week or two. But now there is a whole bush of tiny white flowers, periwinkle and croci blooming as well. And the maple tree by the porch is just about to bust into those little red blossoms. If I ventured into the woods I might find s few spring beauties, even.


This morning is truly stunning! I just sit on the porch and look and listen with my jaw dropped. The geese alone, wave after wave of them this morning… One flock of them nearly 200 strong(!) thronged across the open sky in 3 successive v-ish formations momentarily drowning out the symphony of the other birds. Cardinals singing their hearts out, Carolina wrens calling out “tea kettle, tea kettle, Tea!” and a chorus of other birds…

The Bluebirds are checking out the new boxes we put up on Monday and there is definitely activity around the little birdhouses  closer to the house, too. I saw the butterfly again and didn’t worry,  at least a week of this delicious (tho’ a bit scary!) warm weather is predicted. I have turned off the heat and open the screens; its 81 degrees F outside! on March 9, 2016.

Caught a glimpse of the red squirrel on Monday. It had taken up residence in the barn, but was scared witless when we intruded. Didn’t seem to have a quick escape route. I have not seen it since, but know its around- most likely in the woods behind the barn. The grey squirrels are doing their spring acrobatics and the resident chipmunk was out with the birds this morning under the bird feeder stuffing its cheeks with black sunflower seeds. Have not seen the fox/es in person but ki leaves scat regularly on the rock near the garden where I leave bones and scraps for its enjoyment and to supplement the nutrition for the growing kits inside the hopefully pregnant vixen in one of the burrows nearby.

“My life is not about me. I am about life.”  Richard Rohr