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Red Sky

Four years ago today I found out that you left this world. With you I danced my first dance of love. And an epic dance it was. Last night I felt your presence as I danced under the full moon. That day four years ago, it seemed like such a final blow; Your fiery red light snuffed from this world at the tender age of 21. But little did I realize the journey had just begun. For you and I, we share a soul contract, its purpose still being fulfilled. Thank you for all you taught me and continue to teach me each day. Thank you even for the lessons hard learned, for there the deepest wisdom lies. Thank you for being the catalyst for much of whom I am today. Perhaps next time you’ll stay longer. But for now may your soul rest in that place of universal love and peace. You’ve been a guardian angel. And I know you always will be. I remember you today, as I do every day. But today I share it with the world because your light is one to be remembered. Stephen Noble Holland, through me and through others your spirit lives on. I love you and always will.

Tonight's sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people and close to the land.

Tonight’s sunset out on Cayuga S.H.A.R.E. farm, where I spent the day surrounded by good people, close to the land.

Springtime Odes

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Fingers tingle from nettles prickle

I look for my reflection

In the last light of dusk

And what do I see?

I see clouds, I see sky

I see flashes of light

And storms a brew.

The tick tock of the hand of a clock

Pointing towards?

 

Tadpoles,

Like sperm they swim

Determined to give birth to the next

Their movement is not random

Yet like birds they scatter

From one central point it seems they pulse

They come and they go

Beating to the rythm of the earth

 

I speak to them

And to the nettles whose sting cleanses me

And to the peas struggling to grow upwards in my garden

I speak to them in sing-song tones

Of my mother tongue.

 

Yes, my Mother’s tongue

The one from the far East

From the only people who have ever experienced

The destructive Might…

Of the Nuclear Bomb.

 

This is the language that comes

When I speak to the Earth.

Speculate, you may, on why that is

But it is.

 

From the warmth of my covers and the soft pillow of my bed

I watch.

I watch the Moon wax and wane as it makes its nightly traverse across the sky

I watch the mouselike critter

With fur that hides any ears to be seen

Plunge its nose blissfully

Into the sweet sunburst of a spring dandelion.

And I listen to the lullaby of a chorus of many.

And sometimes

When sleep fails to call

I sit up alert

For the flashes of spring thundershowers

Or for the sound of the midnight howl

Of the coyotes on an almost moonless night

 

Did you know that the blueberry flower tastes almost as good as the blueberry?

Well it does.

But don’t eat too many

Because remember;

Flowers are the goddesses of Spring

That birth our Fall Abundance

 

A day at Edible Acres

It is early spring, which at Edible Acres means Sean is getting ready for for his first plant sale tomorrow.

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Plants getting potted up in Sean’s homemade potting mix in preparation for sale.

For me and some other volunteers this means we got to go and spend the day among his awesome demonstration gardens, getting out hands in the soil, and picking his brain about all his amazing plant knowledge while helping him pot things up and learning a bunch about the plants we are getting ready for sale.

And it was the perfect day for such a task, with the weather being cool (probably mid 50′s) and mostly overcast with a few light sprinkles of rain. This weather is great as it is still pleasant to work outside but the plants stay moist and experience less stress as the soil they are being taken out of and the air and the soil they are being put into all are around the same temperature.

Here is a little about five of the plants plants and one mushroom that we worked with today. Most of this knowledge is what I learned from sean over the course of the day and am now refining and adding to from a little bit of online research (linked to throughout). I took home a plant or two of each of these five so I will try and let you know what I think of them as I actually get to experience their wonders first hand.

Sea kale (Crambe maritima):

 

Sea kale is an ancient perennial plant that resembles kale and is making a comeback as a favorite of permaculture enthusiasts. Permaculturists always love perennials because they require less work and generally support more stable and resilient ecosystems. Although Sea kale looks like kale it is actually not even in the same family. But its roots, leaves, and flowers are edible and it grows really easily in just about any soil. And it propagates really easily too! So what we did today was dig up some of Sean’s sea kale plants which had significant tuber like roots underground. Then we just broke the tubers up into pieces and planted them into sean’s potting mix making sure to keep their orientation correct, meaning the more tapered end of the root points down in the soil.

Walking onion (Allium proliferum):

A walking onion bulb cluster

So onions are great. But usually you have to dig them up out of the ground to harvest them, which can be a fair amount of effort, and then you have to replant them the next year from seed, which usually means buying seed, which costs money. But what if you had an onion that behaved more like garlic? Where you break apart your 1 head of garlic and plant, lets say 5 cloves from that head, and then the next year you get 5 heads of garlic. Welcome to the walking onion. This onion does just that; it creates new onions in a cluster around itself, growing every year if you leave them, or allowing you to dig them up, harvest some, and split apart the others and replant them to get more clusters of onions! Amazing!

But, that is really just the beginning of the wonders of this onion. What I described is one way to harvest onions from this plant. But there is a second way that doesn’t even require any digging at all! These onions have a top set that are like mini onions or shallots. These topsets will begin to form in spring and can be harvested pretty much at any point from when they are small and probably pretty mild to when they reach maturity in late summer. If you get them at the right time I hear you don’t even have to peel them! The topsets are smaller then your typical onion, ranging from 1/4″ to about an 1″ but I at least am excited to try substituting them into my cooking where I woulf normally used a regular onion. When the top sets get heavy enough they will cause the stalk to bend over to the ground and if conditions are right they will root, forming another root cluster, hence the name walking onions!

Top sets: are like mini onions! You can harvest these and use them like onions or shallots and you don’t even have to dig up the plant!

I am excited to see the single walking onion I took home hopefully multiply into many for years to come.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum):

 

A wonderfully smelling herb, anise hyssop is great to make tea out of or to sprinkle into salads or put on top of deserts. Medicinally, it is often used to soothe respiratory ailments such as a cough and as a digestive aid. It is in the mint family and so can be used in many of the same ways you would use mint. It also has wonderful purple flowers that the bees love!

Sorrel:

common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)

This sorrel is another delicious perennial that is super easy to grow. I have a red veined sorrel variety planted the garden at my parents which I love, especially when the leaves are young. I anticipate that this common sorrel will be a little more tender and perhaps less strong in taste, if also a little less striking in appearance. It has a tart leaves that are great sprinkled in salads and a quick google search brings up some yummy sounding sorrel soup recipes. I am excited to try that when I have enough of it!

June bearing Strawberry:

This nice mystery cultivar that bears fruit in June (hence the name) seems to be quite vigorous and have great flavor, according to Sean. Sean found these in Ithaca and rescued them after someone carelessly mowed right over them and they have been thriving in his garden ever since. I planted a whole bunch in a little contained stone terrace outside my home here and am excited to have a vigorous strawberry patch to nibble from in just a few months! 

Stropharia rugosoannulata (wine cap mushroom)

So, the last thing I got from Sean is not actually a plant. It was some mushroom inoculated cardboard. And as some of you know I have a soft spot for mushrooms. This one is what we call the wine cap mushroom- a mushroom I have never tasted and certainly never cultivated before, so I am super excited to see if I can!

Apparently the stropharia, wine cap mushroom, is an excellent companion in the garden as it likes complex environments and will not effect the plants in any negative way. In fact, it will help enrich the soil, speeding the composting process and helping break down any woody matter. It also feeds off of bacteria that may otherwise become undesirable runoff or contaminants, so some people have successfully used this mushroom as a bio filter to reduce numbers of such things as fecal coliform from cow manure runoff. Plus it is considered a choice edible by many!

Sean has a great video on his youtube channel showing how to take a little bit of incoulum and grow it into a lot. He also has a video showing how he has really scaled up his stropharium production and now includes this inoculum in his potting mix! So if you buy some plants from him you might just get luck and end up with a few wine caps popping up as well. I followed his video and took the maybe 4″x8″ piece of cardboard he gave me covered with white mycelium and sprinkled it through a large pot in which I layered cardboard, compost, some wood chips and straw. Hopefully in less than a month that garden pot will be full of mycelium and then I can make an even bigger batch and also try putting some directly into my garden so I can get flushes of wine caps around my sea kale and walking onions!

So there is some of what I learned from a day out at Edible Acres in Trumansberg, NY!

 

 

 

Joy

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Acrylic and Sand on Canvas

Another painting inspires by the caves in the north of Israel.

I took a full day tour with Green Olive Tours into the west bank, to Bethlehem and Ramallah. It was an very informative experience- I would highly recommend it. I’ve done my best to caption these photos in order to help share my experience with others. I checked dates and stories using wikipedia (so please read keeping the “non academic” nature of the source in mind). Also, please understand this is just my experience based mostly on the information and perspective given to me by one amazing palestinian tour guide. Of course the situation is complex and layered so please take this as only one perspective. I hope though that it might inspire respectful discussions and spark people’s curiosity to do their own research and find other perspectives and come to their own informed conclusions.

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Just across the Bethlehem  checkpoint on the Palestinian side. All these taxis are waiting to show tourists around and take workers back home when they arrive back from a days work in Israel.

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Many Palestinians go into Israel to work and so at this checkpoint the lines start forming at 2 or 3am as they know it could take as long as 3 hours to get across the checkpoint.

Palestinians with clean records are allowed one 3 day visiting visa a year into Israel. On this 3 day visa they can look for work and if they succeed in finding work then then can apply for a 6 month work visa. If they do not find work they will have to wait another year to go back into Israel.

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The parking lot where palestinians have left their car for the day to walk across the checkpoint and work in Israel. This checkpoint is only for pedestrians.

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“The Nakba” is The Catastrophe, which is what many palestinians call May 15th, 1948, the day of Israeli Independence and the palestinian exodus.

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The barrier wall (aka the security wall, the apartheid wall, the fence…)

the first sections of the wall were constructed as early as 1994 but the move to make a continuous wall really began in about 2001.

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the palestinian side of the wall is covered in graffiti.

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These stories are part of what is called the “wall museum.” each one tells a short true story as told by palestinian women.

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They are worth reading…

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and they go on for what must have been miles.

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Here is a house on the palestinian side that is not allowed to open its windows on the second floor because of its proximity to the wall.

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Leila Khaled is a palestinian woman who is a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Who took part in two hijackings. In her first hijacking in 1969 no civilians were hurt and her stated aim was to fly over Haifa, so she could see her birthplace which she could not visit. Her second attempted hijacking was part of a coordinated effort by the PLFP to hijack multiple planes. This hijacking was stopped. Although she was carrying two hand grenades she says she was under strict instruction to not hurt any civilians. After this second hijacking she was briefly imprisoned but then released as part of a prisoner exchange. It is believed that she is still alive.

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More graffiti…

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More stories…

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The Banksy shop.

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More stories…

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Some in our group taking an opportunity to leave their mark on the wall.

 

 

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A UN car driving through Palestine. Many of the Palestinians feel the UN has been largely ineffective and has given minimal aid to them

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Entrance to one of the refugee camps that has been in existence since 1948. The residents in these camps are people and their descendants who left their homes in places within what is now Israel during the war following Israeli Independence and have since been refused the right the right to return.

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Since the camp has been in existence for over 60 years it does not fit the idea many of us have of a refugee camp; there are no tents. People have built permanent structures. But they have been forced to build up and up for lack of room as their numbers grow with their children and the next generation.

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graffiti within the refugee camp: the dove is holding the “key” which symbolizes the key of return- many palestinians have held on to the key of their homes which they abandoned as a symbol that one day they will still return.

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A school within the refugee camp

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and in the courtyard right outside the school we see this graffiti.

 

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and this graffiti. 

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Now to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity…

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Here is the entrance to the church of the Nativity.

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A telling map that shows Palestine (in green) as it has shrunk over the years. In the last map the green is zone A; the area actually under palestinian military and civil control. All the rest (zones B and C) is actually under Israeli military and civil control. Jewish settlers are building particularly in zone C and through their building are slowly isolating palestinian communities making travel even within the West bank increasingly difficult.

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Inside the church of Nativity.

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people coming up from the cave where it is said Jesus was born.

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Although it is hard to see in the photo there are bullet marks on the stones in this courtyard which is within the Church of Nativity.

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Lunch just outside the Church of the Nativity

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Walking around the old city of Bethlehem. Our guide said these streets used to be full of shops and tourists but now tourists come in on buses and are dropped off right at the church of the nativity and then they generally leave. As a result most of the shops have gone out of business and some would say that the old city of Bethlehem has become a ghost town.

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More streets in the old city of Bethlehem with shops closed on both sides.

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The Palestinian currency that was used until 1948. Our guide pointed out that things were written in Hebrew, Arabic, ad English, symbolic of the fact that Palestine was an integrated state.  In contrast, the current currency, the Shekel. shows a pictures of Israel where there is no Palestine.

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Driving from Bethlehem to Ramallah, the de facto capitol of the west bank. This drive used to be a short 15 minute drive but due to the detours made by the wall and the settlements it now takes almost an hour and a half to drive from one to the other through the west bank.

 

 

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On top of all the Palestinian homes are often as many as 15 metal and black plastic water tanks. This is because Israel control the water in the west bank and in summer months they often only turn on the water one a month. So the palestinians fill these tanks when they have water and then use it carefully hoping that the water will be turned on again before they run out.

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Another Banksy.

 

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A Jewish Settlement in the distance.

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The wall that snakes through east Jerusalem. Over the wall on the left is Jerusalem, close enough to see but in accessible to most Palestinians.

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A jewish Settlement surrounded by a fence.

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A field of olive trees that was cut down in Zone C supposedly in preparation for the building of a jewish settlement.

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Bedouin encampments. Note that although these look somewhat like shanty towns to us westerners most bedouins living like this are doing so by choice. They are a people who prefer to live mostly outdoors.

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Our guide told us a story of once when some palestinians partnered with bedouins to build them more permanent structures. The bedouins were very excited but when the palestinians returned a year or two later they found that they were using their structures to house the animals. The Bedouins said they could not live inside in such structures.

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The sign as you enter into Ramallah, which is in zone A, so fully under Palestinian control.

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Arafat’s tomb. Arafat was well liked and is considered a hero by most palestinians.

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The bustling city of Ramallah.

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A Starbucks knock off.

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I had the best shwarma in Ramallah and it was only 12 shekels! In Israel it would have been at least 20 shekels.

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wonderful markets and people who are eager for you to try there goods.

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notice the two minarets which belong to mosques. They had speakers on them to broadcast the call to prayer.

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And now we head towards the Ramallah checkpoint to exit the West Bank and go back to Jerusalem. Immediately the traffic begins…

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Some kids are throwing rocks at the IDF (israeli defense force) and the IDF is throwing tear canisters back. The gas/smoke you see is the tear gas. People coming across the checkpoint were holding their shirts over their nose and mouth and rubbing their eyes.

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The palestinians coming back across covering their faces to protect themselves from the tear gas.

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IDF standing guard

 

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And here we walk through the checkpoint, where we go through turn stiles and metal detectors and put our bags through an xray machine. Once inside this area is it forbidden to take photos… Good bye west bank!

At risk of saying things that might get me into hot water I am going to share a little more of my own perspective as I have been digesting all this: My experience in Israel is that most Israeli’s do not know much about what the conditions are like in Palestine. I can’t help but feel the government of Israel is doing a pretty good job covering up the reality and using fear and propaganda (like the sign warning people not to go into Ramallah) to keep Israelis and the rest of the world from seeing what is going on. Every Israeli I talked to had only gone into the occupied territories during their army service, if at all, and of course they were in uniform then and likely experienced the brunt of the anger and resentment of Palestinians in the form of rocks being thrown, etc. But what would you do after years of soldiers throwing tear gas and arresting and sometimes killing your sons and brothers? As I told one of my Israeli friends about my experience in the west bank she said she felt humbled as she realized injustices were going on “in her backyard” and she was barely aware of it and not doing anything to stop it. She said it made her feel compassion for how Germany and the world allowed the holocaust happen… Is history repeating itself with the victims now becoming the perpetrators? Of course there are differences but there are also many similarities. It is certainly something to think about.

At the same time I can understand the mentality of much of Israel: Their day to day reality is much different then ours in the States. To give you a sense here are some things that happened in just the short month I was there: 50 missiles were launched from Gaza strip into Israel. They were all successfully neutralized but it still happened. A ship with over 500 missiles and weapons coming mostly from Iran was intercepted while trying to make its way to the Gaza strip. There was an attempted kidnapping of a soldier, which is apparently almost a monthly occurrence. And some soldiers went to investigate a child playing with a suspicious looking package along the security fence and it blew up. The mother of the family I was staying with witnessed a bus blow up during the second intifada (second wave of suicide bombings, which occurred in the late 1990′s and early 2000′s) right after she had dropped her son off at his military base. Every week she drove him to and from his base for fear of his bus being blown up. The soldiers currently in the army remember being in middle school and high school and their parents not allowing them on buses and telling them they had to be home by sundown and couldn’t hang out in public areas for fear of suicide bombings. So all this trauma is still very recent history and I believe helps keep the fear in place that has allowed for the current situation to continue.

But there are stories of hope and people doing good work. And I want to also share that because of me telling my Israeli friend about my experience she said she might take a tour of the west bank, like I did, and invite her kids to go with her. (yes Israeli’s can go. My tour guide has had a few Israeli’s on his tours and says he is always happy to have them, and they have never had a problem. It seems the law forbidding Israeli’s to enter into Zone A is not enforced, but the signs are used to try and deter it. The only thing is that they must enter and exit through checkpoints in zones B or C rather then zone A). And she said if her kids were still school age she would enroll them in one of the few integrated arab-israeli schools in places like Neve Shalom. Small steps towards peace. She also told me about a group she knew of where arab and israeli’s who have lost loved ones to the conflict come together to support each other in their grief, share their stories of loss and work together to find ways to build peace. Another thing she told me about was a group of older adults who have made a conscious commitment to serve as role models of how to be an ethical soldier when they go each year to do their 1 month reserve army service. Many of these people specifically ask to be stationed at checkpoints, where palestinians are often mistreated and much of the abuse of power occurs.

It is a complex but important situation and perhaps the best the world can do is stay informed and do our best to serve as watchdogs to try and prevent human rights violations. If you want to learn more a few documentaries I was told about are Five Broken Cameras, which is on instant play on netflix right now and Arna’s children. Five broken cameras was a great movie I thought, and I haven’t seen Arna’s children yet but it sounds like another fascinating movie.

Hope this post was informative!

4:12am

4:12am

I awake. Was it the rustle of the wind through the trees that awoke me? Or the chatter of the birds? Perhaps the first rays of dawn shining through the window?

“No. It is still dark outside,” say the twinkle of the stars.

“Go outside,” a voice whispers firmly in my ear.

I slide my feet into my sandals. Still in my pajamas, I grab a sweater and quietly open the door, careful not to awaken my roommates. Oh wait, there is only one. The other seems to have not returned from the festivities of the previous night.

All is quiet in the lit courtyard. Not a soul in sight. Not even the early risers. It is that hour of the day when one is not sure whether to call it morning or night. I walk down the stairs, through the courtyard, and across the grass, to the tall Eucalyptus trees that line the shore of the Galilee. There I slip off my sandals. Cool grass on my naked feet. I step carefully in the darkness. The wind seems to whip the water into a frothy white. It seems a storm is near. And yet, I feel invited.

I climb carefully into the womb that is a knot in the Mother Eucalyptus. There I barely fit, feet drawn close, knees to my chest. And there, in that safe embrace, protected from the wind, in the cover of darkness the tears come. Released from the night before, they bless my cheeks. I let them flow, my body sighing into the Earth Mother’s embrace. And soon the tears are replaced by a profound peace. And I rest.

I watch the white caps settle and the wind soften. The clouds clear revealing the same stars my ancestors saw. And now the sky begins to lighten, hinting at the sun to come.

I shift my body, looking to stretch my feet. And a tickle begins. In the predawn light my eyes do not see. But my hands brush away the tickles. And my mind connects.

“Ants! Have they been crawling on me all along?”

I jump nimbly down, and brush some more. But somehow it seems that it was only in my shifting that I had disturbed these little creatures. And soon I laugh at my momentary panic.

“Who am I not to trust that Earth Mother was taking care of me and would allow no real harm to come?”

I walk along the grass and find myself at the playground slide. Here I lie again. And here I stay until the last star fades and the birds begin to sing and the sun rises. Until the first early risers walk out to greet the day.

And gently I reenter the human world. Eyes of others notice me and look inquisitively. Perhaps my pajamas betray that I have been here a while. Or perhaps they wonder what caused such peace in the features of my tear stained face.

As my mind awakens I wonder about the Ants. And so I return to the Mother Eucalyptus. Something tells me, approach from the other side. The South side, rather than the North. And so I do. And as I reach my womb I see my little companions, like disciplined soldiers they march from the South. I follow their line, which weaves around the edge of her sacred womb. And so I see how I curled up safely inside, guarded by her little warriors. But when I stirred, indicating readiness to leave, that had been when I had disrupted their valiant march.

Ahhh, how Mother cares for her kin.

I give thanks to my little warriors, and thanks to the tree, and to the wind and the water and the sun. And the stars and the moon that have since faded. And to the cool damp ground beneath. And with care I step over the Ant procession. And with Awe in my eyes and Peace in my heart I return to the warmth of my bed.

Know, this was no dream.

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Inspired by the caves on the Mediterranean coast of Israel near Lebanon.

Inspired by the caves on the Mediterranean coast of Israel near Lebanon.

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