Sunday, November 20, 2016

Making the connection...Ella Young & Mary Oliver

Image by Denise Sallee. © Denise Sallee 2016
I am slowly, lovingly, breathing in Mary Oliver's book of essays Upstream. Though published 73 years later, Oliver's excerpt below echoes Ella Young's own words published in The Oakland Tribune, Sept, 22, 1931 and reprinted in the anthology  At the Gates of Dawn: A Collection of Writings by Ella Young.

Time does not alter the fundamental and the elemental truths of this world.  Though we allow ourselves to be easily caught up in the ephemeral nothingness of politics - the flag waving, the flag burning - words such as Oliver's and Young's are like finding an oasis filled with a calm and sober light directing us back to the purity of truth and away from that "false world."

First let us hear from Mary Oliver:

Teach the children. We don't matter so much, but the children do. Show them daisies and the pale hepatica. Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen. The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers. And the frisky ones—inkberry, lamb's quarters, blueberries. And the aromatic ones—rosemary, oregano. Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school. Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit. Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.

And, now, from Ella Young: 

    It’s fairy lore that makes the world beautiful…there are fairies all about us, if we’ll only look for them. How sad it is that a materialistic world laughs at them and their beauty…
“If you want to develop imagination in a child, to fan the creative spark which may make him great, you can’t restrict his thought. The fairy kingdom is a vast realm of magic where most anything can happen. It’s a far more interesting place for a youngster than to take him riding in a street car…Fairies, also, are not for all children, but to those who love them let them have them.”
"...The modern child…lives in a false world surrounded by mechanical toys and artificial amusements. There is no time to let the child sit and think; to turn out to nature, where the mountains, the birds and the flowers may talk to him - and they do talk - and to let him feel the beauty of things about him. And, then, how will a child know the greatest lessons of antiquity if his elders frown upon the rich folklore which affords him an inheritance of imagination and romance?

Friday, November 11, 2016

Totem of Gratitude

Image by Denise Sallee.  © Denise Sallee 2016
The hawk's cry as she soars across the very hills I resist calling my home. Words written in a faraway place and time that sought and found their secret entry to my soul. The memory imprinted, deeper than the ink of a tattoo and deeper still than death, your breath against my skin. A mother's love both given and received. A father's strength. The quiet miracle of rain. Going deeper, despite the darkness, and trusting in my resilience. Ancient notes; passion's sung; vibrations of a stranger's heart beating in my own. Lips to linger; hands to heal; eyes to envision; feet to fly.  Health. Discernment. Fire. A raven's wing lifted to the moon. The Moon. The Light. The Dark. The embrace. The surrender.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Image by Denise Sallee.  © Denise Sallee 2016






Samhain by Annie Finch

In the season leaves should love,
since it gives them leave to move
through the wind, towards the ground 

they were watching while they hung,
legend says there is a seam
stitching darkness like a name.

Now when dying grasses veil
earth from the sky in one last pale
wave, as autumn dies to bring
winter back, and then the spring,
we who die ourselves can peel
back another kind of veil

that hangs among us like thick smoke.
Tonight at last I feel it shake.
I feel the nights stretching away
thousands long behind the days
till they reach the darkness where
all of me is ancestor.

I move my hand and feel a touch
move with me, and when I brush
my own mind across another,
I am with my mother's mother.
Sure as footsteps in my waiting
self, I find her, and she brings

arms that carry answers for me,
intimate, a waiting bounty.
"Carry me." She leaves this trail
through a shudder of the veil,
and leaves, like amber where she stays,
a gift for her perpetual gaze.

Annie Finch, "Samhain" from Eve, published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright © 1997 by Annie Finch

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"The Tide of Sorrow" by A.E.

Image by Denise Sallee. © Denise Sallee 2016

The Tide of Sorrow
By: George William (“A. E.”) Russell (1867–1935).
From:  Collected Poems by A.E.  1913.

ON the twilight-burnished hills I lie and long and gaze
Where below the grey-lipped sands drink in the flowing tides,
Drink, and fade and disappear: interpreting their ways
       A seer in my heart abides.

Once the diamond dancing day-waves laved thy thirsty lips:
Now they drink the dusky night-tide running cold and fleet,
Drink, and as the chilly brilliance o’er their pallor slips
        They fade in the touch they meet.

Wave on wave of pain where leaped of old the billowy joys:
Hush and still thee now unmoved to drink the bitter sea,
Drink with equal heart: be brave; and life with laughing voice
          And death will be one for thee.

Ere my mortal days pass by and life in the world be done,
Oh, to know what world shall rise within the spirit’s ken
When it grows into the peace where light and dark are one!
           What voice for the world of men?

Monday, June 20, 2016

Fionavar - the myth of war and peace

Image by Denise Sallee. © Denise Sallee 2009
I remember well the idealism of my youth when I believed in (and worked for) world peace. Each year since has led to more and more war, more fighting over territory and religion. More greed. More power. The only peace I believe in now is that which I try to find for myself, within myself.

I came across Eva Gore-Booth's notes for her dramatic work based upon Queen Maeve, her daughter Fionavar, and the ongoing struggle between war and peace. And then I remembered that Ella Young had also written about Fionavar so I decided to group the two Irish women's words together.  They both lived through  terribly troubling times in Ireland, and they both understood the power of their mythic tradition.

Notes by Eva Gore-Booth:

The meaning I got out of the story of Maeve is a symbol of the world-old struggle in the human mind between the forces of dominance and pity, of peace and war. The time has come, in the history of a human soul, when a newly developed and passionate sense of unity undermines the ancient ideals of savage heroism and world-power. Thus the reign of the old warlike gods is rashly broken into and threatened by the fascination of a new idea. The birth of imagination, the new god of pity, is symbolised in the outside world by the crucifixion of Christ.
A vision of this event is seen by Maeve the Warrior Queen of Connaught at the moment of its happening and becomes the turning point of her life and thought...Beyond [Maeve's] fighting, her great joy in life is her daughter Fionavar, a young girl of fifteen who has as yet seen nothing of war. Whilst the battle is raging, Maeve and Fionavar go to consult a Druidess as to the result of the fight. The Druidess, under the influence of the sea god Mannanaum, sees visions of the future in the stream of water that flows through her tent. She prophesies the death of Fionavar on the battlefield. At her incantation the presence of the ancient warlike gods of Ireland is felt everywhere. 

FROM:  The Death of Fionavar by Eva Gore-Booth
[Gore-Booth, Eva. The Death of Fionavar from The Triumph of Maeve. London: Erskine MacDonald, 1916.]

Men say the great heart of the Princess broke
For pity of the dead lying on the grass
After the battle.
Ye who have borne her hither on her shield
Tell now your tale. How did this thing befall
She came at evening, running to the field,
Knowing naught of battle, or sights that appal
The strongest soul unused to the ways of war.
Thou knowest her heart was ever wont to burn
For any little grief. Therefore when she saw
The primroses all soaked in blood and the brown fern
Broken--Death that was servant to no gentle God
And everywhere pale faces wild with pain,
The blood-stained daisy cried out from the sod
Unto her soul, there on the stricken plain
For very pity she fell down and died.

FIONAVAR  by Ella Young (from  MARZILLIAN, 1938)

O flame blown out of Tir-nan-Oge,
White flame borne on enchanted air,
O heart's delight and heart's despair,
Fionavar! 0 Fionavar!

Draw the white shroud above her face
And cover up her close-shut eyes,
She will not hear a voice that cries
Fionavar! 0 Fionavar!

Love that none of us might win,
By strange lone ways to us you came
And lone you go, White Heart of Flame,
Fionavar! 0 Fionavar!

Pale face that held our hearts in thrall,
Pale face made paler by our love,
We could but draw the shroud above,
Fionavar! 0 Fionavar!

Frail hands no mortal lover kissed,
Fair-folded now as death beseems,
You hide away the Dream of Dreams,
Fionavar! 0 Fionavar!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Walking - An Essay by Linda Hogan

Image by Denise Sallee. © Denise Sallee 2016
by  Linda Hogan
Parabola (Summer 1990)

It began in dark and underground weather, a slow hunger moving toward light. It grew in a dry gully beside the road where I live, a place where entire hillsides are sometimes yellow, windblown tides of sunflower plants. But this one was different. It was alone, and larger than the countless others who had established their lives further up the hill. This one was a traveler, a settler, and like a dream beginning in conflict, it grew where the land had been disturbed.

I saw it first in early summer. It was a green and sleeping bud, raising itself toward the sun. Ants worked around the unopened bloom, gathering aphids and sap. A few days later, it was a tender young flower, soft and new, with a pale green center and a troop of silver gray insects climbing up and down the stalk.

Over the summer this sunflower grew into a plant of incredible beauty, turning its face daily toward the sun in the most subtle of ways, the black center of it dark and alive with a deep blue light, as if flint had sparked an elemental1 fire there, in community with rain, mineral, mountain air, and sand.

As summer changed from green to yellow there were new visitors daily: the lace‐winged insects, the bees whose legs were fat with pollen, and grasshoppers with their clattering wings and desperate hunger. There were other lives I missed, lives too small or hidden to see. It was as if this plant with its host of lives was a society, one in which moment by moment, depending on light and moisture, there was great and diverse change.

There were changes in the next larger world around the plant as well. One day I was nearly lifted by a wind and sandstorm so fierce and hot that I had to wait for it to pass before I could return home. On this day the faded dry petals of the sunflower were swept across the land. That was when the birds arrived to carry the new seeds to another future.

In this one plant, in one summer season, a drama of need and survival took place. Hungers were filled. There was escape, exhaustion, and death. Lives touched down a moment and were gone.

I was an outsider. I only watched. I never learned the sunflower’s golden language or the tongues of its citizens. I had a small understanding, nothing more than a shallow observation of the flower, insects, and birds. But they knew what to do, how to live. An old voice from somewhere, gene or cell, told the plant how to evade the pull of gravity and find its way upward, how to open. It was instinct, intuition, necessity. A certain knowing directed the seedbearing birds on paths to ancestral homelands they had never seen. They believed it. They followed.

There are other summons and calls, some even more mysterious than those commandments to birds or those survival journeys of insects. In bamboo plants, for instance, with their thin green canopy of light and golden stalks that creak in the wind. Once a century, all of a certain kind of bamboo flower on the same day. Whether they are in Malaysia or in a greenhouse in Minnesota makes no difference, nor does the age or size of the plant. They flower. Some current of an inner language passes between them, through space and separation, in ways we cannot explain in our language. They are all, somehow, one plant, each with a share of communal knowledge.

John Hay, in The Immortal Wilderness, has written: “There are occasions when you can hear the mysterious language of the Earth, in water, or coming through the trees, emanating from the mosses, seeping through the undercurrents of the soil, but you have to be willing to wait and receive.”

Sometimes I hear it talking. The light of the sunflower was one language, but there are others, more audible. Once, in the redwood forest, I heard a beat, something like a drum or heart coming from the ground and trees and wind. That underground current stirred a kind of knowing inside me, a kinship and longing, a dream barely remembered that disappeared back to the body.

Another time, there was the booming voice of an ocean storm thundering from far out at sea, telling about what lived in the distance, about the rough water that would arrive, wave after wave revealing the disturbance at the center.

Tonight I walk. I am watching the sky. I think of the people who came before me and how they knew the placement of stars in the sky, watched the moving sun long and hard enough to witness how a certain angle of light touched a stone only once a year. Without written records, they knew every night, the small, fine details of the world around them and of immensity above them.

Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark, considering snow. On the dry, red road, I pass the place of the sunflower, that dark and secret location where creation took place. I wonder if it will return this summer, if it will multiply and move up to the other stand of flowers in a territorial struggle.

It’s winter and there is smoke from the fires. The square, lighted windows of houses are fogging over. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood.

Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.