These Halcyon Solstice Days

CandlesThere is an old Greek myth about ‘halcyon days’. The idea springs from a story about the halcyon (from the kingfisher family), about which Aristotle has this to say:

‘The halcyon breeds at the season of the winter solstice. Accordingly, when this season is marked with calm weather, the name of “halcyon days” is given to the seven days preceding, as to as many following, the solstice … The halcyon is said to take seven days for building her nest, and the other seven for laying and hatching her eggs.’

These words are from Celtic psychologist and storyteller Dr Sharon Blackie. (Read her post here.)

Sharon goes on to describe her Solstice practice of sharing stories for these dark days – seven days before December 21st and seven days after, when Earth begins her slow turn to the light. I’m adopting her idea for personal use. These cold dark days are fecund days for the human soul – days for deep discernment. I intend to honor them by setting aside intentional time each day to listen to the Earth, to the Holy, to my soul. I wonder what will emerge. Will you join me?

Why Keep Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument? Here’s Why.

Why we need the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument

Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument: Pilot Rock from Boccard Point (Photo by Barb Morris)

Here’s my response to a Bend Bulletin editorial signing on to Interior Secretary Zinke’s leaked memo recommending that Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument be shrunk. You can read the Bulletin’s editorial here.

Thank you for your recent editorial “Cascade-Siskiyou should be shrunk” (September 20, 2017), which concludes with these sentences: “Unlike his predecessors, Zinke clearly sees the value of keeping public land open to the public and assuring that earlier promises such as those given when the O&C Lands were set aside in 1937 be honored. It’s difficult to argue with either.”

I deeply appreciate our American right to free speech and this opportunity to respectfully argue with both statements.

 

  1. Public lands, including the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument (CSNM), are, and will remain, open to the public. The CSNM proclamation and expansion simply changes the designation of these public lands. In fact, these lands are more open to more people than when they were managed primarily for timber production. There are roads throughout the Monument. Existing hiking trails have been improved and new trails constructed. Hunting has improved due to BLM management for mule deer winter range. Tribal cultural sites are better protected and more accessible. Private property owners’ rights of way are explicitly preserved. The expansion proclamation includes the directive to plan for mountain bike and snowmobile access. I could go on.

 

  1. Of course we can, and should, revisit land use decisions made eighty years ago. In 1937 we knew virtually nothing about biodiversity, ecosystems, population growth, human impacts on the environment, and climate change.

In 1937, “biodiversity” wasn’t even a word. Biodiversity wouldn’t be talked about until the 1980s. Ecology and Conservation Biology as disciplines within science were decades away. Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, about the interrelationships of living and non-living beings and managing for the health of the land as a whole, ideas now widely accepted, wouldn’t be published until 1949.

In 1937, Oregon’s population was 1,025,000 and California’s was 6,300,000. In 2016, Oregon’s population was estimated at 4,028,977 and California’s at 39,500,000. That’s phenomenal growth. Along with that growth comes dramatically increased pressure on the land.

In 1937, automobile ownership per capita was still low. People who did have cars didn’t drive into the backcountry lightly. Cell phones, plastic water bottles, GPS, and the internet were decades in the future.

In 1937, we didn’t have any inkling that our climate would change, and that the CSNM’s biodiversity would be a crucial sanctuary for species threatened by extinction.

There are approximately 2.5 million acres of O&C Lands in Oregon. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument contains about 40,000 acres of O&C land, and much of that 40,000 isn’t actually timber-producing for various reasons. At most, that’s 1.6% of O&C taken out of timber production, hardly significant in the grand scheme of things. This debate isn’t about timber production. It’s about values.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument sits at the confluence of three mountain ranges. One of these ranges, the Siskiyou Mountains, is an unusual east-west range which forms a high-elevation land bridge between the Klamath and Cascade Mountains. This bridge has allowed plant and animal species to travel back and forth for hundreds of thousands of years. As a result, plant species diversity in the CSNM is incredibly high. High plant diversity leads in turn to high diversity of bird and insect species. Diversity is necessary for healthy life on Earth to persist and evolve. We imperil our survival as a species when we destroy vital habitat for ourselves and our non-human relatives and neighbors.

We knew none of this in 1937.

The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument has been studied up one side and down the other since the 1980s, when the concept of biodiversity first emerged.  There are millions of acres of public land better suited for timber production, grazing, and OHV riding. Let’s maintain the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument’s bountiful diversity of plants and animals as best we can, given the realities of 2017.

Seven Things I Wish I’d Known about Change Fifty Years Ago

Swallowtail on thistleI’m 59 years old. Maybe I’m just a slow learner, and everyone else knows this stuff already. But, just in case, here are seven things I’ve recently learned about change that I wish I’d known fifty years ago

1. Change is normal.

Childhood is not an assembly line from which we emerge ready to roll at 21 years old. I know. This seems obvious, right? But this mechanistic model of human development pervades our culture. The idea that we should have our shit together and our ducks in a row by our early twenties is pervasive and harmful and everywhere. In this model, change feels like brokenness rather than aliveness. And women, because our bodies change more way than men’s, pay a steeper price.

Change is a big deal, and it can rock our world. We need to find ways to support and help ourselves through it, rather than beating ourselves up when we don’t navigate it smoothly.

We were not taught, most of us, how to do this.

Change is encoded into the DNA of the world. Even nonliving Earthly entities are constantly changing. Planets circle. Tides go in and out. Water cycles. Rocks become dirt.

 

2. Every change is loss.

Every change is a death and rebirth. Even the happy changes involve loss. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end,” sing Semisonic in “Closing Time.” In this season of graduations and weddings, let’s acknowledge that even changes we’ve longed for and dreamed of require the death of something. Maybe it’s not much of anything, but there’s always something we leave behind that we value.

 

3. Change does not equal transformation.

Change is inevitable, but transformation is optional. And it’s transformation that we need to undergo in order to move forward. We need to acknowledge, and grieve, the death and loss inherent in any change so we can make room for new life. Yes, again, even the happy changes. (See William Bridges’ Transitions for a lot more on this topic. What he calls “transition” I’m labeling “transformation.”)

We can opt out of transformation, though. We can just let our physical realities shift while refusing to acknowledge and deal with the grief inherent in change. This refusal will bite us in the butt, eventually. Refusing to consciously transform, even when a change is unwanted, will leave us with a burden of bitterness, regret, and stuckness that will eventually require attention.

 

4. Change has resonance.

We tend to do change the same way over and over, unless we bring our patterns to conscious awareness. This is fine if we’re ninja change masters and we handle transformation with grace and ease.

The first big change I remember is when my family fell apart. My dad’s drinking and my parents’ fighting; violence in the house; my dad moving out followed by divorce; my big brother going to live with my dad; losing our house in the woods, our horses, and our dog –  all from 6th to 8th grade. I felt completely out of control, because I was. So I learned that I wasn’t in charge of my life. I learned to just close my eyes, keep my head down, and hang on, because there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about any of it.

Since then, I’ve left multiple homes and jobs I loved because my husband was pursuing his career. I did this willingly. I behaved as though I didn’t have a choice, and I didn’t thoroughly grieve those losses. I didn’t consciously refuse to transform, I just didn’t know any better.

 

5. Change has a predictable pattern.

A common metaphor for this pattern is a butterfly’s life cycle. It’s a really good metaphor.

First, the caterpillar has no choice. She simply runs out of steam and has to stop. Then she creates a chrysalis for herself, inside which she COMPLETELY MELTS DOWN. Next, she has to wait, be goo, and let the imaginal cells do their work of remaking her. This stage cannot be rushed, for butterflies or for people. Because we’re conscious beings, we’re aware of how uncomfortable and counter-cultural this waiting is. It’s an unknown territory, not-this-anymore-but-not-yet-that, and we often panic. Rushing is a mistake. This is where faith comes in. Finally, when it’s time and the work of the chrysalis is done, we are reborn.

This pattern of transformation is everywhere.

 

6. Change is cycles within cycles.

Change isn’t linear. See number one. We will almost certainly be in the dying phase of one cycle and be feeling reborn in another area of our lives. For example, I’m coming to terms with being almost sixty, entering the final decades of my life. I’m grieving the loss of my young body and the physical resilience I’ve taken for granted. At the same time, I’m experiencing a profound rebirth of purpose as I commit to my life coaching practice and to writing.

Cell turnover, cell death and rebirth, is going on at a furious clip within my aging body, just as the day cycles within the moon cycles within the cycles of the seasons, all within the context of Earth’s life and death, which is in turn embedded in a Universe with a beginning and an end.

If you believe there’s solid ground somewhere and all you have to do is find it, good luck with that.

 

7. We’re never done.

Simple as that. We’re never done changing, not until we die. Not even after we die, probably, because the atoms and molecules that made up US are entangled with each other even after our bodies decompose and return to Earth. They are reborn as something or someone else, which is always part of us in some mysterious way. So even after we die, we continue as part of the dance.

And isn’t that wonderful?

If you’d like to continue the conversation, please leave a comment below. If you’re interested in coaching, I offer a free one-hour consultation. Follow this link for details!