Thursday June 8th; A Wild Kind of Love

Thursday June 8th

Partly cloudy, 70’s, full moon tomorrow, early evening

photo by natasha

 

A couple of weeks ago while they were out foraging,  Wil and our sweet friend Ben found a deer that had been killed by coyotes.

The kill was so recent that most likely Wil and Ben had scared the hunters away from their meal as they passed through, which meant that there were fresh coyote tracks scattered throughout the area, and the deer’s blood still ran liquid from its wounds.

By the time I was able to get out to check out the spot later that day, flies were already busily laying their eggs in the meat and hide, and the doe’s beautiful eyes had clouded over. Cool to the touch, eviscerated, and peppered with bite wounds, laying a hand on her flank I said a quiet thanks for the chance to see such a thing here in this fairly urban woodland, and hoped her death had been quick and as painless as possible.

Wil and I have long suspected that coywolves prowled this particular area. On the line between urban/suburban park/woodland, and the manicured greens of a popular golf course, there’s a wooded hillside closed to hikers that borders the river on one side. A stealthy wild  canine could happily reside in such a spot and hunt and forage in the surrounding areas including the edges of the city and about 500 acres of park with a healthy, thriving deer population. If I was a coywolf, its certainly the place that I would choose to call home. (Actually, I’d be happy to call such a place home as a human too! But I digress…)

We’ve looked for sign of them before and as my love of coyotes has grown over the years so have our tracking efforts. But our searching resulted in not much- a couple of questionable, dusty half-tracks, and a small sample of possible scat. And yet, all of our instincts were telling us this land was the perfect spot for them.

In recent years the Coywolf population has blossomed here in the northeast and all over eastern north america. Also called the Eastern Coyote, the name Coywolf refers to their genetic make-up, a mixture of  Eastern Wolf, Western Coyote, and Domestic Dog. As wolf populations dropped wolves began to mate with western coyotes and the coywolf hybrid was born.

Incredibly secretive, mostly nocturnal and happy dwelling in the edgy kind of habitats we humans are so fond of creating, the Coywolf is filling an incredibly important predatorial niche in habitats all over its range.

I was happy just suspecting they were living here. But to know for sure? Makes my heart skip a beat.

Because theirs is a story of adaptation, of resiliency. Of wolves and coyotes finding a way to raise families and stay alive under impossible odds and nearly constant persecution by our agricultural  society. It’s a story of shape shifting, of cultural adaptation and the survival of an ancient way of life in the face of a civilization at war with all things wild.

I would still love to see a Coywolf, and maybe I will someday. It’s an especially tantalizing thought now that I know they are actually right there, practically my neighbors.

But part of me just wants them to stay hidden. To live out their secret primal lives without human eyes, or our desires, landing upon them.

And that’s a special kind of love, a wild kind of love. The kind of love we don’t need to possess to enjoy, where just feeling the presence of another’s soul is enough, and there is great joy in knowing they are free.

This piece is dedicated to our dog Buck, who passed away a few days ago and totally broke our hearts in a way I was not expecting. He was our faithful companion for over 12 years, and was for sure woven into the very fabric of our lives. Hope you felt you had a good life buddy, and hope the hunting is good where you are now. Love you old boy, we all miss you very much.

 

Starlings, Monday May 15th

Monday, May 15th

bright sun, blue sky, 60’s, breezy,  waning gibbous moon 81% illuminated, late afternoon

“Starling” by Natasha

Here, living in the city, I am on a near constant search for signs of life. Other than human that is. And surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly) there is so much of it! I’m constantly amazed. The most lovely and delicate of ivy vines push their way up through the smallest cracks in the sidewalks, black locust flowers drip from the trees, Possums wriggle their way over our fences, and birds seek out the tiniest crevices to build their nests. One of my favorite wild neighbors is the European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

I know starlings have a bad rap. Yes, they are cavity nesters, capable of stealing precious homes from more respected, native birds. Yes they can be aggressive, and have been know to destroy or evict the eggs of their cavity competitors. Yes, they are noisy. Yes, they are a bit rumpled looking. Yes they are messy, bold, and ever present.

And yet I cannot help but love them with all of my being.

They are so tenacious! So clever! So undeniably wild even in this most domesticated of settings. A creature after my own heart.

Natives of Europe, in the late 1800’s 60 birds were released in Central Park by the Acclimatization Society, a group dedicated to bringing every bird mentioned in Shakespeare’s writings to America. Odd I know, but the plan was a success in the case of the Starlings and today they number up to 2 million individuals in North America.

“Starling” by Natasha

For weeks now Rev and I have watched several pairs of our feathered friends building nests in all the little open spaces on our block- they especially seem to the like the tiny niches in the corner of the house roofs, where the shingles meet the siding of these old city houses.

One day we planted our small yellow window box with yellow violets and lavender. Not an hour later a starling appeared, tugging on the stalks of purple and yellow flowers and carrying them up to her spot just under our roof. It turns out they often harvest aromatic plants for their nests to deter parasites. What excellent housekeepers! I like to think of her little chicks cozy in there now, growing up with the scent of lavender in the air. And yes, they do have an excellent sense of smell, as do many birds, contrary to popular belief.

Incredible mimics- they are cousins of  the mynah bird, a world renown mimic-  Starlings have been heard singing like the wood thrush, american robin, red-tailed hawk and many other birds. They are also capable of copying more urban sounds, like police sirens, car alarms, ringing phones AND human speech. I like to listen to their conversations in the morning while I drink coffee by the open window. Their high pitched squeals and squeaks  remind me of something mechanical, and Rev and I picture little robots emitting radio waves tending tiny robot eggs up above.

On our walks around town we’ve been finding tiny pieces of recently hatched and discarded eggshell on the sidewalks under their nests and blowing around the streets. Rev collected a few for his nature box and the shards are so blue and delicate they feel like little chips of sky when I hold them in my hand. Whenever possible Starling families like to use the same nesting site year after year. This house is their home as much as it is mine.

In the fall, and winter, after the babies grow up, their behavior will change. Large groups of Starlings will flock together to glean seeds and insects out of the wintering farm fields, and they will roost together at night in massive groups. They will grow a new coat  without losing the old one, and the white tips of their new feathers will make patterns of polka dots on their bellies and breasts that look like little tattoos or maps of the stars.

At dusk, or at the first sign of a predator, you might see a flock of Starlings take to the sky. They are capable of flying very fast, in very tight formations, as though they were one organism instead of many individuals. They twist and undulate and dodge and dance, in very much the same way a school of fish swims in the sea.

They call this a murmuration, which feels like the most perfect of words for such a thing. It makes me think of the word murmur of course, of  quiet conversations, and whispered thoughts.  Of heartbeats with an echo, steady and unsteady at the very same time.

And the hum the Starling wings must make, as they write one of earth’s stories across the clear, blue, sky.

“Starling” by Natasha

 

 

Sat. April 15th, I see you

Saturday April 15th

afternoon, cloudy and beautiful, 70’s, blue sky, full moon was on the 11th

photo by natasha

Last night as I washed the dishes I saw my mother’s hands. Running the sponge over each plate, cup, and bowl, each fork and spoon, I saw her small hands there in front of me, superimposed against mine. I saw her in the curve of my wrist and the slope of my shoulders. I saw her, night after night, washing dishes in her darkened kitchen, the house quiet with family either asleep or heading that way.

I saw my grandmother too. As I put away the salt, and the pepper, cleaned the counter and wiped the table. I saw her in her nightgown, with bare feet quiet against the floor, putting her house to sleep.

I saw my great grandmother as I turned out the lights and sat down on the couch to relax, to put my feet up after a full spring day.

I see them, these women, and so many more as I go through my days. I can feel them. I feel my grandmother, my father’s mother, as I plant flowers outside, feel the dark soil on my knees, and feel the cool earth on my skin. I feel my Aunts in the sound of my laugh and the crinkle by my eyes, I feel my sister in my strong hands and sure stride. I feel my cousins as I read, write, play with my son, sit in the sun , and smile.

How many women have led me to this place? How many women have carried me here, on their shoulders and in their arms? How many women do I carry in my bones, in my cells, in my heart? My women, my ancestors; all the women , all the ancestors. How many?

I can see them as I hang the laundry in the sun, dish towels flapping like prayer flags in the wind.

I can see them, washing clothes, by the river, in the bathtub, at the laundromat, in the washing machine. Alone, with others, laughing, crying, talking.

I can see them with round bellies and full breasts, nursing babies, carrying babies under their hearts and in their arms, carrying babies on their sides, shoulders, and backs, carrying the world in their hands.

I can see them building houses, sitting in offices, typing on computers, talking on the phone, presenting at meetings, painting, taking photos, writing, farming, fixing cars, working as doctors, and lawyers. I see them leading countries, leading families, leading the world.

I see them scrubbing floors, scrubbing toilets; cooking over hot stoves, open flames, in the microwave, eating out.

I see them under the blue sky, soaked with rain, walking through dusty desert, diving into icy waters of tumultuous oceans.

I see them travelling the world, in kayaks, in canoes, in ocean liners, in planes, in cars, in trains, in rocket ships.

I see them in love, I see them with broken hearts, I see them angry, excited, grieving, happy, wild with hope.

I see them, bruised and battered, abused, frightened, bound. I see them breaking those chains. I see them rising up.

I see them making homes, making families, making art, making love, making life.

I see them scared. I see them anxious. I see them worried.

I see them strong. I see them courageous. I see them brave.

I feel you all here with me as I make lunch for my small son, as I fill a cup with coffee and sit down to drink, as I watch the clouds playing across the sky through the window and let the dogs outside to run.

And I thank you. I thank all the women across the whole world, all the women across the whole world from the beginning of time, all the animal women too, because I know our experiences are much the same.

I thank you for all the work you do, the love you pour into the world each day, the rocks you carry, the secrets that you keep, and for the wild passion that lives in your heart.

I thank you. I love you. And, most importantly,

I see you.

Love,

Natasha

“mountains” embroidery by natasha

March 28th, Paint

March 28th

late afternoon, rainy and gray, 50’s, new moon yesterday

Pretty much any moment of any day I could literally start crying just thinking about the amazing treasures on this planet. I think to get the chance to live here is such a stroke of luck, it takes my breath away to dwell on it,  makes me feel a little dizzy really, like I just won some unimaginably large lottery, or am standing on the edge of some great cliff.

If you spend one minute really studying any one thing here, like the wing of  a bird for example, you will find such detail, such invention, such delicate fucking beauty there that your mind will reel with the wonder of it. And then you will wonder at the millions of billions of other things that share the planet with us, just as magnificent as a birds’ wing, just as detailed, just as inventive, and just as filled with delicate fucking beauty. Your mind will inevitably begin to wonder why people aren’t just collapsing in the streets from the sweetness of it all and the fact that it’s all so fleeting.

I think that’s why I started painting again. Because sometimes words aren’t enough.  Sometimes these tidy little letters feel like the track of a thing, when really what you’re seeking is the blood of it.

“crow” by natasha

cardboard superheroes, March 13th

March 13th

cold, high 20’s, sunny, few clouds. Large snow storm expected tonight. Full moon yesterday

This weekend we made cardboard superheroes. Wil helped the boys cut them out and then they colored them and have been playing with them non-stop. The process got me thinking.

I believe that civilization is killing the planet.  I believe that this civilization, and the western consumer culture that even at this moment spreads farther and farther across the globe, is completely at odds with delicate ecological structure of this planet. I believe our civilization, and our culture as it exists right now, is doomed to fail, and indeed is failing now. Even as we speak we are losing species. Even as I sit here typing this the planet’s very climate shifts in ways completely out of our control.

But, I also believe wholeheartedly in the earth’s capacity to create. In her ability to roll with the punches, in her ability to change, to adapt, to stun us with her resiliency and creativity. She truly is the mother of invention, and the mother of us all.

As her children, we too, carry her bold instinct for survival, her desire for life, and her ability to create.

At our worst we are mean. We are small. We act out of fear and in a blind kind of panic.

But at our best? We are fully alive. We envision. We make, we  generate, we re-generate. We mimic. We invent. We love.

At our worst we are very bad.

But at our best? We are a wonder. A creature like any other, with an enormous capacity for adaptation and change.

I believe our civilization is killing the planet. I believe it is completely at odds with the ecological processes that must be able to happen here for us all to survive, for the earth to survive. But does that make me sad? No, not really.

Because I look at my child, the kids in my life. I spend time with them. I watch them making things. Drawing, inventing, crafting, creating. I see them playing, how their brains have an endless capacity for invention, and how their spirits are not yet dimmed by the the toughness of life.

There is a way forward here, I just know, I feel it. In order to transform our culture, if there is a way to truly change this civilization, the blueprint of a new world, and the map for the journey is most certainly held in the earth beneath our feet, woven among the stars in the sky and written in our very own hearts.

Another way of living is possible. Truly it is. It has existed before and can exist again.

So make, create. With abandon. Let’s sharpen our minds, and busy our hands. Let’s teach our children to do the same.

Because if a  mind can see a superhero in a box made of cardboard, certainly that same mind will have a chance at helping to lead us out of this box.

That’s the stuff that superheroes are made of. They’re scrappy. They’re bright. They’re brave.

And they most certainly are what we need right now.

cardboard superheroes by Wil and the boys

March 7th

March 7th

warm, rainy in the morning, damp, 50’s. moon phase: waxing gibbous with 74% of disc illuminated

My favorite thing about unschooling, is that there is no distinction between “learning” and “living.” Learning can happen anytime, and does happen all the time, in a million different ways.

Today, unschooling looks like going to the local natural history museum to play with friends.

It looks like wearing pajama pants in the afternoon and making art .

Revel art:

Revel making a painting of his favorite animal, an American Bison (Bison bison)

And mama art:

Sketching a Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio troilus) we picked up off the forest floor last summer, already had died. It fluttered out of a book we had pressed it in the other day, a little reminder of summer. by natasha

And it looks like finding some of the first flowers of spring:

Painting of Common Snow Drop (Galanthus nivalis) we found near the creek at one of our favorite park. by natasha

Will unschooling be the right education option for Revel’s entire school career? I have no idea. We will just evaluate as we go. But I do believe humans love to learn. And experiment. And adventure. And we thrive when our lives are full of rich experiences, friendship, nature, and love. So for now, unschooling suits us very well, and fits into our lives in a way that feels very natural and quite beautiful and delightfully wild.

January 19th

January 19th

50’s, warm, cloudy, light sun, 12:57

A few years ago, in one of our favorite parks on the edge of town, the boys and I found a dead deer along the bank of the little conestoga creek. They were still super little, and were so bundled up in their little snow pants and jackets and mittens and hats that they could barely move that day. They were fascinated by the deer in sort of an offhand way, spent a little bit of time looking at it and then went about their business. Later we brought will back and he harvested the antlers, intending to use them for flint knapping or other projects. So the park was christened “the deer park” by the boys and we’ve called it that ever since.

Yesterday we picked up Zander from school and decided to head over to the deer park for a little romp.The understory there is very tangled and thick, filled with multiflora rose and stinging nettles and it’s nearly impossible to explore off trail during the summer months, so we hadn’t been to the old deer site for quite awhile, as it’s well off the beaten path.

There, lo and behold, was the skull of the old deer and some of the bones. The remains had been strewn about a bit and quite a few had been carried off out of sight. We looked for tracks and noticed all the little places where rodents and gnawed with their little teeth, seeking calcium and other hard to find nutrients, and then we collected the skull and a few of the vertebrae and leg bones, a scapula and some ribs to study at home.
The boys are both fascinated by the presence of bones, within their own bodies, and the ones we come across when we’re out exploring. I’m fascinated by them too, to be honest. How reassuring it is that something so sturdy lies just below the surface of such delicate bodies, and how we are put together in such a delicate, and complicated, way.

20170302_121939
White tailed deer scapula. by natasha
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white tailed deer vertebrae. by natasha
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White tailed deer skull. by natasha

 

A Journey Through Everyday Life