Chopping "Freyja" out of the floor.

Chopping “Freyja” out of the floor.

I have three hives of bees right now, all stacked next to each other under a sun-rain roof in the upper part of our yard. The first hive I collected off a rosebush in Portland, and I call them the Rose Hive. They were a small but mighty bunch, and are now populated with thousands of new, young bees. No robber bee would think of setting so much as a toe on their entry board. The guards are always out, policing the perimeters.

My third hive, I cut out of the floorboards in someone’s home. It was a mess of a job and I got stung to pieces, but they are settling in well and are busy and focused at their door—just what you want to see. I named them the Freyja Hive after the Goddess of  War and Fertility, which I thought suited them to a Tee.

My second hive I named the Shanti Hive, as they have always been very quiet and gentle. And from the day I brought them home, I sensed that in addition to being quiet and gentle, they were just not quite right.

Now, I am very new to bees. I’ve only seen four hives in daily action in my life since I started with bees last year, but I have learned to trust my gut, and my gut said “Uh-oh.” While the Rose and Freyja hives gained in numbers and were always very intent on their work, the Shanti girls were distracted, wandering about on their entry board as though they weren’t quite sure what to do next. Sometimes no one would be attending the door at all, as if the guard bees were napping or playing bridge or something. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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imgres I was in Los Angeles a couple of weeks ago for a few days. I wrote most of this post while there, but held onto it and did not post. It seems especially timeworthy, in light of Luna and Dex:

Over the solstice, Carter’s daughter, Jessica, married a wonderful young man, David, in an informal, sweet ceremony. Southern California is about as different as it gets from my little town in Washington. I had forgotten what real traffic looked like. And wall-to-wall buildings and houses that go on forever. I was surprised to see an empty lot there, a bit of weedy wild amongst all the pavement and tamed plants.

In the course of six days there, Nature granted me two miraculous moments, unseen by anyone else in my company. The first was a hawk that catapulted down right next to our car as we were stopped at a red light. Its target was a large pigeon, who exploded in a mass of feathers as he was struck and knocked over. The whole thing happened so fast I only had a chance to blurt out “Did you see….?” before the hawk noticed the traffic and lurched back into the sky on muscle and wing. The pigeon leapt to its feet, fluffed itself, and flew off in the other direction. Lucky pigeon, I said to myself. Lucky, lucky pigeon. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 6, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Little Dex, head down.

Little Dex, head down.

The day began in a whirl of confusion. I was up early, planning carefully for a swarm removal an hour from my house. I had all my goodies packed in two large baskets: sheets, tools, carry boxes, gloves, bee jacket, honey water and far more, because you just never know what you will find when you arrive. Unless, of course, you have a brainstorm at the last minute to ask the person to send you a photo of the swarm.

Which she did. And the swarm of honey bees turned out to be a hornet nest hanging beneath her mailbox. I made a quick note to myself to always ask, from now on, for a photo, if they can get one easily.

Well, suddenly, I had about four unexpected hours on my hands. What to do? It was going to be ninety degrees by that afternoon. I was wanting something cool for dinner. So, I grabbed my large pot and put up some water to boil pasta for macaroni salad. When I dumped the pasta into the boiling water, I turned on my stove hood fan. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on July 5, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Ruby, at home.

Ruby, at home.

No doubt, you are aware that the world is a mess these days. From wars, to environmental catastrophe, to filthy politics, to gun violence, to domestic and animal abuse—you name it, we got it. I spend time pondering the why of our collective insanity, but not too much time, because pondering insanity is a waste of time. What I ponder more is how we might possibly get out of this madness and find some way back to collective health and more “humanness.” Because too many of us behave like jerks and nut balls instead of human beings, both on the public stage, and in our homes, as well.

These are a tiny assortment of the solutions I hear proposed to cure our ills: Energy independence, vote out the dopes and vote in the “good guys,” get rid of Obama, get rid of the Koch brothers, fully instigate carbon credit programs, raise/lower taxes on the rich/poor, buy an electric car, meditate, join Occupy, jail Occupy, implement permaculture everywhere right now. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on June 16, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The Melissa, Guardian of the Bee Garden, stands watch. Taku Skanskan smiles in the blue beyond.

I have been pondering this post for some time now. I always feel a great hesitancy when writing of sacred things, as I can become overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy when trying to put the holy into words. But on this sunny morning when the bees are flying and the clouds are dancing like happy children, I would like to talk about a particular quality of the Holy One that has been making its presence known to me this glorious spring.

One of the words for the Great Mystery—or Wakan Tanka—in the Lakota language is Taku Skanskan. Roughly translated, it means “Something moving,” “That which moves,” or “Something sacred is in motion.” Skan moves all things, from the arrow in flight, to the stone falling from a rock face, to the seed that springs up from the soil. It is a force that drives the animate and inanimate, the embodied and the ethereal. Skan dwells in all motion, and it thoughts, which are a form of mental movement.

 For some reason, I have become acutely sensitized to the quality of motion or movement in my life these days. There are those deliberate movements in my days, when I put my hands to kneading bread or braiding my hair, and the quality of this kind of motion is serene and focused. Then, there are those moments when a glass crashes to the floor in the kitchen and Skan sends the shards flying out in all directions and my hands rise up, alarmed, and not of their own accord. Movement with a frantic, forceful feel to it.

 Outdoors, I sense the quality of the spring breezes in all their many forms, some gentle and caressing and some whirling and charged with energy. My clematis vine moves up and out each day, too slowly for me to see were I to sit and watch, but by morning, I notice the change as the vines continue to reach always toward light. New shoots, kissed by Skan, reach up and stretch, then turn their heads to the sun. I see that there is a turning of most of life toward the sun and toward the light, and that this motion is a tender, graceful one.

 The turnings of Earth and Sun and Moon I feel in a kind of kinesthetic sense, and it is a comforting motion, hinting to me of things that can be counted on. I feel thirst coming on, coming at me, slowly, or sometimes cold jumps on me fast, and these things moving on and in me are things that can be trusted, that do not change direction or timing on some mere whim.

These things like the cosmos in motion, sound, light, thirst, and minerals moving beneath the earth, and tides shifting shorelines—these are the real things that move. The stockmarket moves, too, and humankind collectively chooses to believe its movements are real and that they force us into or out of certain actions, but I do not believe such things are Skan.

 Up at the hive entrance, my bees move in ways that communicate small bits of their life to me. Some float in lazy-eights in front of the hive, orienting themselves to their new home before they fly off to forage. Returning foragers move quickly and in a straight line for the hive door, bringing along with them a certain devotion and single-minded purposefulness to their gait. By the door, guard bees twirl and touch the incomers. Their efficient and swift hands pat and stroke and brush many of the returning bees, so that no contamination enters the sacred inner space, which is alway in motion.

 My mornings begin slowly with little movement. I sit and meditate in bed, drink my coffee, gaze out the windows at the birds and flowers, and ponder my day. It is not until I start brushing my teeth and reach to pull on my pants that I feel my limbs speeding up and tightening.

Water in its many forms---always in motion.

Water in its many forms—always in motion.

This attention to motion, I think, could be a way of life. A different kind of contemplation, where I ask myself what is moving? What is the quality and emotion of that movement? There are so many ways to contemplate the face of God, but I had never before considered motion. The face perhaps smiling, pondering, frowning, moving muscles into expression.

 I wonder, too, if death is the cessation of movement, of motion, but realize instantly that this is not true. At death, something sacred remains in motion. The soul spirits away. The body moves toward the Earth and disperses all of its molecules back into Skan.

 Looking back on the past few years, I recognize that much of my life has been fraught with a sort of desperate motion: My thoughts, my body movements, my sleep, and the challenges that visited me. I have felt that life was racing at me, and that my movements needed to be defensive to keep from being struck by the force of too much life coming too fast.

 You can only look at a situation once you are outside of it. Otherwise, you are in the jar and can’t read the label affixed to it. Only now, as Mystery has provided a soft lull, and the choppy waters of my life have settled down to soft ripples can I understand better all the many, interrelated and never ceasing movements that fuel a life. Always in motion. Life always in motion. We move, and are moved upon. We direct movement, and are danced by the movement.

It is said that all we can know of Taku Skanskan is the blue if the sky, because the sky and its color belong to this Wakan being. In the Lakota Sundance ceremony, dancers start out “in the red” and as the deprivation of the dance moves them into an alternate consciousness, the eventually, hopefully, step “into the blue.” Welcome, Dancer, to the blue. All the rest is mystery. But for now, I am feeling touched by grace that a bit of this mystery has found its way into my awareness.  What is the quality of your life today? Fast, slow, frenetic, grief-laden, light, lilting? What motion will you put into the field of Skan today? What is the feeling of the energy that is moving you today?

Darter, in slow motion...

Darter, in slow motion…



Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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000_1949It started with the peeper frogs. Theirs was the first song of spring I heard this year. Many people complain about the “noise” of the peepers, and I am sorry for them, that they are not able to allow this high, pure, angelic chorus to melt their hearts after a long winter freeze. I have no frogs in my yard right now, and the peepers are a few blocks away in the creek and in the woods, but they have big lungs on them, and the music weaves its way into my bedroom window at night over the mechanical drone of the paper mill below my house.

I have never in my adult life lived in town before, and it is a big adjustment. The seasonal sounds that stirred me all of my mature years are not so evident here. I have to listen for them, to put my attention to them so that I will not miss these holy songs. My body counts on the songs of the seasons, opening to them, morphing itself around them. The call of the geese in the fall beckons me into stillness, automatically. I don’t need to say to myself, “Susan, it’s autumn. Time to start turning within.” Because with the call of the geese in my ears, my body melts into deep quiet repose and stays there until spring…. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on March 17, 2014 in Uncategorized


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The chilling cold seems to have left my small corner of the Northwest for now. I can’t say that it won’t return before winter has its last hurrah, but we are back to our typically cloudy, mostly-wet days. There are some signs, however, that spring may be stretching her mint-green arms and yawning.

Spring Nettles

Spring Nettles

Just a couple of days ago, as we were taking Mazel for a run along the Washougal River, our dog jumped into the bushes after his ball and suddenly let out a sharp “yike!” I thought he might have hurt is paw on a blackberry sticker, but Carter pointed to some new, sprouting greenery and said, “Is that nettles?”

I bent down low, admiring the crinkly patches of leaves popping out of the ground in small bunches, like fresh nosegays, and stroked my finger along one of the leaves.

Instantly, my finger reacted with an intense burning, as though I’d pricked it with a hundred acupuncture needles. If Mazel had put his nose to this stuff, I could understand where the “yike” came from. And in that moment of burning, I was absolutely delighted… Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on February 25, 2014 in Uncategorized


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