The Bear is the keeper of the dream time, and stores the teachings of dreams until the dreamer wakes up to them. Many Native American tribes have called this space of inner-knowing the Dream Lodge, where the death of the illusion of physical reality overlays the expansiveness of eternity.
Cats and dogs and other wee creatures are good friends to writers and poets. They keep us company through long solitary days of work. They force us to get up, move around, walk, use our distance vision … take a break.
After years of nurturing all sorts of animals – we had a variety when my son was little – my docs told me no more birds, cats, rats, goldfish, beta, hamsters, or gerbils. Dogs, for some reason, seemed okay and I’ve had two in recent years. I adopted Bob Seeger Dedes at the end of September and by October I had to surrender him, my allergies kicked in to the point that my eyes were swollen shut and it was hard to get out of bed. I’m devastated, but Bob was taken into a good home within days of surrender, such is his charm.
In loving memory of all the fish babies and love birds, of Gerry 1 and Gerry 2, Sherlock Holmes the Rat, Priscilla, Tigger, Bubba Cat, Telemachus, Dexter, Feyd, Buddy, Brutus, Skippy the Bush Dog, and The Bax.
My son looked at Pyewacket. “She’s either the smallest Holstein or the biggest cat.” She was big … and reserved. She was a lady of the old school and a contrast to Gypsy, a feline with some distant kinship to Peter Pan. Gypsy didn’t want to grow up. We thought she might be a munchkin, a hyperkinetic one. Where Pyewacket watched the world from behind wide Yoda eyes, Gypsy, like a stranger from another planet, was inclined to place her head in the mouths of huge dogs, bend metal blinds with bare claws, set rivers loose with bounding leaps into water bowls and – disguised as an innocent kitty – create havoc to the disgust of Pyewacket who had Yoda’s eyes but not his stoicism.
Here we are – at the vet – the munchkin and the Holstein – a pair reminiscent of Mr. & Mrs. Sprat of fairytale fame. The recommendations: prescription diets for both, exercise for Pyewacket. “Get something for her to chase.”
That’s when I got Tweety Pie. She lived in the corner of the living room and hung out on a string that was attached to a length of bamboo. She licked her beak at the thought of two cats to outsmart. Back and forth, too and fro, she flew across the room. Pyewacket turned a blind-eye on the indignity of the chase, but Gypsy couldn’t get enough.
Time passed as it is wont to do. Pye stayed her plump and meditative self. Gypsy remained scrawny, endlessly chasing Tweetie Pie and leaping from tabletops and counters. One day I woke up too weak to walk. The docs did their best to repair the damage my deranged immune system had wrecked. Their best was very good indeed. Still, it was difficult to keep up with Gypsy. My world-class son and beautiful daughter-in-law adopted Gypsy.
Pyewacket stayed with me and we took care of one another, though eventually kidney failure – common in cats – had the last word. Pyewacket started her walk to the Rainbow Bridge. Every few steps she turned and looked back, the sadness in her Yoda eyes more profound than ever. Years later Gypsy left. I wasn’t with her but envision Gypsy leaping across the Bridge. True to herself, no backward glances, just on to the next adventure.
The Reign of Paws was filled with smiles and love, but cats don’t live as long as humans. Loss is expected, inevitable, heartbreaking. Still, I regret nothing. Some of our best family memories include our kitties and they’ve inspired more than one story or poem by more than one of us.
Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication. I currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded. I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, Second Light, I Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read byNorthern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”
“What if our religion was each other. If our practice was our life. If prayer, our words. What if the temple was the Earth. If forests were our church. If holy water–the rivers, lakes, and ocean. What if meditation was our relationships. If the teacher was life. If wisdom was self-knowledge. If love was the center of our being.” Ganga White, teacher and exponent of Yoga and founder of White Lotus, a Yoga center and retreat house in Santa Barbara, CA
“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton
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‘The spirit of the wolf resides in my heart
Mostly peacefully, but ever wild
Running in time to the blowing wind,
Dancing in the clouds that drift in the heavens
The spirit of the wolf resides in my soul.” – Gretchen Del Rio
The Howl or How Wild Women Press Came to Be
by Victoria Bennett
At twenty-six, I met an owl. It turned out to be one of the axis moments on which my life pivoted. It was a cold January day where frost lingered in the shade but the sun was shining, the kind of day where things seems possible because you have survived the darkness of winter. The trees stood bare of leaves, branch-fingers stretched out expectantly, waiting for Spring. I was waiting too, holding a sense of change quietly behind my eyes. I watched the crows fly, black wings against blue sky, looking for carrion, listened only to the sound of water and wind and some crow caw above. This was what I was trying to remember – the feel of my touch, the scent of the sky, the hopeful warmth of sun just after the midwinter. My life had become so much darkness, so much noise and pollution and not seeing. This was the counterbalance and so far, it was working. Slow, slow days, allowing the words to surface and sound and where words could not come, allowing the brush to paint or the body to move. All was changing. I was changing. The woman I was underneath was beginning to take shape, and to my surprise, I liked her.
But first, the owl. I was stood beside the ash, eyes closed, when I heard a scratch from above. I opened my eyes and saw the owl, white feathers thick for winter, watching me. Awake. Not daring to move, I simply looked and allowed it to look at me, until after a few moments, it flew away. The owl came, and I was listening because I was ready to hear, and I was ready, it seemed, to shift shape again.
One week after the owl and I met, I had a dream. In this dream, I was with a woman walking along the river. She told me I was to call the Wild Women together. This did not seem strange or unusually prophetic. I had found a deep resonance with the stories I had found in the Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ book Women Who Run with the Wolves and so the archetype of the Wild Woman was something I was familiar with, but the sense of purpose was surprising, and so, the next morning I got up and started to write the posters for what was to be the very first of the Wild Women workshops.
Six weeks later, I stood in my living room, the fire in the stove burning and the tea hot in the pot. Before me sat twelve women, very different in ages and styles, but all sharing something special: they had all responded to the call. And so it came to be, the Wild Women group was born and I was to be their mother-wolf for this journey. As I stood there, faced with women whose individual and collective ages outstripped my own, I felt petrified. Who was I to stand here and say “this is the way of being woman”? Yet, that is exactly what I was to do. I did not know where it would take us, take me. I was just willing to begin, brave enough to speak out and hopeful enough to believe.
… and in that one word, I started something that would sustain me through my twenties, thirties and into my forties. I had met my clan. Together, we found the courage to stand up and say, “This is who I am…”.
That was nearly twenty years ago. Since then, working with the Wild Women, I have gone on to set up Wild Women Press, published several books of poetry from the group, worked with over 2000 women (and some brave men) on a number of amazing projects, hosted the (in)famous Wild Women Salons, made creative connections around the globe, and performed live at events around the UK and USA. It is a space of celebration and activism. There is no business plan or professional career path. It can lie dormant, hibernating as we nuzzle down and grow our ideas in the dark, or it can awake with passion and create for change on a global scale. We have used our creativity to create positive change, to be part of the world we want to live in andleave for those who follow. Sometimes we act on a very local level, sometimes on a global one.
Recently, I have been collaborating with the creators of the #MeToo poetry anthology. This is a very important movement for me personally, and for us as a group. As soon as I heard Deborah Alma was wanting to put together an anthology of poems from this movement, I offered my support, and the platform of Wild Women Press. It was obvious from the very beginning that there would be many more poems than there were pages in the book, and so #UsTogether was created, to give a platform for some of these other voices. Alongside the launch of the book, Wild Women Press are hosting a selection of these poems, in honour and celebration of the courage and sisterhood of all those who have spoken out as part of the #MeToo movement.
One of the core aspects of the group is the respect and celebration of each individual woman. Although in the beginning it was me who stood at the front of the room, every woman in the group was to go on to inspire and lead, using their own experiences, passions, talents, and knowledge to guide them in how they would to do that. In a similar vein, we will be launching an online Wild Women Press blog later in 2018, sharing our ideas and perspectives. Over the next year, we will be gathering Wild Women from around the globe to contribute, extending our circle of clan further. We would love to hear from other women, who would like to be part of a clan of contributors.If you are passionate about something, and would like to be part of a global group of Wild Women writing, creating, and being part of a positive change, please do get in touch.
In 2019, it will be our 20th Anniversary, and 20 years since we published our first book, Howl at the Moon: Writings By Wild Women. To celebrate this, we will be publishing a new book of poems by Wild Women – and this time, we are extending the howl out to others. We will be putting out the call for submissions soon, on our website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
For now, we continue to meet as a group every couple of months, and once a year, we spend four days at our Wild Women Gathering, celebrating, creating, and sharing our stories (and eating way too much food). We have witnessed births, marriages, divorces, unemployment, career changes, graduations, new beginnings, and painful goodbyes. What began as a workshop group, has become a place we now call home, and a wild family. You can sometimes find us on the fells or beside fires. We howl often, laugh lots, and when prompted, bare our teeth. Our coats are all a little more silver, and our eyes a little more wise, but we are still discovering. We are the Wild Women, and we welcome you.
VICTORIA BENNET (Wild Woman Press) is an award-winning poet, creative activist and full-time home-educating Wild Mama to her son, Django. Originating from the borderlands below Scotland, she is the Founder of Wild Women Press and has spent the last quarter of a century instigating creative experiences in her community. Her poetry has appeared in print, online and even in the popular video game, Minecraft. She has published four collections and performed live across the UK, from Glastonbury Festival to a Franciscan Convent.
Poetry publications include:
Anchoring the Light
Byron Makes His Bed My Mother’s House – a Poetry & Minecraft Collaboration with Adam Clarke, that explores grief and letting go
What We Now Know – digital VR music collaboration with Adam Clarke and The Bookshop Band, inspired by the #MeToo anthology
returned to bite through the umbilical of tradition,
to flick her tongue
and cut loose the animus-god of our parents,
like a panther she roams the earth, she is eve wild in the night,
freeing minds from hard shells
and hearts from the confines of their cages,
she’s entwined in the woodlands of our psyches
and offers her silken locks to the sacred forests of our souls ~
naked but for her righteousness,
she stands in primal light,
in the untrammeled river of dreams
the yin to balance yang
the cup of peace to uncross the swords of war ~
through the eons she’s been waiting for her time
her quiet numinosity hiding in the phenomenal world,
in the cyclical renewal of mother earth,
whispering to us in the silver intuition of grandmother moon
watching us as the loving vigilance of a warming sun ~
she, omen of peace birthed out of the dark,
even as tradition tries to block her return,
her power leaps from the cleavage of time
Illustration ~ the lovely watercolor painting by Gretchen Del Rio with its girl-tree, panther and other spirit animals was the inspiration for my poem, Her Power Leaps, on the return of the divine feminine. The back-story on the painting is interesting. Gretchen says, “I painted this for a fourteen year old Navaho girl. It is for her protection and her power. She sees auras and is very disturbed by this. She is just amazing. Beauty beyond any words. You can see into the soul of the universe when you look at her eyes. She has no idea. I loved her the moment I saw her. My blessings for her well being are woven into the art.” Such a delightful piece. I purposely posted it full-size so that everyone can enjoy the detail. Bravo, Gretchen, and thank you. / Jamie Dedes
Baxter died of kidney failure Wednesday evening. I held him in my arms as he went painlessly, fearlessly and peacefully into that good night. If there is a literal heaven, then surely Bax passed through whatever doggie door there may be into that Eternity.
Much thanks to Muttville, Joe and Raphael for the gift of Bax. They saved him from premature death in a rescue that has a kill-policy. Muttville is an elder-dog rescue with a no-kill policy. They rock big time.
Much appreciation for Dr. Linda Hall of Peninsula Avenue Veterinary Clinic in San Mateo for compassionate and professional care. We love her and recommend her without reservation.
We are fortunate to have Pet’s Rest Cemetary and Crematory available to us in this area. They also provided our family with gentle and respectful service when our feline family member, Gypsy Rose, died a while back. Javier is kind.
Our love and appreciation for professional jazz singer and world-class friend, Candice Hawley, for getting us back and forth to Linda Hall and Pet’s Rest and other related appointments and errands. Before we went in for our last visit with Dr. Hall, Candice took Bax’s paw and sent him off with a prayerful good-bye.
And most of all our love to my son, Richard, and my beautiful daughter-in-law – writer, blogger and photographer – Karen Fayeth – for loving Bax so much and having my back in this as in everything. ♥
I hope to return to email and Facebook and to my regular posting schedule on WordPress this Sunday with Sunday Announcements. Meanwhile thank you for the kind and understanding comments (here and Facebook) and for the messages and emails.
Tribute To A Best Friend
Sunlight streams through window pane
unto a spot on the floor….
then I remember,
it’s where you used to lie,
but now you are no more.
Our feet walk down a hall of carpet,
and muted echoes sound….
then I remember,
It’s where your paws would joyously abound.
A voice is heard along the road,
and up beyond the hill,
then I remember it can’t be yours….
your golden voice is still.
But I’ll take that vacant spot of floor
and empty muted hall
and lay them with the absent voice
and unused dish along the wall.
I’ll wrap these treasured memorials
in a blanket of my love
and keep them for my best friend
until we meet above.
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