Monday, February 29, 2016


The genome.  Then the connectome.  The epigenome.  And now the hologenome, which is the creature plus all the other microbial life forms that cuddle down with us.  Maybe feed on us.  Insert their genes in among the spirals that we thought were only ours, because they were the plan for us.  We think of them as infections but they are elaborations.  The holobiont is the “whole shebang,”  connected and dynamic.  It’s all ecology: the logic of interactions and fittingness.

I suppose we ought to include the molecules we ingest as medicines, escapes, food, and — well, just accidental soak-ups from breathing, bathing, rubbing up against things.  This is an Age of Inclusion despite our complaints and rejections, our attempts to insist on boundaries.

So the docs talk about leverage, probiotic epidemics, niches, dysbiosis, protective commensals, and fecal transplants.  Mucus earns a new respect because it harbors so much.  Then there’s the “envirome” where the creature grapples with and seduces what’s around it on every level, including the emotional.  This is why I’m an “everythingist.”

Dr. Stan Rowe, U of Saskatchewan faculty

In 1988 in Saskatoon, Stan Rowe was one of my heroes.  He was proposing this point of view explored by Max Tegmark, as linked below, one of the constant attempts to unite science, religion, and human experience (philosophy included).  I think a lot of people think this way, quietly in order to avoid the yapping opportunist media.  Stan talked about “slices of space/time” and I tried to pass on his thoughts in Sunday sermons.

I copied and pasted these from, in case the US site doesn’t show them.

Home Place: Essays on Ecology, new revised edition  Oct 16 2002  by Stan Rowe

Earth Alive: Essays on Ecology
  Apr 15 2006  by Stan Rowe

Max “the braidman” says, “Some people find it emotionally displeasing to think of themselves as a collection of particles. I got a good laugh back in my 20s when my friend Emil addressed my friend Mats as an “atomhög,” Swedish for “atom heap,” in an attempt to insult him. However, if someone says “I can’t believe I’m just a heap of atoms!’’ I object to the use of the word “just”: the elaborate spacetime braid that corresponds to their mind is hands down the most beautifully complex type of pattern we’ve ever encountered in our universe. The world’s fastest computer, the Grand Canyon or even the Sun—their spacetime patterns are all simple in comparison.”

Articles like these two in make me dizzy with the joy of insight.  Dennis Overbye explains in this linked NY Times article that the ‘zine is a bit of a throwback to a time a few decades ago when there were more magazines like it.


At the time, mostly ’70’s, the one I went absolutely crazy over was “The Sciences” published by The New York Academy of Sciences.  I kept breaking my rule about not hoarding magazines because the issues were both so amazing and so beautiful.  In fact, my use of images on prairiemary is inspired by “The Sciences” though they used contemporary art and abstract impressionist paintings, very sophisticated.  This frame of reference that unites art with science is one of my affinities to Tim Barrus and Aad de Gids. I suppose it’s structuralist and deconstructive at once.  Open to argument and the startling.

Ralph Burhoe, founder of Zygon

These days I admire the online magazine Aeon, which is peripherally connected to through the Templeton Foundation, which gave its very first prize to Ralph Burhoe, then associated with Meadville/Lombard.  We weren’t very appreciative of Burhoe and his magazine.  Maybe because, in Gertrude Stein terms, there was no “there” yet in his attempt to unite science and religion.  In 1980 it was just early "process theology".  My problem was that I never could see the difference between science and religion in the first place and don’t appreciate math at all, but Burhoe loved all that stuff, all the apparatus of thought.

Spencer Burhoe, sexy male model

My complaint about Aeon has been that it’s too Anglican culture-bound.  They’ve never gotten down to the homonin layer because they are always in their pre-frontal cortex hobnobbing with respectable libraries.  I like a little porn in my spirituality.  They manage to talk about generations without ever really getting to full-frontal sex.   Less Buddhism, more Hindu!  More autonomic juice!

This vid is pretty seductive:    It’s Uma Thurman’s dad.  I love the short vids on Aeon.

In the end, in terms of congregations and the paranoid threat of being “religious”, or “institutional” or “dogmatic,” I think — not to worry — but some kind of “denomination” (group with a name, nomenclature) is forming now with many small starts here and there, maybe not understood as religious and maybe not much more than a “house church” that meets in someone’s home.  

Some will consider it “post-Christian” but that’s just because they are as Christocentric as they are anthropocentric.  They don’t frame life in cosmic terms yet.  Or even consider the planetary.  I think this nascent movement is simply a response to the Kuhnian phenomenon of re-organizing thought and belief because of the need to accommodate new information.  

This time it’s pretty extreme because there is so much knowledge and it’s so counter-intuitive.  But I do not think that anyone will be prepared to torture those who refuse to admit that there is a genome.  Well, maybe if they realize it’s a description of how we evolved from monkeys.

Just now in one of those Sharia nations a man who blogged about atheism has been condemned to decades in prison, 2,000 lashes of flogging and a huge money fine.  The people who have the power to do this are showing that they have no power except the power of fear and paranoia.  Their rifle has a barrel that turns back on their own faces.  I doubt they have enough time left in their regime to carry out the sentence to the end.  

Even if they do, their insane reaction will recruit many others to follow the informed man.  That’s the way human culture works.  You can’t resist the whole planet anymore because you can’t put up walls against ideas when people have smart phones in their pockets.  But I ache for the guy.  Like everything else, we’re connected.  Also to the floggers, of course.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


About 1966

At an early age it was my life decision never to get pregnant.  The gynies write down “null partum” on my chart.  They didn’t believe I haven’t at least had an abortion.  I had an absolute rule that I would not consort with a man who wasn’t sterile.  There weren’t many of them and they were older.  My actual husband was twice my age.  There was plenty of canoodling in that consortium and in fact he had quite a colorful reputation.

The reason I didn’t have children were:

a) I wanted to be a free spirit who didn’t have to always give up my own goals in order to feed and house children;

b) I never found a man who would or could dependably and healthily help raise children — many of them wanted to BE children.

c)  My extended family (cousins and sibs) dropped the family gatherings and the sense of connection.

d)  As far as I could understand, World War never ended — it just moved around and made different groups into refugees.  Walk for miles across barren lands carrying a starving child?  No.  And don't tell me it can't happen here.  Ask an Indian.

Trail of Tears

e)  I was physically terrified of pregnancy and childbirth which seemed to me like a form of cancer.  The prospect of a larval parasite growing inside me was quite accurately depicted in the “Alien” movies.

f)  In my day (b 1939) out-of-wedlock pregnancy was a social disaster — not unlike a social death sentence.  

g)  Marriage was everything (very much entwined with pregnancy) and my mother's worst fear for me was her worst curse: “no one will ever marry you.”  It was the taunt against her as a young woman (she married at thirty) and then converted to teasing predictions that her husband would leave her.  This was totally unjustified. 

h)  I have discovered that men will try to attach to me for reasons other than sex and if they are turned away, they become vengeful, not because of jealousy but because of need. 

h)  My social skills stink.  I’m always reacting as though I were in some other century, some other country, some other part of town.  Some people thought I was crazy and I was determined not to pass it on.

i)  I don’t fit with women.  Maybe one or two.  My political and sentimental patterns are so different they seem hostile.

i)  If I had a child, it would have such an intense grip on my heart that I would kill to protect it and give my own life to save it.  Attachment to cats or maybe very close friends via email is about as much as I can handle, but the people closest to me are male.

The situation on my father’s side was a little different from that on my mother’s side.  Both sides were country people, but my grandfather was well-educated in Scotland and my grandmother taught until she married and homesteaded in South Dakota.  (Brulé Sioux country: Faulkton, established after the Sioux were moved to Rosebud.)  Her first infant was premature because she rode the wagon to town late in pregnancy.  He lived 17 days.  Her sister ran off with an improvident man because she was pregnant by accident. She died in childbirth. 

My grandfather is back center

Beulah, my grandmother, was never hearty and in that inland part of the continent before iodized salt, had health troubles that developed into goiter and pushed the family to relocate to Portland, OR, where the food was often from the sea.  I think she was carrying endocrine flaws, possibly at the level of the epigenome.  She was very strict and a WCTU member because of her brother’s alcoholism.  But no one on that side is religious, just very conscious of propriety.

On my mother’s side the confusions were emotional and connected directly to class, wealth and success.  The siblings married another rural family stream that followed those principles regardless of sin, law and relationships.  But it was as though my father thought subsistence was the only level of prosperity that was safe.  He just never was ambitious and neither were my brothers.  My mother compensated.

All of this affected my understanding of family, marriage and children.  I never saw children as unconnected to those forces or as unconnected to other life on the planet.  To me a baby is not an object, not a doll.  But a doll, even a paper doll, can in my imagination become a Pinocchio, a Velveteen Rabbit.  I worry about them.  Some of them (yeah, the Pinocchios) don’t like that.

University of Manitoba

My father’s education was at the University of Manitoba where his roommate was part of the “Green Revolution”, improved crops that they hoped would end famine, but it didn’t.  If there was more food, the people on the edge had more children, because children were a form of wealth and insurance.  I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of overpopulation and it's tense relationship to grain.

I didn’t escape other people’s children, most directly my step-daughter’s children, whose mother’s early death of cancer left them traumatized and confused in the care of their biological father who had remarried a woman with many children.  It was a freeforall.  They sought love where they could in many different forms, mostly alcohol and sex, but also in achievement. 
Ellison Westgarth MacFie Scriver and Mary Strachan Scriver (me)

Bob had never raised his own children (I was a third wife) and was unreal about his grandchildren.  His mother, their great-grandmother or “Little Grandma”, had never grown up emotionally and did not help, though she mimed being the fond grandmother.  In the end she wanted an orderly prosperous life with one Boston Bull terrier and the pretty daughter of her other son.  It was not narcissism so much as theatre, and children never follow the script.

The place that would have been occupied by babies of my own genome was taken up by animal children.  My arms and pillow were often occupied by pups and kits, but they were transient, only needing months to grow up and leave.  If you put a human baby in my arms, my emotional reaction is so strong that I turn red and begin to sweat, heart pounding.

Me, my mother, and brother.
I was highly skeptical of these baby creatures.

So babies are to me something like bombs, carrying demands and consequences that are nearly impossible to meet.  I think that to my mother her babies were like that except that she managed to give me what she had most wanted:  to finish her college degree and to have a proper wedding.  I didn’t much care about them except as means to a life of my own, but even then I had to take refuge with her again a few times.  By that time my father, who had a closed skull concussion in 1948, was dead, but my youngest brother had also come home with brain damage and so the pattern repeated.

I’m glad I never had children.  The brother who had hit his head so hard turned out to have an excellent healthy daughter whom I know now.  When it is time, which is years away, she will be the one to have my body cremated and my household dispersed and she is capable of doing that.  I’m grateful.

My last baby doll
Christmas, 1950

If one has no children of one’s own, there are plenty of other children who are dying literally for lack of family.  Some of them are inventing new forms, maybe a webwork of street kids or households of criminalized kids or kids raised in care.  Because I am atypical and “normal” life is a mystery to me, I am sympathetic to the ornery, fragile, medically problematic, temperamentally volcanic, and fantasist kids.  They’re a little like those animals I raised.  

The ghastly part is that the bobcats and foxes I had cuddled did not have the reflexes they ought to have been taught and were murdered, often by human kids.  The same thing sometimes happens to atypical kids for something like the same reasons, but the murderers are usually grown men, power-cravers whose own families are not enough.  They’re hard on pets, too.  If I knew someone had hurt a baby of mine, I would . . .  It would not end well.


Aaron Parrett and Peter Koch are celebrating the publication of an illustrated limited edition artist book, HIMSELF ADRIFT, in Helena on 
Friday March 18 

with a reading by Montana novelist Matt Pavelich. Matt will read from his short story HIMSELF ADRIFT—a brilliant variation on the mythic disappearance of the infamous Territorial Governor Thomas Francis Meagher…one of Montana’s great yarns (in the voice of Meagher himself). Photo-collages and interventions by Peter Rutledge Koch.

Thomas Francis Meagher

We certainly hope to see you there!

Copies will be available for purchase at BEDROCK BOOKS.


Saturday, February 27, 2016


My accumulations of paper — which persist in spite of computers or maybe because of computers because it’s so easy to print — include much on the theme of development in humans.  The theories come and go, the names of the same phenomena change, and the pendulum swings from focusing on individuals to groups and back again.

I’m looking at this tempting bit of a larger document.  I can’t make it copy and paste so I’ll summarize a bit.

“The attachment system provides the safe container.”

Since today is Saturday and I’m composing my post for Sunday, it occurred to me that it was worth looking at these concepts in terms of congregations.  Some words are so worn and abused (traumatized, you might say) that they have lost their meaning or have been seized by people who use them as weapons:  I’m thinking of the words “church,” religion,” “community,” “family,” and so on.  They become triggers.  The fists come up ready to fight.  So we say “congregation”, “spirituality”, or whatever but don’t really examine the phenomena.

Here’s the assertion:  “Within the safety of that attachment system, children are able to explore their worlds, and develop a range of skills, including the ability to regulate their body and emotions, build an early understanding of self and others, and over time, develop an array of increasingly sophisticated developmental competencies.”  We are all lifelong children.

What makes a congregation “attachable”?  Safety is the consequence of being attached, but what safety is there during the process of approaching, testing, awareness of exits, identifying what dangers there might be?

This little bit of an essay asserts that there are two kinds of trauma with quite different developmental consequences.  One is the catastrophic overwhelming kind of trauma and the other is the constant erosion of smaller insults, losses, deficits, and uncontrollable change.  To be frank, life in general is a sequence of traumas.

The newer material about surviving life itself, both as an individual human and as a human group, is quite different in tone.  Conformity has been removed.  There is little talk about morality.  Not only is the discussion quite secular, but it begins to sound like learning to play the piano:

Making order from chaos.  OR in the name of re-organizing, creating chaos.  (Tolerating temporary chaos is a competency, but persistent chaos is a malfunction.  Temporary chaos as a self-protecting strategy can work either way.)

The ability to self-regulate emotions and experience.   (I suppose you might have not considered how important emotion is as a music principle.)

Openness to new strategies if the old ones don’t work or are outgrown or maybe even were imposed by clumsy helpers.

Willingness to address and resist destruction from outside the sphere of attachment.

Small attachments among individuals within the larger community and competency in managing them.  (Truly sophisticated musicians consider and internalize the micro-relationships between notes.)

The point of this discussion is to support caregivers, not to directly address the traumatized.  So I suppose one could say this is for professional and natural caregivers in the group.  The authors sketch what they call a “theoretical framework” rather than a “manualized protocol.”  

Right there — in the beginning — is what I’m seeing as a major and possibly hindering prerequisite: the failure of our modern systems to produce leaders who can think at the level of theory and abstract principles.  Particularly in conventional churches, the idea is to prevent change, and we can get frustrated about that, but what I’m finding in this small prairie town is that brains have not been encouraged to take the last step of development which happens after high school, in the early twenties.  High school is considered completion, the rules learned then persist through life.  Sometimes that’s not helpful.  They think only in terms of learned "boxes."

Backing up, “within the Attachment domain, 4 key building blocks for the caregivers”:

1.  Getting the caregiver to maturity in self-management.
2.  Attunement: “the capacity to accurately read each other’s cues and respond effectively.”
3.  A collection of strategies for meeting melt-downs or roll-ups or outright flight.
4.  Consistency and predictability.

The Competency Domain isn’t about pathology, but what about what every person needs to know in a tough world.  Three basics are:

1.  Problem solving:  personal agency, ability to generate options, reaching out.
2.  Knowing one’s own identity, finding coherence, feeling valuable.
3.  Ability to accept what developmental tasks are limiting and confidence that there are ways to learn them.

There’s a lot more than this.  For instance, the interference of the criminalizing forces (both criminals and law enforcers), the constant manipulative barrages from media, and awareness of suffering around the planet —coming your way in vivid technicolor.  A UU minister observed that our congregations seem not to be as intensely centered as they once were.  This particular movement seems to have moved to social action or personal development, depending on the extrovert/introvert aptitudes of the group.  The social action part has different allegiances depending on their outside affiliations.  The personal development interests vary all over the place — art to yoga.  Conventional churches are still arguing about the various theisms, which we've left behind.

I think there are not enough well-defined challenges.  In a middle-class group things can get worrisome and lately we realize that any of us can be thrown out on the street overnight because of some policy change or renovation project.  This class arose as shop-keepers and salarymen, but now the world is dominated by franchises and corporations — coupon-clippers in a capital-dependent world.  

Under all those economic arrangements (everything is economic when you’re talking survival and I’m talking biology here —you MUST have enough food, water, shelter to survive and that’s economic) is the planet itself.  Tsunamis, droughts, earthquakes, firestorms, hurricanes — you wanna talk trauma?  Lately I’ve been thinking about the catastrophic/economic/corporate consequences of grain crop failure, since I’m living right in the fields.  

The ebbing of the middle-class on the prairie (the closing of shops, the disappearance of wage labor) means that the middle-class religious groups who depend on dressing up and using good manners on Sunday morning have also shrunk.  They still love to sponsor community feeds in a place where diabetes and gluten-allergies are real.  Their ministers are all part-time.  Alcohol is still the favorite medication, as it has been for most of their ancestors since Medieval European times, and they still watch network TV.  Their dependence on cell phones is only limited by the lack of infrastructure.   “Rough sleepers” are few around here: they would die.  We’re not so modern.

Most seriously, they know nothing about the larger world, not even the layer of culture where their kids live, nor the layer of highly intellectualized thought where I live.  So much of the world is confusing and distressing that they cocoon.

Ben is the near-ninety-year-old man who with his wife operates the Cut Bank laundromat where I spent most of the morning yesterday.  He was in the military in Nuremburg during the post WWII trials.   He is sharply aware of the importance of such events, not in terms of who got which penalty, but in terms of order-keeping.  Larry Reevis, whom some will know from his “letters to the editor” in the Glacier Reporter, lives nearby.  He’s working on the politics of the Blackfeet Rez.   The “” website referred to above is the source of the “Vikings” series that Harry Barnes likes to watch.

Maybe the three of us very different people represent caregivers in a broad sense.  We are all rather intensely attached to our lives and people, maybe more consciously than most.  With that comes awareness of the pain of many humans and a need for safe containers while we figure out ourselves and others.  I keep thinking, “What on EARTH sort of childhood traumas could have created the US politicians?  Where are the ones who grew up happy and learned to be competent?”  I think this is an essential religious question.  Because “religion” is about survival.

Friday, February 26, 2016

THE SERIOUS MAN by Larry Reevis (without permission -- eeks!)

Charley Reevis, Larry's g-grandfather

The other day when a serious man was griping about the home schoolers disturbing the neighborhood by riding their bikes down the adjacent hill that made the dogs bark wildly from behind their fenced yards and forced the residential rabbits to scurry to the nearest hiding place when he heard the Susquatch song.

It was totally absurd as he gave the radio a deep menacing brow.  The serious man had boarded up his windows and barricaded his doors because he lived in fear of area gangsters who practiced vigilante justice.  He was was often overcome by anxiety each time a vehicle drove down his seldomly used country road.

Today he was entertained by a jumbled chorus of off beat lyrics.

The Susquatch song was even more ridiculous than the story of Minny the groundhog that captured his mind a week ago.  (Minny the groundhog was an overweight, slothful, belligerent beast who greedily at the food and treats her handler gave her each morning.  She always perked up when the big day approached when she would be the queen of the ball just like a second rate movie star at a neighborhood bar Mitzvah.  Unfortunately, she passed before her day of fame but her memory still resonates the halls of glory of her self-importance.  She was a blessing for all the wrong reaons.)

A Susquatch wearing a wristwatch he won at a game of hopscotch.  All he cold think of was playing the Susquatch song for a serious man who lived in the state of nature where the police was a figment of his imagination.

Feb 2016

Larry handed this to me in the Cut Bank laundromat this morning.

Natchurly the song is on You Tube:


Barnes in the hat he captured from the Cavalry.

from Harry Barnes

I write this as I eagerly await the season premier of “Vikings.”  Now, this is somewhat violent, so be sure you are an adult or you have adult supervision.  Jana, where are you?

Actually, I wanted to write about a historic event.  A week ago last Tuesday, a letter was hand delivered from the BIA in their normal blue envelope.  These always tend to make me nervous when hand delivered as with urgency.  Rarely is good news dispatched so quickly.

As it turned out, this was good news.  It was from the Blackfeet Agency, noting that the Blackfeet Tribe was no longer “high risk”!  The letter went on to further mention that because we are not “high risk,” we are also no longer “under sanction.”  It has been a very long time since the Blackfeet Tribe could claim either issue.  We did have a short spurt between completion of the 2013 audit and the due date of the 2014.  About two weeks.  Not long enough to realize any benefit.

Under sanction the Tribe has to use Tribal cash to front many 638 contracts and then file for reimbursement.  that has been a cash flow nightmare.  We are now requesting advance payment to run those programs.  This is in fact historic.

The Council came onboard July 10, 2014, and made a commitment to get our fiscal house in order.  In 18-19 months we have been able to catch up on past due audits and start the 2015 audit with the goal to stay current.  Some will say, “Well, you are just doing what is supposed to be done.”  Tht is true, but it in fact had not been done.  I congratulate and thank the Council as this clearly demonstrates a fiscal discipline that has not been see in some time.  It is an historic event.

A historic event  happened in the U.S. senate as our Water Compact went through the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.  First water compact in several years, and it still has to pass the Senate and get introduced to the House.  We have a big struggle ahead of us.

This is still a big deal.  I know there are members out there that are adamantly opposed to a water compact.  This Council is under a prior Council’s Resolution calling on the Tribe to get an agreement and bring it back to the members.  Once it gets through the Congress, it has to come back to the members for a ratification vote.  Neither the Chairman nor the full Council can accept any deal unless the members vote to accept.

We have launched a Tribal website to help educate members on the details of the Water Compact.  Please visit, and you will be surprised by a wealth of information.  We are living in historic times.

On April 4 we will repatriate 90 buffalo that are descendants of a dozen that were captured here in 1876 and moved to Salish/Kootenai country.  In 1907 they were sold to Canada and we are bringing them home.  Please watch for details as the date gets sooner.

I would love to report that everything is coming up roses.  But I cannot as we continue to face some tremendous challenges.  Each week as I think things are going really good, then the wheels fall off and we hit crisis mode.  We are moving in the right direction and have received a lot of positive feedback.  We will still make mistakes as we move aggressively to a better tomorrow.  Please keep the Tribe and our people in your prayers.  We want our grandchildren to look back on this time as historic and be empowered to make things better for their grandchildren.

Thursday, February 25, 2016


Imprisoned by trauma

It’s pretty common for people who have made big changes in their lives, even for the better, to get “homesick” for the old life even though it may have been miserable and the person might have made an heroic fight to get out.  Consider all the immigrants coming out of Syria: can you imagine making the transition to living in the US?  Consider all the Russians who suffered and suffered, won victories, and headed right back into oppression and suffering.  I once read a moving piece about a street dweller who took refuge with Good Will, lasted six months and went back to the street.  For the freedom, he said.

It’s a counselling given that to most people a known hardship is more attractive than an unknown good, an uncertain future.  It’s not rational and it’s not even emotional.  It’s physical, biological.  It is built into all animals to want to stay, even to go back to where they were.  One follows the likelihood of stability, trustworthiness, predictability, which are associated with a known place.

I’m still thinking through the consequences of our narrow understanding of consciousness, esp. in terms of the mantras called “choice” and “discipline”.  Basically, we believe that we are consciously thinking through evidence and are in control of the decisions we make based on them.  By now I don't get up in the morning to write a blog as a matter of discipline -- it's a habit.  I finally figured it out when someone told me that when they had to give up practising the piano every morning, their fingers hungered for the keyboard.

“Consciousness” is only part of thought.  We insist on thinking of it as the “highest” part of us, our identity, that part of us that we can hold accountable, a purified derivation of experience.  In fact, it is foam on the beer, as transient and shifting as any other aspect of a functioning human.  Criminal law only works because of our assumptions about guilt — that bad acts are purposeful and we must be held accountable — and that is enforced by writing out laws and precedents so they will stay consistent.  Otherwise the consequences are too much the result of contingencies, sometimes major factors (a state of war or stigma) and sometimes minor (simply not liking something about a person or yielding to influence from someone powerful).

The media has found that stories about people unjustly punished sell well, though they tend to back off from social categories penalized for being poor, or young, or immigrant.  But this discussion is not about the social desire to go back, to have “do-overs,” to repent of rebellions.  I’m thinking about individuals.

We had a pet eagle who was unable to fly when she was brought to us as a fledgling.  We built her as a big a cage as we could, but it was hardly enough for her to actually fly ten feet.  One day we replaced the wire on the cage, so she was not caged between the time we took the old wire off and put new on.  She did indeed fly up to the ridge of the house and she spent about an hour there.  Then she returned to her cage which she could only do because we left the door open.  It was what she knew, where she ate and slept.  Home.
A golden eagle and a bald eagle are two different birds, though most of the public can’t distinguish except for the white head that was incorrectly called “bald.”  The reason they are so different is that they inhabit different ecosystems:  the bald eagle lives along rivers and eats both carrion and fish.  When the fish spawn, the eagles cluster in large numbers, perching in the big trees along the river.  Plenty to eat, no need to hide.

Golden eagles eat small mammals on the prairie.  They stay high in the sky, using their fantastic eyesight to constantly scan for small hurrying movements.  Then they drop as fast as bullets and pluck up the ground squirrel the same way a bald eagle plucks a fish out of water.  Bald eagles have featherless legs so they’ll shed water.  I could really get off on this stuff.

Because we are not individual organisms at all.  First our whole species is shaped by the environment and next we as individuals only think we are self-contained.  Skin separates us from the environment, but life barely distinguishes between what’s in-skin and what’s out-skin.  The body adapts to whatever food is in the environment, even the timing of ingestion, so that it “wants” whatever it is used to.  The molecules prepare so that the lining of the stomach and the action of the gall bladder excrete a little in advance of what they expect.   

The addiction to chemicals like street drugs are only a more intense version of every creature’s addiction to the world, and the effect of change on the body is also the same.  I mean, if you’re used to coffee in the morning, your body will cry for it.  We so underestimate this sub-conscious effect, this limbic factor, this cellular “thinking,” when we make changes.  

Yesterday someone asked me for something to read that would indicate how I’m thinking these days.  One of the key concepts I pursue is the “liminal,” an anthropological term that addresses the limens or threshholds of life and describes ceremonies that help body, mind, and community cross over them.  Of course, the community helps us remember who we are even as we change and disrupts us if they get it wrong — say on return from the military or from university.  

“Now it is time to broaden the definition of the liminal again. Some of our new liminality comes from the rise of the global citizen, whose work and lifestyle takes them from culture to culture in service of multinational corporations, governments, and nonprofits aiding the developing world. With economies slowing in the West and heating up in places like Turkey, China, India, and Brazil, workers can expect to leave their culture of origin for foreign lands. That includes Americans themselves.”  -- from an article in

Liminality is something like being “through the looking glass” where things are reversed, but also unpredictable.  But it is also like being homesick, where the loved and familiar has not yet been replaced by attachment to a new context, even one that was chosen and wanted, even better suited than the previous home.  There’s something hard-wired-in. 

The research on brain organization and function seems to suggest that one kind of neurons are clustered like computer documents in folders, which can be nested in other folders, deeper and deeper layered.  What I find suggestive is the idea that a “deep” experience can reach the deepest and most inclusive pre-suppositional folders of neurons in order to open them to change.

In a completely different metaphor, I’ve heard people talk about feeling that they were going to drown unless they struggled in the only way they knew.  But when they surrendered and relaxed, they found that the water was holding them up -- they were floating.  There’s a suggestion of suicide about this idea, which makes it scary, but it IS a kind of suicide to let the old self die so that a new self has a space in which to form.  Waiting for a guarantee and preview of that new self is not possible.  You have to “become” into the terrifying future.

It’s best to find a community that can travel together.  Ceremonies of leaving and accepting are as much about the body as the mind.  Helpers must give up the idea that it is something they are doing, that they are “saving” people.  It is only providing the opportunity that helps.  The actual work of leaving and accepting must be done by the individual in his own body.  The rules are not written.  They must be evolved face-to-face.

But cultures and nations often get in the way by trying to hurry, to make rules and appoint panels, to force growth, but never to change the deep forces that are convenient to them as power-mongers, the entitled.