Bear and Woman

I was riding my bike on a dirt road in Montana close to a human settlement, being mindful of the original inhabitants of this relatively intact stretch of forest. It had been logged before, and was now somehow growing back to its original height and vibrancy. But only somehow. Its pristine old growth forest vigor was lost for now.

I pedaled really slowly, taking in the energy and beauty of the land, a gentle breeze was blowing in the tree tops and they swayed to the rhythm of the wind.

My breath was going in and out in synch with the movements and I was happy beyond belief. Silently, I announced myself to the forest inhabitants. They had been there long before the onslaught of recent migrants to the Great North and predated the settlers from Europe by many thousands of years.

I knew that this was one of the last strongholds of the North American Grizzly Bears, an animal who once had roamed a large part of Western North America. Black Bears, however, still roam North America all the way to the East Coast. Now, in the lower 48 states of the US there are mostly a few left in Idaho and Wyoming and a population in Montana that has not reached viability. Yet, there was talk about delisting them from the endangered species list where they rightfully belonged. It is illegal to disturb and hunt the animals listed on the Endangered Species Act and what is more, extractive industry is forbidden in their home.

No wonder big companies wanted to see them delisted, more than 20 of them were already lined up outside of Yellowstone National Park to mine the earth for her treasures. By delisting them, the Grizzly Bears would not be an obstacle to extraction anymore. And what is more, hunters were already signed up to “get their Grizz” during a legal hunt which would enable them to display them in a fierce position with their teeth and claws bared in their living rooms, even if they might have shot them while they were bent down, getting a drink of water at a stream.

I was acutely aware of these facts and silently communicated my benevolence to the Grizzly Bear Nation, our last wild bears in North America. “I love you”, I told them. “And I ask for permission to enter your home range and go for a little bike ride. But I do not have to ride my bike here” I added. “I can go on a paved road and anywhere else, you only have a sliver of your former habitat left.” My heart was bursting with love for these animals who look so much like us humans underneath their fur. I was able to recount many happy encounters with them in my heart, they had often brightened my days with their presence. Bears are generally considered omnivores. The percentage of plant food that they consume differs quite a lot among different regions. Generally they eat more meat in the North, just like we people do. In more temperate regions plants make up about 75% of their ingested biomass, in boreal forests 50%, but in the tundra only 40%.

When they emerge from hibernation they feel the hunger of a long time without food and often the plant life has not emerged from the long winter season in the North. That is when they love to share the deer and elk kills that wolves have made, that is when they resort to being carnivores. Some people may call it stealing a wolf kill, but I have been around those situations and rather call it sharing their food. The wolf-bear relationship is thus an ancient one and the bears depend on the wolves for their early season food sources. Where wolves have been exterminated, the bears suffer as well and vice versa. Occasionally they also kill ungulates themselves - this predation mostly occurs in spring and is typically concentrated on deer, caribous and moose calves in their first weeks of life, before they grow strong and fast.

Furthermore, human hunting activity has an impact on the bears. In some regions they have been conditioned to hunters and the sound of gun shots. When they resound, they know that there will be gut piles in the area and that they do not have to go into hibernation yet, because there is food for them still available.

Bears also prowl avalanche areas when they first come out of hibernation. That is where they find dead animals that have been killed in the snow mass going down the mountain.

And, they love to explore unsecured trash cans. When people move to rural and wilderness areas they often live like they used to in the city and leave their trash unsecured, or they leave food out like bird seed or dog food. This attracts bears as well. Often when there is a drought they come close to human settlements in sear of food or they are driven to the areas populated by humans because of fires on the mountains. I remember a particularly dry year in Albuquerque, NM, when the black bears came down from the mountains in search of food and were breaking into people’s water melon stash to get some reprieve from the heat. One climbed up a pole when humans with dogs came near and was shot of it with a tranquilizer gun. Luckily, (s)he had not climbed up that high and survived the ordeal of falling down to the ground.

I also remember witnessing the impact of human encroachment on their habitat. On the backside of the Sandia mountains is a switchback road leading to the summit. Hence, if a bear wants to go up or down the mountain, (s)he has to cross that road multiple times since it does not lead straight up and down. I saw the same bear trying to make it down the mountain with the same cars crossing his path over and over and over. He finally went up on his haunches to see what this stinking thing was that was after him. He looked confused and sat down in the middle of the road, not knowing what to make of all this. Let alone the cameras that people whipped out and stuck in his face. It is not easy being a bear because they did not evolve with any of this.

On a dirt road leading up the same mountain I came across a stalled jeep. I had just seen a bear along the road as I was hiking and been ecstatic about what I called a “huge blessing” and “bear medicine”. I stopped and asked if the person needed help. He was very uncomfortable and anxious. I wondered why and offered to wait for the tow truck to arrive that he had already called. He seemed comforted by my offer and I slowly started asking him questions as to why he seemed so fearful and anxious which is a touchy subject for a burly man. The truth came finally out when he admitted to me: “I am deadly afraid of bears. I wish I would have taken the truck, because I have my gun in the truck. This Jeep does not protect me from a bear attack. I am dead meat if a bear comes along.” I offered to go in between the bear and him should that occasion ever arise and was puzzled as to why in the world two people in the same spot would have such different attitudes toward a bear encounter.

Bird seed is a major bear attractant and sometimes people want a photo op of a bear at a feeder and deliberately put some out to attract a bear and snap away at them with their cameras from their “picture” windows. While this might be a source of happiness for the photographer, it is very dangerous for the bear. Now the back yard is a source of food, the bear will defend it from humans and their dogs and go after the dog next time. This causes the humans to call Fish and Wildlife Services who move the bear to a different area. What they do not know is that this area more often than not is already occupied by another bear and the dumped bear has no other choice but to return to the bird feeder yard which was his territory to begin with. Eventually, the three strikes and you are out rule applies and the bear gets “euthanized”, a benevolent word for killed, or better yet, “murdered” because the whole scenario could have been easily avoided had the humans acted from a care for the whole and not out of human-centricness.

The same goes for practitioners of extreme sport. Often, (ultra) marathons or iron man/woman events lead through pristine wilderness where wild animals still live. They participants enjoy the wildness they say, but there is little thought for the original habitants. One time during a marathon in NM a woman got hurt by a black bear mother defending her cubs. Her babies where on one side of the “running” path which was actually also used by animals and the mother bear was on the other side. The runners kept coming and coming and the mama bear did not have a chance to reunite with her offspring until she whacked the next runner down and crossed the path. Needless to say when the woman came out to the hospital to plead for the bear’s life because she was a mother herself and had contributed to her injury by running through a bear home range it was too late. They had already killed the mama which subsequently resulted in the death of her two cups who were too little to survive on their own.

It is more expensive to buy a bear proof garbage bin and well worth it. When there is no food source around, the migrating bears move on. Once in Southern NM, a bear mother got into a huge dumpster in the wilderness to feed on the trash. When her cubs were born, she naturally brought them to the dumpster to feed in. They got stuck there because they were to little to get out. People luckily drove up to it and stuck a log in so they could climb out. Unfortunately, the “problem” persisted because the dumpster was till accessible to bears and not bear proof and it, in and of itself had become a source of food in their home range. Eventually they all got killed.

A friend had just told me that he had left a hide of a deer outside in a bucket to work on in the morning. His place is in the wilderness and a bear who had just gotten out of hibernation was looking for an easy meal and came around to check out the smelly hide. They made noise to chase him off, but the better option is to not leave such things outside at night when nobody is around. The bear in that case would have just kept going, looking for other types of food.

In Europe, bears often get fed outside of a village. The people believe that this will keep them away from their settlement. The truth of the matter is, though, that bears get attracted to food sources and often the villagers dispose of their dead domesticated animals very close to or at the town perimeters. If a bear or other wild animal gets attracted to a dead animal and feeds on it, they will return for more and see if there is another opportunity for feeding. Thus, this situation can be atoned easily, by burying, not dumping deceased cattle and sheep away from any human settlement.

This spring, people had dumped a little dead foal in the middle of a trail by the river at a pull out at a highway in California. When I stopped to walk to the river I came across her. She was wrapped in a tarp and had just recently been left there, maybe even by the people who left the area just as I pulled into the pull-out and who had acted a little suspiciously. Not only was the animal probably sick and the vultures already circling above her would carry that disease ever which way, but the sight of her traumatized me greatly. It was as if I had come across any dead body, it could have been a human body and I would have been equally shocked, not more. What gives us the right to dump an animal body without triggering an investigating and when it happens to a human there is police everywhere?

A farmer friend came to the defense of the dumpers, saying that maybe the ground was frozen or they could not do it any other way. In my way of feeling, though, it is often murder, because not only do we breed domesticated animals to the point of not even being able to give birth by themselves, but also to a point were they are unable to carry their fetuses to term. Such is the impact of inbreeding and “engineering” animals to our liking. And not to have the foresight to dig some graves for this occasion in the fall in cold climates is beyond be. Frozen ground is never an excuse to dump dead animals, and it certainly was not the case in spring like conditions in California in an area were it never snows or hardly ever freezes.

It is also murder of other animals. If a wolf or bear gets “caught” next to a dead, dumped animal they most likely get charged with killing it and get subsequently killed themselves. We humans get away with that sort of thing easily and without any investigation.

I remembered that a bear biologist friend of mine had told me that up to 200 different kinds of plants and seeds had been found in bear scat. Yet, we humans are deadly afraid of these animals. We humans are not part of their prey base for sure. I just read statistics that in Montana where more people per capita get killed every year by animals it is not wild the ones that cause death. Traffic incidents like running into a deer or elk are the number one cause of death to humans . Wasps/bees, dogs, cows and horses follow suit. Usually only one person gets killed by a bear a year, which is completely out of proportion compared to the hysteria and fear that surround them.

But right now, in that very moment I was not thinking of anything. My attention fully belonged to my surroundings as I was slowly pedaling through Grizzly country. I was fully aware of my surroundings, awake and conscious of everything going on around me.

Maybe that was the reason that people were sometimes getting hurt by one of the last bears in the country, I thought to myself. They would jog through bear territory, with ear phones in their ear canals, behaving like prey, looking like a fleeing deer to a bear and not paying any attention to the original inhabitants of the land. They would take over the forest without regards to who was there, who lived there. One person in Montana had run his bike into a bear on a wilderness trail at 35 mph I recalled. Nobody thought about the bear had been badly wounded in the incident. One elk hunter had literally stepped on a sleeping bear. And then there were the dogs. We humans take our domesticated animals anywhere and dogs, contrary to popular belief do not protect us from harm. They actually aggravate bears who have been painstakingly marking their territory over months of time and are regularly going over the markings again to refresh them.

The dog, like a fish out of water outside their own territory runs after a bear and her cubs and brings the bear back to their humans. The rest is history. Contrary to popular belief, domesticated canids, our dogs, often do not enjoy being in the wilderness as it causes them stress since they can still read the signs “stay out” and are literally being forced by us humans to proceed on the path. They would not go there naturally in many instances.

We put up electric fences around our camps up North to protect ourselves from the bears in their home range when we feel like going on a photo safari and we are armed to the max when doing so. They get electrocuted when they touch the unfamiliar fence while wanting to see who is visiting them.

We spray them with bear spray, which is often used as a preventative and not as a last resort. So-called rare “bear attacks” are mostly avoidable if we are mindful, awake and aware.

Why we are so disrespectful towards large wild animals wo are so accommodating to us and our domesticated animals and display so much patience towards us beats me.

A rustling in the bushes next to the road where I was slowly cruising by caught my heightened attention.

Spontaneously, right from my heart I said out loud: “Whoever you are, dear one, please show yourself to me. No reason to be afraid of me.This is your home and I respect it.” I had barely uttered the last syllable, when the head of a bear popped up right next to be. He stood up on his hind legs to take a better look at me. I stopped dead in my tracks. What a beautiful bear! What a beautiful soul. “I love you!” I exclaimed. “Thank you for being here with us on this earth. You are important and you matter.” My heart was beating with love for this creature who had to be so careful in their own home because most of us humans are afraid and carry weapons which we use at the least provocation of one of our many senseless fears. When a bear shows up in their own home, we kill them or at the very least, we spray them with bear spray.

I am a firm believer and practitioner of intuition. Why practice blanket fears at any given moment when we have our wonderful intuition that tells us when something is wrong, in fact, only alerts us when something is wrong. Why not be awake, aware and conscious of our surroundings when we hike?

In this case, my intuition was not telling me that anything was wrong, that in fact, this was how it was supposed to be, that we were supposed to coexist together in a fearless and loving way. There was no reason for me to panic or behave irrationally just because there was a bear right next to me. I kept exuding my love for this animal instead. And hence the bear did not have to defend himself from me. I was pretty sure that it was a male, but could not discern for sure if that was true. In all my remaining years on this planet, I will never forget the look he gave me. Such an intelligent gaze, so full of brightness and with a twinkle that lit up the forest. It was almost like he was playing with me. He had finally found someone who was not running away from him or threatening him. He had met his equal in me who was equally thrilled to have met him. In a way, we both threw overboard what our mothers had told us, namely to run, panic and be afraid of each other and did the exact opposite: we made contact with each other to better understand one another. “Bear, this is what a bear truly is” I thought gleefully with a healthy dose of joy thrown in. “Women”, he seemed to think, “this is what a true woman is like”. I grinned from ear to ear and he did the same. “You are sacred, this is a sacred moment in time” I told him. Bears are called the “doctors of the forest”, they are sacred to the indigenous people and considered powerful and essential.

No reason to fear them unnecessarily. In fact, I practice being fearless, empty and loving, whenever I enter a forest or other territory where wild ones reside. I do not throw fear at the animals there, I do not force any encounters, meetings, or photo ops, I do not bait them and see them as an object. They are the co-producers of whatever project I work on. I work with them, I come with all my love for them after I have asked for their permission to enter their home. When I do not get that permission, I do not proceed on the path. I am mindful of the original forest inhabitants and of the fact that they do not have much space left to roam anymore.

I feel for them. It must be very stressful to hide from us humans in their own homes. It must be sad that they cannot meet us on equal terms, on terms of curiosity and mutual understanding and respect for each other. It must be very difficult to have the 3 food sources that nourish them the most when they are hyperphagic in the fall be gradually and sometimes not so gradually taken away from them, namely, white bark pine bark, salmon and huckleberries.

The white bark pines are leaving the Northern Rockies because of drought conditions, they need more water. Salmon is endangered because we put up dams. We introduced other animals into lakes and streams who are not compatible with them and their food sources. We are overfishing them everywhere, straightened the rivers so they are unable to reach their spawning ground and hence, in general the salmon are on the decrease.

Huckleberries ripen in cycles. They are not abundant every year and what is more, we started to harvest them commercially. “Huckleberry everything for sale” signs, advertising berry concoctions of every possible imagination are abundant in the Northwest. I once counted over 40 of them leading up to a place where they sold them.

Yet, this particular wild bear right next to me harbored no grudges against anybody. He was just doing what bears do. He checked me out with his little beady eyes, full of kindness and curiosity of who was treading through his home. Tears welled up in my eyes: “I will do whatever I can for you, I will tell you story. I love you!” I told him.

Our encounter did not last very long. I did not want him to get habituated to humans in general and possibly not be able to discern who was benevolent towards the Bear Nation and who was armed and ready to “get his/her bear”. I did not take any pictures of him. The moment was too sacred to be exploited by me. I pedaled on, all the while blessing his presence, talking to him, telling him good bye.

A friend had seen this little black bear on the property he had just bought and been enchanted by her presence. The bear was young and minded her own business, never came too close and never threatened the safety of my friend. His dog, luckily was well trained and in turn never encroached on the bear who had been there first, before their arrival on this particular piece of land. Neither did he bark at the bear. In fact, the dog’s name is Bear.

The three of them had enjoyed each other’s company regularly for months when my friend saw a dead bear at the side of the road near his property with a parked vehicle and a woman with a gun. She assured him that she had a “bear license” and that she was a legitimate hunter. She had possibly killed the animal after she saw it at the side of the road while driving by which is very different from being a hunter who has to measure his/her strength and stealth with the animal and leaves them with an equal chance to get away.

Since that day he has not seen the bear. The size of the dead animal matched that of “his” bear . What are we going to choose? Connection or disconnection? Life or death? Each one of us has to make that decision on their own. Fear or love?

My heart continued to sing from the meeting with the bear. I lifted my gaze up to where the trees were still swaying in the wind. Today was a good day to be happy. Today was a day filled with joy. Today was a day to be love incarnate. Every day is … I choose love.

Please in-joy my short bear video … Thank you!




We can all be bear aware …

We can all be bear aware …

Bear proof garbage container.

Bear proof garbage container.

I am Water-My newest doc

I am beyond delighted that after 2 1/2 years of filming and editing, traveling and getting to know water, my upcoming doc “I am Water” is nearly finished! Yay! Thank you to everybody who has been, was and is a part of this. Lots of love!

You may watch the trailer for it here: https://vimeo.com/315098819

This project took me many places and had me talking to many people on several continents. Here is a little share about my experience at Standing Rock. I was taken there to learn that most of us humans do not know anymore, who and what water is and what our human relationship with water entails. It also taught me that we are ALL ONE. The elders there were living and breathing this truth and passing it along to whoever was willing and had an open heart to get away from cultural conditioning and embrace our communalities.

Right after we first arrive I climb Facebook Hill, the media hill where your phone and the internet sometimes work and where you might get hacked if you log into the password free internet service. That at least is what a sign says. “Hacking me, no problem”, I think. “It will keep me right on track with only posting positive, loving and beautiful posts.” That is why I came to Standing Rock. To loan my love, life force and energy to the peaceful movement, to see the human beauty, resilience and dedication for myself that has prevailed since April. Since a group of young people came here to do ceremony for the land, the animals, the people and most importantly, the water. “Mni Wiconi-Water is life” became the face of this movement. A Lakota man tells me later that it most accurately translates into “Water is Alive”. But that comes much later, towards the end of my stay. Right then, on top of the hill, as I look down, my heart expands and my eyes fill with tears: Spread out in front of me is a camp not unlike the ones of times past. It is migratory, can be taken down, moved and expanded. It is not stationary like the towns we Westerners create. not sterile and empty of humans outside of their dwellings, does not have "good or bad neighborhoods". It is ALIVE, thriving, vibrating, just like the water it is protecting. It is emanating the not so faint sounds of drumming, singing, prayer and the hustle and bustle of life. They rise into the air and stand there for a second or two as if they want to catch a glimpse of what is going on further up the hill on the other side of the river. Where the fortress lies that protects the black snake. 
Then, they collapse back onto the ground for a new sound wave to emerge. My eyes brim over with tears. This heart of mine is being cracked wide open by what I see: The whole myriad of the different expressions of humanity is right in front of my eyes. At first, my intellect wants to come from the binary way of being that we have been so attached to for a long time. Good and bad guys, right or wrong... Only for a split second, though. Then the thoughts that my mind has tried to conjure up from mere habit vanish. I see that what is really going on is way beyond that. What I perceive through my heart is all of that and more. Much more. I see beyond “them versus us”, I see what this camp is really serving is a deep need for connecting with each other, for bringing in a new way to walk on this earth. Compassion wells up in me for All Life, all people. The ones putting their lives on the line and the ones armored to the max, doing their job that they are getting paid for. What must go on in their hearts right this very moment, in all of them? Expanded vision is granted to me. I see that that very moment that there is no distinction between us. We are all one. We are all related...

Fire's Power

This story is based on historical facts from around my home community in Bavaria, Germany. The area was ruled by the bishops of Bamberg and the second largest number of people in all of Europe were sentenced to death there during the witch trials. The insanity only stopped when the area was depleted of wood.

Before then, the first crematoriums were invented to save wood and efficiently burn the bodies of the so-called witches. They eerily appear to resemble the death chambers of the Nazi concentration camps and seemed to have been their precursors. It is no surprise to me that later on in history, Hitler had a strong hold in Bavaria, with the town of Nuremberg not far away being one of the places where he garnered the most support for his cruel and insane plans. In my mind, the seeds for this to happen had been planted during the burning times. The witch tower where the accused were awaiting their torture and/or death is now a museum for tolerance and coexistence where people are asked to examine their values and belief systems around foreigners and so-called “others”. May we wake up to the truth of our interconnectedness and inter-being and may the following story never happen again!!!

The young woman had a chain around her feet, her hands were swollen and barely able to move and she was very thirsty. To torture them even more, the guards had given her and the other prisoners nothing else to eat but salted herring in an even saltier brine with lots of pepper. They refused to bring them anything to drink. “Help me” the prisoners moaned, dehydrated and weary. All but her, Katrina, were demoralized and scared. She still, in spite of everything, managed to hold onto her hope and love for life and took it upon herself to share it with everybody else.

“We need to be strong. Maybe there is a way that we can get out of here alive. Think of your children and grandchildren, parents, your husbands and wives. Stay focused. Remember something beautiful, think of the flowers of spring, think of the power of love ... “ she would implore them and extend her own strength out to the hungry hearts of her companions. Sometimes, she would sing to them, tell them stories of a different time before the tides had turned, before things got out of hand.

There were mostly women in the prison tower, and only a few men. She had heard from one of the minstrels that in certain places in the South they also tortured children. The thought of it made her stomach churn even more and her resolve to get out of prison alive much stronger. Long ago it seemed now, as a mere child herself she had given her life to the healing arts of serving her community, of carrying the wisdom of her elders, the cures for the fever that came with the mosquitos that followed the flood. Hers was the task of binding off the severed limp in times of war, finding nutritious healing herbs in the summer time for the many hungry and sick children of winter and stemming the blood flow that followed birth.

But lately the blessings of summer had not come, cold frosts would trail the blooming times and kill precious new plant life in their wake.
The usually warm summer weather had changed to cold nights and late frosts and their plight had become unbearable. The people were hungry for culprits, for scape goats to watch them burn on the fires that glowed in the village centers with more and more frequency. “Burn them, burn them, burn those witches!” the angry and scared crowds would demand, not knowing that soon the witch hunt would be reaching their own families, causing immense pain and suffering that made fear soar and basic human decency and values vanish in its wake. They burned the precious wood that was much needed in the winter when the cold would penetrate through the cracks of the houses. They wasted it on the fires of death. Just as they were wasting the precious lives of their community members. By now, “they” could be anybody, from family members to church and community leaders to complete strangers. A carefully orchestrated system of blame, accusation, trial and execution had been put in place and was now threatening the very core of the peopleʼs existence.

“I was just minding my own business when I was accused of being a witch, of bringing harm onto others, of changing the weather, of forging a bond with the devil” one woman who was incarcerated with her had told Katrina.

“I tried to stop them, tell them that she was innocent and a respected member of the community, that she was needed by her husband and children” another prisoner, her neighbor and the blacksmith of the village had finished her story. But they had arrested him, too.

An older woman lay with her eyes closed in the corner. She had been a woman of status when her husband died and left her unprotected. Her son-in-law who had his eyes on her property and wanted to take possession of it before her death was the one who had mentioned his mother-in-lawʼs name in conjunction with the devil, the barren harvest, the cold summer nights. Her heart was broken and she might as well have been dead already.

Then there was the young woman, the servant who had refused to become the old magistrateʼs concubine. “He came after me whenever his wife was not in the house and I always managed to fight him off. But one day his wife came home and saw us and heard what he was saying to me. The next day they came for me, accusing me of consorting with the devil.”

Now they were all here in the witchesʼ tower awaiting their verdict. Torture was the way to get them to confess that they were in cahoots with the devil. If under the immense pressure of their pain they confessed what their torturers were accusing them of their fate was sealed and death awaited them in the form of publicly being burned at the stake. Renunciation of their confession later was futile and resulted in more torture. In case they resisted the urge to confess in the throes of pain they were pronounced innocent and let go. This was a possibility, a ray of hope. Yet, nobody had heard of anybody coming out of torture alive, especially when it was administered repeatedly. Nobody had survived the torturous instruments so far without confessing to being a witch, a consort of the devil, an evildoer to mankind. After a few rounds of torture, Katrina had not confessed yet and in her mind she was never going to. What gave her the strength of that vision was the fact that she had learned to endure pain of a magnitude that was unfathomable to most people by a human being who had the foresight to conceive that times like these were fast approaching and that she had to protect her apprentice. That extreme endurance of pain had been part of Katrinaʼs training by the herbal doctor woman of the village, the healer, the comforting, beautiful, wise one, the old lady who had died as one of the first because her bones were too brittle to withstand the torture. Katrina had overheard the angel faced prison guard tell one of the new prisoners with an air of fright in his voice “She died with a smile on her face. And before she took her last breath she forgave us. Told us ʻI forgive you for you know not what you do” can you believe that?

How Katrina missed her now, her magnanimous, caring spirit, how her heart was aching for the comfort of the old womanʼs presence. Not now! She shook off her thoughts. She was needed here and could not allow herself to trail off into the past.

“Help me”, she heard those pleading words again and with much pain emanating from her broken hands reached over to caress the cheek of the woman next to her. Her name was Emma and they were the same age. She inched closer and put her arms around her, with the utmost tenderness and love for her beloved friend. “Thank you!” the young woman managed to say. “I will remember you when I am in heaven. I am so scared. I know that they will burn me today. I can hear the people rallying outside. I can smell the fire, can you smell the fire?”

“Do not be afraid. You will die the way you have lived. Talk to fire and make it your friend and you will not feel its sting as much as its mercy for carrying you to the other side.” Katrina smiled at her friend. They had both been accused of changing the weather with witchcraft, ever since that frost came in the middle of May, that thin sheet of ice that covered the blooms and blossoms and baby shoots in its blanket of death. That made sure that winter would be harsh again and bring much hunger. Katrina and Emma had been out in the late evening, before the frost, collecting the fresh shoots of the powerful stinging nettle and the early coltsfoot for they had known it in their bones that this night would be coming and had gone out and met it with their love and care. Upon their return, their hands and pockets full of the healing powers of the plants they had been seen by a neighbor and that was enough to ensure their arrest.

Katrina put her mouth to Emmaʼs ear and breathed her own undying hope into it. “Imagine, a time when this will not happen anymore, when fireʼs power will return to warming us in the winter, when children will be dancing around the glowing embers again. A time of sharing, celebrating and story telling around the hearth. When nobody turns anybody in anymore. Imagine ...”

Her voice trailed off as the heavy tower door screeched open. She knew it then and there, without a doubt: The guards were coming for her, not Emma. The one with the face of an angel approached her with a hood in his hands. “No”, she said with her inborn strength that came from deep within her. “No”, she repeated and locked eyes with him. “I want to see the people and meet death with dignity, awake and conscious.” With an immense surge of power from within she managed to raise herself up and all of a sudden, she seemed tall and immortal. The guard took one step back. Her voice rose above it all. “Fire is my friend. I will meet her without fear. Today is a good day to die.” 

Women are sacred.jpg

Snakes and Humans-A new story

Cynthia sped up the desert trail. She was working on improving her minutes per mile ratio while jogging. That was what her mind had in mind and she did not see the curled up bundle in front of her until she almost stepped on the snake. The little animal, out sunning herself to soak up the warmth that would give her the ability to move did what rattle snakes do, she reared up her head and sounded her alarm, her in-built body rattle to tell the human being on the trail to back up and give her time to retreat.
The big, (in terms of human snake size ratio) what the snake called “human animal” was just too close for her. She preferred a little more distance between the woman and herself. The woman had been so fast that the snake did not have a chance to sense her step coming up the trail ahead of time. She was taken by surprise and did not have time to crawl back under the rock where she had come from, where she lived. Plus, her metabolism was still sluggish from the morning cold and she simply was not able to move that fast. That was all. She was communicating her sentiments to the woman via rattling.
Cynthia stopped in her tracks. That old, primal fear that lives in the most un-evolved part of our brain, in the brain stem, wanted to go into flight mode and turn around fearfully to run for her dear life. But she did not do that. Instead, she remembered the words of her friend Gaia. Gaia was an interspecies communicator, that is the fancy term for people who refuse to let go of their innate connection to all life forms to fit into society’s norms of what is acceptable, which for Gaia included talking to animals, communicating with plants, trees and minerals and poring her heart out for the wild onesʼ thriving, the ones that we fear so much. Gaia instead of using the more scientific sounding title did not call herself anything for she knew that it was not her having a skill or special gift. It was Creator that had found her to be an open vessel and was operating through her. If people insisted on a name to put to what she was doing she called herself a “True Human Being”, a name that one of her Native American friends had given her. “I am nothing special, we all have it in ourselves to communicate with other life forms. I am just a mirror for you to see what you can do, too” she had explained to Cynthia. 

Gaia had talked to her after that other snake incident, the one in Cynthiaʼs garage. She had learned about it on facebook.
At the edge of where fall and winter meet in the desert, during that time when the wild ones seek shelter for the winter, a little female rattle snake had come into Cynthiaʼs garage to seek a place where she could be safe. She sensed that Cynthia had an open heart for animals and she just gave it a try. Plus she had an ancient, deep, important message for Cynthia and hence she was waiting for the human by her car. She knew that this is where she would eventually encounter her.

“You see, snakes were not always feared and persecuted, they were actually revered by the ancient feminine goddess cultures for their ability to shed their skin, to transform themselves into something new, a new being. People coexisted peacefully and safely with them and made sure they had what they needed. There was an ancient “do no harm” agreement between the humans and the snakes and no one was ever harmed. Hence we still see the hippocratic staff portrayed with two snakes wrapped around it. Children were taught to respect the Snake Nation and only brought love and reverence to their encounters with them. They felt blessed when they saw one. Snakes are a symbol of the wild feminine nature in all of us. The instinctual one that always knows” Gaia had told her. 

“Only after we disconnected ourselves from that way of walking on the earth did we start to fear all things wild. It is very strange to me that we fear the very same animals the most that our ancestors loved and revered so much, like the snake and the bee, both symbols of rebirth and renewal and a blessing when seen with our very own eyes. And that we have lost our ability to envision a different way of being with them. A fearless and loving and connected way. Just like we would have a heart connection with our pets, like you and your beloved dog Scooter have.” 

Back then, when she had not known about all this, Cynthia had called the fire department right after she saw the snake. The snake did not have time to tell her the message that she had come to share with Rachel.
Our contemporary culture requires the 911 response from us when in the presence of a snake. The burly, good looking men had arrived within 5 minutes of Cynthia calling them and had done what men in a patriarchal culture do: they had “removed” the snake with a big fork like instrument to protect their women. And they had joked uncomfortably with each other in the process of keeping the tiny creature at armʼs length with their device. It came with the territory because they felt that uncomfortable edge sneaking up on them for they were overdoing it. Their approach to removing a snake was overkill and they knew in their hearts that there was a better way. That more beautiful way our hearts know is possible had just not become mainstream yet.
Hopefully they had relocated her, but most likely they had killed her. Snakes and humans coexisting with each other was not a story that they were familiar with. “And even if they relocated her”, Gaia had explained to Cynthia, “the snake would most likely not make it. Humans have no clue as to where good snake habitat is, they might have dumped her into a place what was already occupied and the cold must have gotten her that night in a strange place without shelter, without a home. She is still so little.” Gaia spent much time in the wilderness, keeping an eye, ear and heart on the animals. They told her many things and she learned about their lives from being with them, just as much as she learned about being a true human being.
“When a relocation happens, everybody in the desert will know about it. Raven will fly ahead and tell all the other animals. And it will take a long time for the animals to calm down, to not be upset anymore. For the balance to return. Because they all care for one another.” Gaia had witnessed this many times and was sharing it with Cynthia.
Cynthia had felt bad after she called the fire department. There was this small spot in her, that spot which lived in her heart and wanted to keep evolving to a care for the whole in the sense of the true human being. The same spot that had caused the fire men to joke and laugh uncomfortably in the presence of the snake. Although her reptilian brain had felt relief over the manly men removing the tiny snake from her garage, her heart had sensed that there was a more beautiful, connected, evolved way to be with a rattle snake.
She posted pictures of this “incident” on facebook as if she wanted to get reaffirmation for what she had done and she received much confirmation for her choice. Because we resonate with fear and the 911 response and it is really difficult to break that pattern because it is deeply embedded in our cultural story. There are whole countries where the snakes have been all killed, down to the last one, because of that fear. And every year there are still “Snake killing contests” taking place as a tourist attraction in some of the Southern states of the US. 

Gaia did not want Cynthia to feel bad. “Guilt and shame have no place here. This is about evolving the story of our interactions with snakes. Of writing a new story of coexistence with them. Donʼt feel bad. Use your energy and feel into the conception of a different story, a story that wants to emerge through you.” 

“Cynthia, you live in the desert and you WILL most certainly see a snake again if you stay here. Furthermore there is a message for you from the Snake Nation and they will get in touch with you again to make sure that you receive it. I cannot tell you what it is, the prize comes from establishing enough of a relationship with the snakes so they have a chance to tell you themselves.” Gaia did not want to disclose any more information. “Just come from an open heart when you see your next snake, consider the possibility of her being a sister on the path, instead of a threat to your life. A sister who is dealing with constant encroachment on her habitat, unnecessary fear being thrown at her all the time and nowhere to go. Most likely she cannot go and be where she used to go because there are more and more housing subdivisions going up where she used to live. And of course, donʼt get too close. Always be mindful and awake out there in the wilderness of the land and the wilderness of the city.”
“Come from fearlessness, love and compassion for this creature that is walking the same path on this earth alongside of you. Come from a new story in your heart.”
That had sounded very strange to Cynthia, but she kept the words in her heart. Until now, when these words broke lose and she realized, that it had literally come true. She was walking the same path as the snake. She was walking the snakeʼs path and she was not going to turn around this time. The snake belonged here just as much as she did.
Cynthia backed off a few steps until she felt she was at a safe distance from the snake. The little being immediately responded and put her head back onto her beloved earth and stopped sounding her rattle. Maybe she could communicate more in-depth with her after all. She would give it a whole hearted try.
Cynthia sat down on a rock. She looked at the snake and for the first time in her life she could truly see another being in front of her, not an enemy, a threat or a pest, varmin or menace. Not an other. But herself. She could feel into the intuitive intactness of the little snake who had ony done what she needed to do and was now satisfied with the distance between her and the human animal. There was no fear or danger in her. She just was. 

“Make contact with the animal. Tell them quietly who you are, send them a greeting, introduce yourself and then ask them a question, start a conversation.” Gaia had suggested to Cynthia. She wanted her friend to go beyond her first missed opportunity of receiving snake medicine. 

“You missed an opportunity of connection, but it is not lost. It will come back to you. So be prepared next time” Gaia had smiled and expressed her complete trust in Cynthiaʼs future response to a snake being that of two equals meeting and initiating conversation, not fear. “The snake was in your garage, but you know what, why should she leave? Her ancestors had been on that land long before the people came. For her, seeking shelter in your garage was a very intuitive thing to do. At least until she could find something more suitable. Plus she had been disturbed in her winter nest by the neighbors somewhere down the road and had to collect herself from that human drama. She was still very little. And then there was the message that she came to give to you. It makes sense that she had to meet you in person.” 

Gaia had ended her talk with Cynthia on the note of a new story of human-snake interaction being possible. No sense in pushing her friend too much. She was already at that evolutionary edge, the place where heaven and earth meet and where all things are possible, where coexistence between wild animals and humans is reborn in an open human heart and vessel for the evolutionary impulse. Cynthia would go beyond it by herself. Of that she was sure. 

All that had been a little stretch for Cynthia, she even considered it weird. But now, on the trail with the rattle snake in front of her it made complete sense. Of course, this place belonged to the snakes, if they had a sense of real estate property that is. Or rather: They belonged to the land. They were made to be here, they needed very little water, their bodies were engineered by nature to be in the desert, they knew their place on this earth, what to eat and what not to. They kept the rodents in balance. The little snake exuded confidence and belonging to Cynthia.
All of a sudden she knew exactly what to communicate to the snake. “I am Cynthia and I love animals, all animals. You belong here and I want to make sure that I include you in my ecosystem. What do you need from me, little rattler to be ok, to be comfortable, to keep living your life undisturbed and authentically?” The snakeʼs body twisted a little as if she was moving into position to ponder that question. Then she was still.
“Now what?” Cynthia asked herself. She felt a little silly doing this, but luckily there was nobody else around. “Trust the image, or the sense of knowing or seeing that will come up. Just trust it. It is your intuitive knowing and it will give you the answer” Gaia had told her. Cynthia cleared her mind just like she had learned in meditation. In fact, she practiced meditation herself. She knew! She must know because for unity and connection to work it must include the Snake Nation. It must include the Whole of life. Her heart broke open.
The images kept coming in her heart and mind and snake told her “I need you to be unafraid of me and to grant me permission to share this earth with you without being fearful of me. Your step is warning me of your arrival and I more often than not have time to get out of your way. Our Earth is sending your foot stepsʼ vibrations through my body long before you appear in front of me. Just be mindful all the time so that you can go around me when I am too cold to move away quickly like right now. Always be mindful and awake, especially when you are out in the wilderness, open your heart, eyes, ears and nose and act accordingly. And if you see one of us in your garage again, please communicate where else we can go and give us some time to leave, give us an alternative to being removed against our will. Work with us. We are here to walk this earth together.”
Cynthia was stunned. She chose to believe what she had received as the snakeʼs answer. She knew it to be true in her heart.
“I have a gift for you, Cynthia, a gift from the Snake Nation” the little one continued the conversation. “It is the gift of transformation. You are evolving right now and shedding old skins. It is not always easy for the ego. You suffer, feel the urge to defend yourself, explain yourself, make a case for yourself or you take a step back. All humans do that. It is the human condition. But we from the Snake Nation are here for you. We are masters of shedding old skin. We have done it for eons and we support you on your journey. Just call on us for help and assistance when you feel stuck in your skin. It will come off! That we can guarantee you!” With that the little one slithered gracefully away from Cynthia and slid under a rock, her home. 

“Wow!” Cynthia said. “Wait until I tell Gaia about this one!” 

The beginning 

Based on a true story, true human beings, a true garage, a true snake, true burly firemen and lots of love 

 

Snake.jpg

Earthquake

 

From talking with you, I have discerned that many of you have similar sensibilities to mine, that have been made wrong by the dominant cultural belief system that nature and the animals are a commodity solely here on this planet for us humans to "use", hence there is written "land of many uses" on our National Forest signs. We have been told early on that "they do not feel like we do and they do not matter". We have been separated from ourselves and our connection to everything on this earth that way, from our intuitive faculties that lie dormant and are just as strong and potent as our brain power.

My whole life, ever since I can remember, the animals and the land/wilderness held a special pull for me. I feel, what they feel. When somebody hurts an animal or does something to the land, I feel it in my own body as if it where mine, which it is because we are all related on this earth. Just a few days ago, I felt a difference in the air when I lay in my tent, ready to go to sleep after a long day. I checked in to see if there might be an animal in distress, but all was calm in that realm. Since there were not any humans in the vicinity, I concentrated on the earth instead and her well-being. I can sense, when she is in distress, when she is ill in certain areas from too many pesticides, too much fertilizer and too much extractive industry. It feels like she has pneumonia sometimes and she cannot breathe. Or, on the other hand, I touch on her general state of wellness and being unscathed in certain wild and untouched areas on this earth, on her breathing freely and joyfully.

This time, I discerned that she was shifting, that a change was in the air that had to do with her. Even the birds were singing a different tune. In fact, only a few of them sang their regular evening song, the others were quiet or chirped a tune that seemed to carry more stillness than usual, almost as if they were waiting for something to happen, as if they relaid a warning. The usually industrious and ubiquitous ground squirrels were nowhere to seen or heard. The stream murmured, but her song, too carried a chant ofinternal knowing that I was not privy to. All I knew was that she did not sound like her happy and carefree self. She was preparing for something that was hidden from me. Yet, even I, the enculturated human, along with the animals, could sense that something was off. I just did not know what ... 

It took me a long to go to sleep and I was soon jolted back to a waking state. It was not a dream that had brought me back from my deep sleep. It was the earth herself that had woken me up. She was moving and so was I, my tent and everything in it, the trees outside and the air ... Gentle ondulations moved the tent, the little mattress, and myself cocooned in my mummy sleeping bag. I would not have been able to leave the tent, the zipper was stuck and most likely broken and I knew it. I had been wanting to deal with it in the morning, during daylight. But really, I did not want to move. I felt held and cradled by our earth, gently swayed back and forth like a child in a bassonette. It was absolutely still around me, every body knew what was happening and bowed to its unfolding with their own innate reverence for the design of life. It felt like I had been falling asleep on a sleeping giant who woke up and was stretching herself. 

The earth was truly stretching and reaching and moving. She is a living being, sometimes called Gaia, an immensely intelligent and perfect organism who takes great joy in creating new life forms. Can’t we just work in tandem with her? Co-create more beauty to complement the beauty and perfection that already exists, create and design graceful and LIVING designs that are sustainable and regenerative like the ones she comes up with, not like my tent in its last throes with its finite zipper life. That moment in the tent, in that gentle embrace I knew that I was a part of it all, that there was nothing to fear. Yes, earth quakes can hurt people, but mostly it is our structures that hurt us when they go down, our what some native people call “hard houses”. I sense it is time for some “soft houses”, meaning for on open heart, for gentle treading on the earth and for honoring her and her daily bounty in gratitude. I am ready to go deeper with this kind of “embodied living” as I call it. Not just talking about it anymore as in “would’nt it be nice” but actually living in a way that nurtures All Life, that honors our interdependence and interconnection. The time is now and We are It.

The fat dormouse-A story of interrelatedness

Dormice are rodents that are predominantly found in Europe. Their numbers are connected to beech nuts and during years with lots of beech nuts they become abundant. What is so fascinating about them is that their numbers do not go up during the year following the abundant nut harvest which is the case with other animals, like the mice, but they seem to show up in droves right when the nuts are ready to be eaten, that very same year. And if there is not enough food the following year then their numbers correspond to that situation right away and there are far fewer dormice than the year before. 

People noticed this fact in the past and attributed it to the “work of the devil” like it is illustrated in this drawing from Europe below.

Fortunately we have moved on from that notion of the past. New research has shown that it is the animals’ innate intelligence and instinctual nature that is working to their benefit. Dormice go into hibernation in October and do not wake up until April/May. Upon waking up they check the beech nut food situation for that year probably by checking on the abundance or lack of beech nut flowers. If there happens to be enough food coming they stay awake and are out and about in large numbers. If that is not the case they go back to sleep and most of them do not wake up until the next spring to check on the food situation again. The overall number of dormice does not change that much like it does with mice i.e., but the number of ACTIVE dormice changes drastically every year depending on their food source situation. Their reproduction rate, unlike that of mice is slow and they live a relatively long life of up to 10 years. They are immensely important to the ecosystem as they are a major food source for lynx, fox, owls, weasels and birds of prey. 

But they also affect the food chain in many other ways: If there are lots of beech nuts, many dormice decide to stay awake and hence become food for the lynx. That year the lynx will not kill as many deer and the deer population will go up. It is the beech nuts that determine via dormice and lynx how manydeer will survive. It is that simple: Everything is truly interconnected and we cannot take anything out of the web of life. 

European dormouse. Photo: Miha Krofel

European dormouse. Photo: Miha Krofel

Bison Nation-Walking Sacred Sites: How it all started

I grew up in Germany on an organic farm. By that time we Germans had already wiped out our large mammals, the Wisent (German bison), the wolf, the bear, the lynx, the wild cats, the auroxen, the moose and in my part of the world the elk were gone as well. All we had left were some deer whose numbers skyrocketed every year because their natural predators were gone and who were now eating geraniums in the village. They and the wild boar were subject to annual driven hunts and their numbers were decimated by trophy hunters and hunters who used them for meat.

I felt lonely without the large animals and longed to have them back. Somehow, I always knew deep down inside that large herds of wild animals had roamed on this planet in earlier times. I was especially interested in the bison and the wolves that followed them. 

Secretly, I wished to see them, to be around them, to spend time with them. I yearned for their presence and I missed them. I often bargained with Santa to take my dolls and legos back and to instead grant me the immense gift to spend time with the reindeer and bison. Needless to say, it never happened, I never met them as a child.

Fast forward to six years ago. I had already moved to the US to be around wilderness and wild animals and I was back backing in Yellowstone National Park when I came across a bison bull who stood broadside in my path. He looked at me with great intensity as if he was saying: “Don’t move.” I sat down and took off my back pack and told him: “I can go anywhere in this world. But you only have a sliver of your former habitat left. I will not make you move, or get too close and disturb you. I will not even go around you. I will just wait here.” He kept looking at me with this great intensity in his eyes, and I kept looking back at him in anticipation of what was to come. And then it happened: My childhood dream came true. Bison started coming down the hill from all sides, surrounding me. I was in the midst of them all. They kept pouring in and I counted 423 animals. I was able to discern the mothers, calves and the bulls were with them because it was rutting season. They were all very calm and communicated with each other in their snorting type of way, and I was able to discern what they were saying. My childhood dream had come true and I was filled with joy and awe. I told them: “Thank you for coming and being with me. Out of gratitude and to help you thrive on this planet I will tell your story.” A few months later I started on the documentary, “Bison Nation-Walking Sacred Sites” which premiered as an outdoor screening in Albuquerque, NM on October 29th 2016. Over 370 people came to see the bison’s story and bear witness to their return to the Northern Hemisphere. 

 

Bison baby and mama. People who do not know about the bison call them "little red dogs."

Bison baby and mama. People who do not know about the bison call them "little red dogs."

I choose love

The other day I saw a car passing me on the left lane with a bumper sticker that read “I CHOOSE LOVE”. It instantly inspired me and I immediately stepped on the gas a little to see who was driving the vehicle, but to no avail. The person in front of me did not want to move as fast as I did and there was no way of getting into the left lane. So I changed my focus and started thinking about when I could choose love over other emotions and how. Where I could change the course of a whole day by choosing love instead of frustration and fear, a heart based approach instead of the takeover by my mind and old behaviors dictated by even older experiences and conditioning. This gotme started:

I choose love for the extremely slow driver in front of me, I choose love for my self and my life, I choose love for this world and how it is right now. I choose love for the people that think and act radically different from me.

Now I was on a roll. I choose love for the things that I cannot change. I choose love for this entire planet and all of her creatures, plants and rocks. I choose love for other people whose behavior I cannot understand and who were raised differently. I choose love for hunters who poach wolves. Now wait a minute, did you just say that and MEAN it? Yes, I did. Wow! I choose love for all the expressions of life on this planet. I choose love, love, love and love again. By now I was feeling REALLY good, even though I had already been feeling good all day. But I felt even BETTER. Just the thought of love made love spill over into my whole being.

This is what love does to a heart. It expands it and makes everything more vibrant and bigger and more perfect. And all of a sudden, there are solutions and openings where before there were none. I choose love… There it was again, the car with the bumper sticker. This time I was passing it from the right lane as it was waiting to make a left turn. I took a really good look at the driver, an “ordinary” appearing person, not an angel at all. If he only knew what the message on his bumper sticker had done to me, he would be smiling, too. He did not look in my direction and was concentrating on his left turn instead of noticing me. One moment later I had passed him. I choose love…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Nature

I have been feeling into the etymology of our human words lately and where certain expressions and words come from. What came up was the expression: Human nature. For one thing it commonly refers to the notion that we cannot help who we are and what we do. It is simply human nature to wage war, to be disconnected and to be an island upon oneself. But when I looked a little more deeply, I saw something else:

We are the human expression of nature! We are the outside earth. We are not separate or different from her, but a part of her, a vital and integral part of the rest of what has been created and is still being created every second on this planet. This interpretation of "human nature" is a much taller order for us. It calls us to step up to the plate so to speak, to realize who we really are and what we are capable of. In this light, our simple dismissal of our abilities and our infatuation with the ordinary and mediocre is put aside and makes way for something else. If, for a long time we have acted and lived from fear, now is the time to act, be and live from the spirit of unity-consciousness, belonging, love, gratitude and joy. Just imagine what we can do and be from that vantage point of life. Out of the ashes of our past will rise a new possibility: that of the connected, caring human being. And our human nature will truly shine!