Thursday, June 25, 2009


I am in a cave in southern France, looking at a salmon cut into the cave wall 30,000 years ago, a male, over one meter long, detailed, the product of an artist who knew salmon, who saw them swimming through.
Since 1973 I have been thinking about the idea of bioregionalism, thinking about how to learn to live in a particular place, and how to gradually come to be a part of that place, a partner in the natural workings of that place, and to learn to be less and less "intrusive", as we humans have a way of being.
As I learn about my own particular place, living here next to a lake in Maine, I come to learn about all of the beings whose lives pass through this place, at one time of the year or another.These are the great migratory tribes, and their own home regions cover a much wider range than my own. We are coming around to celebrating these friends.
We welcome the loons back, the eagles, ospreys, herons, orioles, grosbeaks, bobolinks and so many more. We watch for turtles in the road. We welcome the alewives as they arrive to swim from the ocean up into the lake, through a series of newly built pools, human-made to assist them in their journey. We look to the milkweed for monarchs, rising up in the fall for their journey to Mexico. And so many others.
As a practicing Caribouddhist I worry about the caribou, moving from protection in Canada into the United States, to calve on the plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or the reindeer, living with the consequences of nuclear disaster in their bodies, or the wolves and condors reintroduced in the American west, the bears and wolves reintroduced in Italy and Slovenia, my stork friends flying from Africa to Latvia, Lithuania, flying through the horror of war in Iraq twice a year. And so many others.
As a bioregionalist, I want my own bioregion to provide these travelers with their traditional food, lodging and safety - natural concerns for a weary pilgrim, but now I think that I must also be a migrationist, worrying about the health of their journey, the flyways, the migratory routes, the ocean, the air, so that these travelers are able to safely make their yearly journeys. My bioregion extends to the boreal forests, the south american songbird destinations, all the many parts of the world to which i am connected, my home place is connected , by these wonderful migrating friends. and so many more.

Migration Prayer

we will greet them with colorful flags,
wave them on their way through,
light fires, burn incense,
prepare a feast to say
We wish you well
pray for your travels
take care, take care

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

cave art in the Dordogne

In May Beth and I spent 4 days in the Dordogne region of France, going into caves to look at the art on the walls of the caves. We went to Lascaux 2, a replica, as the original cave is now closed to the public.(for more on the tragic current conditions in the Lascaux cave, and to see a gallery of art from the cave, go to We went into the Font de Gaume, Combarelles, Pech Merle and Grotte de Cougnac caves, the Cap Blanc cliff shelter, and to the Le Thot animal park, where they have living descendants of the animals painted on the cave walls.Seeing the Przewalski horses, and the Tarpans (although "polluted by domestication") was like seeing the horses come down off the cave walls.

We saw polychrome paintings, engraving, sculpture, wonderful animals, handprints, bear scratches, and some pretty amazing caves.There are a lot of critters with antlers - I feel that I am in the sacred halls of early European Caribouddhism.
(My basic text before coming to the caves was Juniper Fuse - Upper Paleolithic Imagination and the Construction of the Underworld, by Clayton Eshleman. Eshleman has been coming to the caves since the early 1970s, publishing a number of books of poems based on his experiences with the caves, and this book combines cave information, poetry and scholarship, along with photos and illustrations from the caves. Another book I would recommend, as another point of view, is Georges Bataille's The Cradle of Humanity - Prehistoric Art and Culture - with essays and talks on the caves and their art.)

After the caves, we took a train from Sarlat to Paris, and in Paris saw an incredible show of the work of William Blake, which resonated strongly with the images and feelings left in us from the caves.

The First Gallery:

"The eye exists in its savage state." Andre Breton

cool afternoon in
black manganese hands
in the rock more
hands in the rock

cro magnon wireless
this dark
I want to tell you
what I saw

"so many souls circulate here"

The Hyena's den
"in the midst of the animal remains were the teeth
and a fragment of gnawed humerus belonging
to a Neanderthal."

"the statue communicated with them
in a secret language."

William Blake
"How do you know but ev'ry bird
that cuts the airy way
is an immense world of delight,
clos'd by your senses five."

William Blake
"Imagination is eternity."

" What is the material world,
and is it dead?"

I left this morning,
covered in weeds and ashes
and the strong words of a friend,
"We'll never see each other,
in this life, again"

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Yaqui Easter

Every year as Spring and Easter approach, I remember the Yaqui Easter ceremonies, and go back to read the Yaqui deer dance songs. Beth and I were lucky to have traveled to Tucson to see the Easter dances there one year, and now i am thinking of that world, the world of deer dancers, the wilderness world, the enchanted world, the flower world, and that combination of Easter with Jesus, the Romans, death and resurrection, with hummingbirds, flowers, pollen and deer singers. Here is one of those Deer songs ( the deer is talking to the wilderness world, and the brightness is the brightness of the light before dawn)

flower wilderness,
as I want to go out,
flower wilderness.
In the enchanted flower wilderness world
I went out,
flower wilderness.

flower wilderness,
as I want to go out,
flower wilderness.
In the enchanted flower wilderness world
I went out,
flower wilderness.

flower wilderness,
as I want to go out,
flower wilderness.
In the enchanted flower wilderness world
I went out,
flower wilderness.

Over there I,
under the flower-covered brightness,
I see you.
In the enchanted flower wilderness world,
I went out,
flower wilderness.

(from Yaqui Deer Songs - Maso Bwikam, A Native American Poetry , Larry Evers and felipe S. Molina)

Monday, January 12, 2009


Belfast Harbor Night View
Yvonne Jacquette


I'm floating above the town,
above the bridges, above the bay
there are the lights
there is the darkness
water and sky
bridges and bay
everyone gone now
done away
upriver, downriver,
all the way home.

just before sleep, I realize
there is a portal in the river -
between Maplewood and Penobscot,
near the sardine factory, maybe
below the old bridge, with
a constant movement of souls -
chicken, sardine, redfish,
mackerel, striper and
fellow humans -
a door below the
bay, the way
home -
the river is the portal
I dive into the water
looking for my father, dead
the ashes, spread

where the languages go
a prayer for all of it
a prayer for the living
a prayer for the dead
Williamson translates the river name as
"place of ghosts or spirits, dead men walk"
the flitting lights
Fannie Eckstorm says "place where they fished
for sturgeon by torch light"
a river of ghosts, a river of light,
sturgeon the size of
a man, shoots into the air,
sturgeon and spirits all
shining, all returning, at
dusk, on a fresh tide -
in a dream they showed me,
below the river, below the town,
the entrance to a cave, a cave
full of pictures of my father,
my father, in his youth -
west into the cave away
from the water west
west where the light goes
west where the sun goes
where the dead men go, all souls, moving -
I am under water and
I can't tell night from morning.
when the light is gone
when all there is left is love -
when the body steals
even memories, even time -
my mother is losing her memory
not in the small ways of
where are my glasses
what was his name but
in the final way where
time, history, life and love
become lost and I
lose my own history.
who will tell me about the farms, the streets,
the houses, the people -
who will sing those quiet songs,
help me sleep?
pictures with no stories
faces with no names
is this my family?
history doesn't matter
memory doesn't matter
time doesn't matter
love doesn't matter
the weather changes
without you
history changes.
it's not easy.
it's just dying.
the river rises,
out of the dark,
going west, west
beyond familiar hills
into deeper water.

Gary Lawless