earthweal weekly challenge: STORMS AND RAINBOWS

Rainbow as it appears above a grass fire burning on a hillside along Marsh Creek Road in Brentwood, Calif., on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020.


Pondering what to pose as this week’s challenge, I woke this morning with the words Storms and Rainbows echoing from the drain of my sleeping mind.

We are in a season of storms: rousing thunder marches across the receptive earth. A raw, breaking-open time. Wildfires in California (conflagrated by excessive heat and lightning) burn with the growing, growling intensity we saw earlier this year in Australia. Smoke from the fires blankets far and wide.  Two tropical systems march toward the Gulf of Mexico, where waters are hotter in the new usual; both are predicted to strike Louisiana’s Gulf coast 48 hours apart. Artic sea ice is melting vanishingly fast. Monsoon rains in South Asia have furiously unleashed a  new-ordinary. And with the coronavirus pandemic continuing to flatten economies and increase human misery around the world, the Earth at 1 degree C of overall warming mired in the speed-shift of pandemic offers a jarring glimpse of the world as it warms 2 or 3 degrees C more in the next century, just as the poaching of endangered species hastens the demise of the animal kingdom wrought by climate change.

Yet in these folds are also rainbows. Rainbows are an optical phenomena created by the reflections, refraction and diffusion of sunlight off rain droplets, a circular arc centered by the sun and the observer’s eye.  (Normally we only see the half of them above the ground.) After the violence of a storm, the shimmer of multi-spectral light feels like a halo of blessing, an augury of the new.

From Wikipedia –

Rainbows occur frequently in mythology, and have been used in the arts. One of the earliest literary occurrences of a rainbow is in the Book of Genesis chapter 9, as part of the flood story of Noah, where it is a sign of God’s covenant to never destroy all life on earth with a global flood again. In Norse mythology, the rainbow bridge Bifröst connects the world of men (Midgard) and the realm of the gods (Asgard). Cuchavira was the god of the rainbow for the Muisca in present-day Colombia and when the regular rains on the Bogotá savanna were over, the people thanked him offering gold, snails and small emeralds. Some forms of Tibetan Buddhism or Dzogchen reference a rainbow body. The Irish leprechaun’s secret hiding place for his pot of gold is usually said to be at the end of the rainbow. This place is appropriately impossible to reach, because the rainbow is an optical effect which cannot be approached.

Rainbows weave through our daily fabric. Life goes on. Children are born. Memorials are tended. As the usurper Macbeth is beheaded in the end, rogue leaders are voted out and the time becomes free. (Many of us will need to repeat this for the next four days of the Republican National Convention.) New shoots green burnt hills. We decide what’s worth rebuilding and look to new and better conventions of living for the entire human community.

Ghosts endure.

The interface of storm and rainbow—of despair and hope—is what interests me here.  In the I Ching there is a hexagram for this, Fu (Return), or The Turning Point:

RETURN. Success.
Going out and coming in without error.
Friends come without blame.
To and fro goes the way.
On the seventh day comes return.
It furthers one to have somewhere to go.

To and fro goes the way. Linked to the winter solstice, this hexagram speaks of a turning point, where darkness is exhausted and light begins its return.

How to stand at this door and return this light? Rilke suggests the following in his Sonnets to Orpheus:

A god can do it. But will you tell me how
a man can penetrate through the lyre’s strings?
Our mind is split. And at the shadowed crossing
of heart-roads, there is no temple for Apollo.

Song, as you have taught it, is not desire,
not wooing any grace that can be achieved;

song is reality. Simple, for a god.
But when can we be real? When does he pour

the earth, the stars, into us? Young man,
it is not your loving, even if your mouth
was forced wide open by your own voice—learn

to forget that passionate music. It will end.
True singing is a different breath, about
nothing. A gust inside the god. A wind.

—I.3, transl. Stephen Mitchell

A wind takes us from an idea of reality into Being. From shelter from the storm into spiral magnificence. From lightning strike to immolated city to a new pact with a burning Earth.

Easy, for a god. But what about us?

Perhaps we have come to the warbling threshold: Are we ready to step through? What does the rainbow bridge to this future look like? It is only an illusion?

All we need is a song. Write about storms and rainbows from whatever vantage seems most appropriate to you.

This challenge will remain open until 4 p.m. EST Friday, August 28, when we’ll roll down the scenery for the next open link weekend.

How did Joyce announce the thunder in Finnegans Wake


That should get us started!


earthweal open link weekend 33


Hi everyone, and welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend no. 33. Link a favorite poem from your work, old or new. Be sure to include your location in your link so we know what part of this Earth is singing, and visit your fellow linkers and comment.

Open link lasts until midnight EST Sunday night when we roll out the next weekly challenge.

See ya in the fray!

— Brendan

earthweal weekly challenge: RE-WILDING OUR SOULS

By Sherry Marr

“The soulscapes of our lives form the arc
of a heroic journey. Our quest for wholeness
and connection with the wild is a wild and sacred journey.”

—From Reclaiming the Wild Soul: How Earth’s Landscapes Restore Us to Wholeness by Mary Reynolds Thompson


Praise the wild soul for its ridges and canyons,
for its rivers and rapids. For its love of deep
caves and dark woods. For terrain, vast and
varied, undulating beneath spirit sky.

Praise the wild soul for its beauty, tremulous
as an aspen leaf, fierce as mother hawk. For
the way it shuns cages and breaks chains that
bind. For the way it rises, wings unfurled, on
rhythms of air. No stage holds dancers more
graceful than this.

Praise the wild soul for its intricacies, more
layered than the beaver’s dam, more complex
than the termites’ hill. Praise its wholeness, no
part left out, everything belonging.

Darkness gathers. My heart fills with fore-
boding at our human frailties.

But I have faith.
I am telling you now:
I believe in the wild soul.
Praise it.

This poem by Mary Reynolds Thompson expresses much of how I feel about our connection with the wild world, so necessary and integral to our well-being, and my foreboding at how so many have become deaf to the wild ones’ cries.

My connection with the wild has sustained me through years of trauma, turbulence and loss. Through it all, Mother Nature has been my best lover. The beauty of the earth has gotten me through the worst and best years of my life, as I walked along, head tipped back and grinning at the sky.

For years, raising my kids in Kelowna, lake and desert country, I saw its beauty, but felt I was in the wrong landscape. The wild shores and the old growth forests of Clayoquot Sound sang a siren song to me years before I journeyed here, before I ever beheld the perfection of its beauty. Its song captured my heart and imagination, drawing me to it as surely as a murrelet is drawn to its nest, a migrant whale to her feeding ground.

My inner Wild Woman came alive when I moved to Tofino the first time, in 1989. Immediately I stepped onto the beach, felt the energy of this power place, that questing, seeking voice in me was stilled, replaced by joy and gratitude and the certain knowledge I was in my soul’s home where I was meant to be.

Wild Woman got even wilder when Pup, my very alpha wolf-dog, found me. We gamboled joyously along the shore, explored every forest trail, in every weather. When we had to leave, we mourned its loss together, but found other wild rivers and forest trails to walk. This was a necessity for our well-being.

Those who live in cities likely feel that something-missing that is the wild world. Thankfully, cities have their share of parks and wilder spaces one can find, to make that connection we humans sorely need with the land.

For Mother Earth to heal, humanity has to either experience a societal shift, a transformation of consciousness, or else, (and this is more likely from the look of things), be forced by escalating climate crises to learn how to live as part of our ecosystem, in an integrated, rather than a dominating way.

Mary explains, “In losing our intimate relationship with the Earth, we modern humans have suffered a particular trauma that has caused our wild souls to split off…………we experience the symptoms of separation in a sense of alienation and a lack of aliveness.”

Healing the wound in nature heals the wound in ourselves, when we reconnect with Mother Earth and do what we can to help ease her wounds, and protect her forests and waters.

The way society is arranged, we are compressed into roles and boxes; making a living often takes so much effort there is little time for the actual living of life itself. Here is Mary Reynolds Thompson again:

To feel the breath of wildness come into your body is to reclaim your natural wholeness. It is to be enfolded by fields of grasses and held by the mountains’ slow and steady strength. It is to hear in your own heartbeat the thunderous roar of the ocean, reminding you that your life still belongs to the wild Earth. All you have to do is reach for her.

Different landscapes call to different people. Some are in love with deserts; some need forests, oceans and rivers; other hearts thrill to the majesty of the mountains, or swell to the vast scope of grasslands and big sky. There is beauty all around, everywhere, in the morning sky peeking at us from our back porch, and in visits from the wild world: small birds coming to our feeder, deer softly tiptoe-ing across the grass.

For your challenge: What is your wild soul’s story in relation to the landscape you love? Tell us about the place that sings you home, the one that calls to your wild spirit, the place in all the world that invites your wild Self out to play. It can be the landscape you loved in childhood and think of now when you think of Home. Or it might be a place you love right now, either where you are living, or a beloved vacation spot.

Introduce us to its topography, its special characteristics. How has your chosen landscape changed over the years? How has loving it changed you? How is it in peril? What is the land and its wild creatures saying to you?

Whatever words come to you in response to this, I will read them with great appreciation.


earthweal open link weekend #32


Greetings and welcome to earthweal open link weekend #32. Share a poem old or new and circle around to your fellow linkers and comment.

Open link weekend lasts until midnight Sunday, at which time we roll out the next weekly challenge. (Thanks again to Sarah for her fine Lost Words challenge, and to all of you who found some!)



earthweal guest weekly challenge: LOST WORDS

by Sarah Connor

I’m really good at recognising wildflowers.

That’s not because I’ve studied them, or been taught about them. It’s mainly because I loved the Cecily Mary Barker books when I was a child. Reading and re-reading those gorgeous little books gave me a real grounding in English wildflowers. It means that now, when I go for walks, I have something to look out for. It also means that I notice something different, I know that it’s different, I might go home and look it up (probably in a slightly more grown-up book). It’s given me a personal connection to nature. It’s given me a series of hooks to hang new learning on.

Here’s the lovely Blackthorn Fairy, from Pinterest. Note that the leaves aren’t out yet – one of the ways to spot that this is blackthorn, not hawthorn. Impressed?

Why am I telling you this? Well, we’re all poets. We know how important words are. How important it is to name things. We’re also here at earthweal, so we care about this planet. We see the danger Earth is in, and we want things to change.

In 2005, Robert Louv coined the term Nature-Deficit Disorder®. He was talking about the damage done to children when they don’t have access to nature, and linking it to a number of physical and mental health difficulties. The world was obviously ready for this idea, and there’s been lots of research since then looking at the damage to the individual, but also the damage done to the planet when humans don’t feel connected to nature. People don’t care about things they don’t feel connected to.

Roll on to 2007, and a new edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary. This is a dictionary for children, which aims to “the current frequency of words in daily language of children”. The 2007 edition created a massive shockwave in the UK by including words like “broadband” and omitting words like “acorn”. At least 40 words from the natural world were left out. In response to this, Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris created a beautiful “spell-book” – The Lost Words.

Just to give you an idea of how shocking this was, here’s a selection of words omitted:

  • Dandelion
  • Bramble
  • Fern
  • Acorn
  • Heron
  • Kingfisher
  • Raven
  • Starling
  • Willow
  • Lavender
  • Sycamore
  • Poppy
  • Otter
  • Newt
  • Wren
  • Magpie

MacFarlane quotes a Cambridge study showing that children are better at identifying Pokemon characters than they are at identifying “organisms such as oak trees or badgers”.

Wittgenstein said “whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent”. If we don’t have words, names for things, how do we think about them? How do we feel connection?

That connection is vital for our planet. We don’t care about things we don’t feel connected to. Everyone knows this. Big brands try to make you feel part of a “family”. Politicians survey to find out what issues we care about. Football fans buy scarves and replica kits to feel part of something bigger than themselves. If we let our children be more connected to electronic creatures than to the natural world around them, how can they gain a sense of love and care for this wonderful planet of ours?

So, for this prompt, I’d like you to think about how you first felt connected to nature – maybe as a child, or as an adult. Some of those lost words may inspire you, or you may have your own lost word (or world?) that gave you a sense of wonder at the natural world around you. Maybe you collected caterpillars, or watched birds on a bird-table, or squatted down to watch beetles, or looked up to see squirrels in the treetops.

Let’s aim to connect humans with nature. Let’s inspire love and respect. Let’s write poems.