Another Turn on the Writing Road

It’s been over a year since I published anything on “River Song,” and during those months I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. What do I want to write about now, with fifty-odd years of writing behind me?

For more of those years than I care to remember, my burning question has been the question of human survival. Will human beings learn how to take care of the earth and each other? Or will we refuse to learn, thereby becoming one more memory in the vast memory-stores of the cosmos.

My crystal ball was broken in the last windstorm, so I can’t see what’s coming next. At the moment, however, it looks as if some of us are learning, some of us are adamantly refusing to learn, some of us are immobilized by war and poverty, earth upheavals and political upheavals, and for some of us, the world begins and ends with our own skin.

The future of human children lies in the hands of this motley crew. Am I the only one who thinks we’re in need of an extraterrestrial intervention?


note: photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

“I Tell Lucile Secrets,” a photo-essay

I tell Lucile secrets.


Lucille_Harriet-Santa Fe
Lucile and I travel by train to California.
Lucile_H_San Diego
Lucile and I reach San Diego.
Lucille Painting
portrait of Dorothy Lucile Truitt, painted by one of her many friends


“I Tell Lucile Secrets” is a photo-essay about my aunt Lucile and her effect on those around her, specifically me. For a portrait in words, see “Lucile and the Power of Persistence” (in the April 28, 2017 posting on this blog; it’s the first essay in “She Is Still Burning” 4).



I Hate To Sound Trite, But …

21 April 2017 BE: All this past winter, people have been risking life and limb to cross illegally from the US into Canada, to claim asylum. One of the first, who nearly froze to death crossing by foot into Manitoba, said later on the radio, “I hate to sound trite, and I certainly didn’t plan it this way, but it was worth losing my fingers to get into Canada because here I’m a human being.”

WH Auden hated to sound trite too, and the young man on the radio reminded me of him. Auden was so embarrassed by the line “We must love one another or die” that he dropped the entire long great poem “September 1, 1939” from his collected works. Millions have now read that poem on the internet, and it keeps circulating, so maybe there is such a thing as being too concerned about sounding trite.

Michelle Obama, being interviewed in the White House last December by Oprah Winfrey, said, without hesitation or embarrassment, “Open your heart; that’s all it takes.”

I haven’t lived in the US for thirty years now, and have learned in the meantime to dish out advice only to myself, as a matter of personal policy. Still, there are some things it’s easier to see from a distance than close-up. So, one final time, I’ll venture into territory where I’m likely to get whacked:

Dear Cousins to the South,

Remember how quickly the Soviet Union came apart? That’s how fast your country is falling apart.

Remember your first civil war, the one that at the time was the bloodiest conflict in human history? You’re sliding into a second one, where every state is a border state, friends and family turn on each other, there is no clear definition of victory or defeat, and almost no one knows what they’re doing, apart from destroying or hiding in their house or intellectualizing the whole situation.

Please, people, pretty please with sugar on it, do what Michelle told you to do. Open your heart. Don’t try to figure out how this jives with your metaphysics or your politics or your plans, just do it. Like, now.

With sincere best wishes for the future,

Yr friend, Harriet Ann


What Matters

Guadalupe has an arm around quotidian Mary
they have begun to howl not worrying
that the moon is not in the right phase

it’ll come says the second Mary

when we reach BE
elemental quintessential
that is what matters

–Susan Hawthorne, “wolf pack” in Lupa and Lamb (Spinifex Press, 2014)

30 January 2017 BE (Biophilic Era, time of the life-lovers)

It’s been nearly a year since my last posting, and in that time I’ve gone from bordering-on-blindness to being far-sighted for the first time in my life. In the meantime, the earth’s frequency/vibration increased, and on the December 2016 solstice we crossed over the threshold into a new cosmic cycle.

Earlier this month, when I had begun reading again, I snooped around in Susan Hawthorne’s Lupa and Lamb because I was in the mood for a trans-temporal party and that’s what this book of hers is. In the lines quoted above, “quotidian Mary” and “second Mary” refer to Mary Daly, whose books I was also pulling out from the shelves. Mary Daly was a phone friend of mine for a few years after Amazon Grace came out, and, like most of the friends I’ve made this lifetime, she is not in her body at this time. If you want the particular form of mental stimulation she provides, you’ve got to invoke her or reread the books she left behind.

It was Mary Daly’s idea to stick “BE” after the day’s date, “BE” being short for “Biophilic Era,” a name she invented. It was my idea to lengthen the name to “Biophilic Era, time of the life-lovers” because I like the lush sound of it.

On 21 January 2017 BE, over 600 women’s marches for justice took place on seven continents. Together, they constituted the largest popular protest in human history, and they proved a natural umbrella for anyone choosing to resist 21st-century fascism.

The following morning, Prensa Libre, Guatemala’s foremost newspaper, featured the women’s resistance on its front page. In the foreground of their photo of the DC march, many signs are large enough to read, including:

I’m With Her (with arrows pointing in every direction)
Feminism Is The Radical Idea That Women Are Human Beings
and, my favourite, I Can’t Fucking Believe This Shit.


Patience, Grasshopper

For the last few years, my world has been getting darker and darker, and shrinking. I can’t see well enough to drive, so Mr. Bear is my chauffeur. He reads to me the labels on grocery-store shelves, and pays at the check-out because the debit machine defeats me every time. He set the font size on my computer screen to GARGANTUAN.

Life has gone on because Mr. Bear remained devoted while his partner slowly transformed into a baby mole. I know I’m lucky and I don’t mind being a reclusive, subterranean creature — but the baby part is humiliating for someone who used to be an adult.

All this began to change in early February when I had my first encounter with surgery since I was seven years old. In the dressing room, the nurse offered me an Ativan (what’s that?), but, sailing forward in ignorant enthusiasm, I instantly replied, “oh no thanks, I’m not nervous at all.”

I was in a strange state of non-chemically-induced ecstasy when they wheeled me into the space-age operating room. They sealed me from the waist up in an oxygen-filled bubble, with a hole cut out for the eye that was to be operated on. “Look into the light,” said the surgeon, and I did.

Very soon I saw a thin red line appear, and then I saw the lens in my eye being lifted out, and then I saw a hole in my eye and a black grid centered over the hole, and then I saw the artificial lens being put in, and then I heard the surgeon say in a worried voice, “I have very little support here.”

He no sooner said this than I noticed my legs had gone rigid as a board under the heated blanket. I spent the remainder of the fifteen-minute operation wishing I’d swallowed the magic pill.

It’s now been nearly four weeks of recovery, and I’ve gone from the euphoria of discovering that the world is filled with extraordinary light, to the terror of noting that small black dots keep dancing around in my “new” eye, to utter exasperation that now both eyes hurt and I still can’t read the print in books.

When I consider there’s one more operation to go, I feel like smashing pottery. And I repeat to myself what the old kung fu master says over and over to his student: “Patience, grasshopper.”


Into the Snow

I go where I love and where I am loved,
Into the snow …
H.D., from The Flowering of the Rod

bear_ctr back_15-12-19

Early on a mid-December morning, when the light was just right, Mr. Bear ventured out with his camera to photograph the snowy landscape behind our house.

In the center of the backyard lives Mapleluselah, a maple tree that visiting naturalist Sara Wright said was at least 200 years old. Mapleluselah can be seen from space (in satellite photography) and is used by migrating birds as a way-marker (we are guessing this because twice a year the backyard becomes a small-bird staging area, a place to rest and fatten up before heading farther north in the spring or south in the fall).

Mapleluselah is loved by everyone, whether they fly with their own wings or scurry up the trunk with four little feet or stop their car to visit on two legs and sit in the tree swing.

Over a long lifetime, Mapleluselah has become a Universal Attractor.









The Liberated Greet You

On 19 October 2015, Canadians staged a last-ditch people’s uprising at the polls, and now we have a new Liberal majority government that is reversing the direction of the country. If you want to know why I look  happy, that’s why.

The Cabinet sworn in, along with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, on 4 November looks like Canada: fifteen men and fifteen women of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds. Never done before in a parliamentary democracy, and especially gratifying in a democracy which a month earlier had been a cat’s whisker away from a one-man tyranny. And these are ministers who are qualified, even over-qualified, for their posts (you’d think that being qualified for one’s job would go without saying, but not so under He Who Shall Not Be Named).

One example: the Minister of Justice and Canada’s new Attorney General is a former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations who gave up her career as a crown prosecutor to run for office. She won her seat in Parliament, and now Jody Wilson-Raybould is in charge of shaping law as it applies to all Canadians. This is not only justice at work, it is my lifetime-favourite instance of poetic justice.

And so it goes … nearly every day for the past month has ushered in some new righting of wrongs in a country that is no longer gloom&doom Harperland, but a much sunnier place. And even though we’re heading into another Canadian winter and much of the world is at each other’s throats, I remain in my uncharacteristically cheerful state.

I don’t recall ever feeling quite this way before. I may never even have thought it was possible to feel this way.

Thank you, Canada.





Mr. Bear took this photo of Mimo in late August 2015, when the young red  squirrel initiated a friendship with him. For the next few weeks, Mimo would come each time Mr. Bear did his squirrel-imitation (sort of a whistle, sort of a chk-chk-chk).

But in early September Mimo found a girlfriend, and suddenly he was too busy to play and he didn’t need any human to talk with either. Mimo and Girlfriend have now squirreled away food for the winter in every good tree-cache in the back and on the slope down to the creek. And they converse with each other incessantly.

It’s Talkative True Love.







Rising to the Occasion

On the June 2015 solstice (summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, winter solstice in the southern hemisphere), She Rises, the first offering from Mago Books, will be published. What began as a collective writing project on Facebook’s “Mago Circle” two years ago has transformed into an anthology of monumental proportions—470 pages of writing and artwork by 90 contributors from different continents and backgrounds.

To help celebrate the book launch, I’m posting the link to the new Mago Books website and reprinting below a slightly finessed version of my initial (quick & dirty & inflammatory) contribution to that first writing project.

A Personal Story

I got involved with women’s liberation in the early 1970s, so involved that it became my life for many years. During those beginnings of what is now called “the second wave of feminism,” everything was new to us and everything was mushed together—the political, the economic, the intellectual, the emotional, the spiritual. I liked that a lot; It felt as if all the parts of myself were coming together.

During that time, I learned something crucial: the imagery and concepts of patriarchal religion justify and are embedded in the material structures of oppression. I don’t know which came first, institutionalized oppression (of almost everyone; I’m not speaking here only of women) or the religious expression of that oppression. All I’m certain of is that patriarchal religion permeates, for example, the Oxford English Dictionary, which I use all the time in conjunction with Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language, conjured by Mary Daly in cahoots with Jane Caputi.

I wouldn’t describe myself as an especially spiritual person; I don’t practice any spiritual discipline, unless you can call reading and writing spiritual. And I agree with Marx that religion is “the opium of the people,” “the heart of a heartless world,” that which keeps people alive within the iron cage of oppressive systems while it also discourages them from collectively opening the door of their prison.

Although I reject the rebellion-squashing function of father-god religions, at the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, I look to the new Goddess writers, re-discovering and re-inventing the early religions of humankind, for inspiration. The earliest religions seem to have worked to bring people together, rather than to tread on some while lifting up others. That is attractive to me. The love of the earth and the stars and the mysterious invisible worlds that permeate Goddess spirituality also attracts me. Plus, the old and new Goddess images are beautiful, and there is something enticingly poetic about the ceremonies being created and re-created in the name of Goddess spirituality.

What’s not to like about all this?


Long silence owing to life (and death) taking over.

Here in rural New Brunswick, Canada, the winter of 2015 has been what Siberia’s winter was thirty years ago. Now I know in my bones why Stalin and the czars before him exiled their dissidents to Siberia. Our new Siberia is beautiful (the stars look stunning in bitter cold) but it’s dangerous. Any energy you might have poured into subversive writing gets sucked up by an icy wind.

My partner, the indomitable and determinedly anonymous Mr. Bear, feeds me the statistics. Between 1 December 2014 and 1 March 2015, we received 13.3 feet of snow (that translates into 127 hours of snow removal using a farm tractor). In the same three months, we experienced 47 straight days and nights of the wind-chill temperature never rising above zero degrees fahrenheit. In northern New Brunswick, some nights the wind-chill temperature was hitting 50 degrees below zero.

It gets worse. On March 6, 2015, just north of Houlton, Maine, the temperature rose 43 degrees fahrenheit within 8 hours. Up until now, that kind of extreme temperature change happened only around the poles — in the Arctic and in Antarctica.

There’s only one thing to do in circumstances like these — HOWL.