The Marker

At the T, where Indian Marker Road meets River Road, is a Plaque that commemorates the site of Conestoga Indian Town, where the last of the Conestogas lived–the Conestogas, who were the last of the Susquehannocks, a large and prosperous people at the time of the European invasion, tall of stature, who fished and farmed and traded and hunted and built large settlement-towns along the Susquehanna River. By 1763, their numbers were so greatly reduced by war, illness, attacks by colonists, and forced repatriation, that only this small village remained.

Yesterday I visited the marker again, on the 259th year since the genocidal ride of the Paxtang Boys murdered six of the remaining inhabitants of the tiny town. Someone had been there before me. A bundle of dried sage hung from the marker on a red string, new feathers were tucked into the crevices, and fresh roses were laid at the base of the marker. I added my stone, and turned to the east, where Chief’s Hill rises into the winter-grey sky.


Several years ago, I memorized their names, feeling the new combinations of vowel and consonant slide up my throat and across my tongue, clicking my throat closed at those interruptive hyphens, wondering how close I was getting to the sounds they used for themselves. Then, a year or more after I had memorized their names, I woke up one morning, aware that I had been chanting them in a dream.

Today, in a pouch I often wear around my neck, I carry the list of their names, and of the final fourteen who were murdered on December 27th of that year, when the Paxtang Boys rode again.

I have no doubt that people were shocked and aggrieved and outraged at the murderous acts of the Paxtang Boys. Still, none of them were brought to justice. The murders of the Conestogas, the final act of genocide, went unavenged. Though Benjamin Franklin himself called out for justice upon them, justice was never done.

And today? What does justice look like, for the Conestogas? For other First Nations people here?

And who are the Paxtang Boys of today? Are we stopping them? Are we putting ourselves between them and the vulnerable people they would destroy? Who will speak out and stand up for the ones who stand in the path of the riders?

For more detailed information about the Susquehannocks, their origins, and this story, please buy a copy of Ghost River, a graphic novel with extensive interpretive text. From the web page: “Written by Lee Francis 4 (Sixkiller, Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers), illustrated by the incomparable Weshoyot Alvitre (Deer Woman: An Anthology, Sixkiller) and edited by Will Fenton (The Library Company of Philadelphia), this new graphic novel from Red Planet Books and Comics chronicles the last days of the Conestoga People and brings their story to light; a story of despair and hope, loss and love, ancestors and the ghosts of history that are always with us.”

Gratitude List:
1. Snow Day! (Ice Day, actually) My school does not do Remote learning during snow days, so I am resting and writing and folding clothes and reading. . .
2. The people who work for justice, who truly care about restoration, who believe that people are more important than institutions and structures
3. Boundaries. Good, strong, solid, clear boundaries
4. That one scarlet leaf up there in that bush
5. Fairy ice along every twig of the tiny Japanese maple on the hill.
May we walk in Beauty and Justice!

“We are the nurturers, the encouragers of all the dreams, all the seeds deep in all the hearts where the future of a redeemed and rescued land now dwells. So we hold fast and see beneath the snow, always calling others to recognize their own magnificent possibilities, to see and plant and join our hope with theirs.” —Vincent Harding, Hope and History

“How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in. Like light on waves.” —Margaret Atwood

“Every moment is a gift of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

“Only a fool knows everything.” —African proverb

“Note to self: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.” —Anne Lamott

“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.” —Brené Brown

“God made mud. God got lonesome. So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up. See all I’ve made….the hills, the sea, the blue sky, the stars.” And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. Lucky me. Lucky mud.” —Kurt Vonnegut

“‪The fact that feathers are naturally occurring objects is beyond awe inspiring.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

“‪The best poems are owls. A reflection of the landscape, but singular and strange. Smooth and effortless as smoke. A trick of the eye that scatters bones in the underbrush, hard and real.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


Wear today loosely,
like your grandmother’s shawl
or a hat that keeps blowing away in the breezes.

Wear it gently,
and hold it like you hold a kite
the moment before you release it to wind.

Walk through these hours
the way you waded through the creek
or up and down the beach that day,
picking up smooth and shiny pebbles,
pocketing them for later.

Tiny stones of moments
to sift through your fingers,
testing their weight
and feeling their coolness,
to place in a tray on the table.

This one, you’ll say.
This.  And this.


Gratitude List:
1. Naps
2. A Fabulous farm crew
3. Memories of winter
4. Echoes of laughter
5. Remembering and looking forward

May we walk in Beauty!

Yes, More Snow Geese

2014 February 088

Gratitude List:
1.  Like snowflakes falling across the field, they settled.  Like they were choreographed.  Snow geese.  It always reminds me of the chilly winter day about 20 years ago when Jon and I were hiking on a ridge at Middle Creek and we looked out over the valley and the lake and it was suddenly like being inside one of those Japanese paintings, where petals or snowflakes or geese are settling downward so gracefully.  Today was no less magical.
2.  Dinner with good friends.  I just don’t want to say goodbye.
3.  Quest for a stone.
4.  The River.  Always this River and this Bridge.
5.  Spikes of crocus in the flowerbed, and sunny aconite abloom.

May we walk in Beauty.

On Prayer, and a Poem

Today, the Gratitude List first, and then the poem.  Today’s Gratitude List is both gratitude and prayer.  Two people in my circles are currently on ventilators fighting for their breath, for their lives.  This is one of those times when the impetus of prayer rests on the shoulders of whole communities, when the feeling of the web that connects us all is so real it is almost physically palpable.  That’s the first one:
1.  The awareness of and atunement to the praying hearts of others, this bond, this web.  Returning again and again throughout the day to that open, listening, waiting, connecting state of prayer and energy and light, of dropped and open awareness (as Starhawk calls it).  It is hard work, but it is a place of great grace.  The heart opens, and opens, and opens.
2. For those fragile and powerful bags, the lungs, that carry our breath into rivers, to tiny deltas, spreading outward like roots to feed us with breath.  The Breath of Life, in so many religious traditions, is the Divine One breathing into the human being. . .in-spir-ation. . .re-spir-ation.  May healing air fill their lungs.
3.  The knowingness of our bodies, how we breathe without thinking, how it comes as naturally as life.  May their bodies remember that work and take it up so that they may return home soon to their families.  Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.
4.  The resilience of the brain.  We know how fragile it is, but today we focus our hearts and hopes on its resilience, its ability to heal, to develop, even after trauma.  And gratitude, too, for the protective armor of the skull.
5.  I am grateful for sleep: I wish for them sleep, for healing rest, for the two who are struggling to breathe, for the mothers who must carry their own anxiety as well as that of their children, for the little ones.

Breathe.  Breathe.  Breathe.

<Prompt 20: Write a poem titled, “Always (blank)”>


After we had buried the little hen
in a nest of soft grasses
between the roots of the old walnut tree
on the hill, sifting soil over the red feathers,
we looked around for rocks to cover the spot.

For a moment we considered
the stone that has always been there,
perched atop the last remaining locust post
that held up the electric fence that kept a pair
of hillside steers from wandering,
years before we ever came to this place.

We saw it there that day we first walked these hills,
looking across the patchwork valley,
across the bowl of the gently spreading hollow
and considered whether we could call it home.
Placed by some previous farmer’s hand,
carelessly, perhaps, or deliberately: this belongs here.

That stone has witnessed winters and thaws
and crackling summer heat,
the tractor trundling past by day,
and the patter of fox feet at night, fleeting
down the hill to cross the stream by moonlight.
The eagle flies above it, and the chickadee,
and mockingbird perches there to tell his histories.

A herd of silent deer will sometimes stand
next to the stone on the post
to catch the messages in scents
that waft down the ridge in the breeze.

It is touched by the glow
of light from the fire circle,
where it presides over murmurs and laughter,
singing and chanting, stories and dancing,
the gathering of friendship by firelight.

We gathered other rocks that afternoon
to mark the spot where the little hen lay
nestled among sweet grasses under earth.
The sentinel rock remains on its post.

2013 November 124

The Truth about the Tree Poem

Poem-A-Day Day 24 Prompt:  The title begins, “The Truth About ______”

When I said that I was transformed into a tree
perhaps it would have been more accurate
to say that I became a raven
my roots curling into claws
my branches melting into blackness
the rush of the dawn wind in my ears.

Did I say “roots” again?  Pardon me.
My feet are roots, of course, when I am a tree,
but also when I am a rainbow.
Did you know?  A rainbow has roots too
great arcing roots that mirror and reflect
their sky-form.  The earth spectrum of the underworld.
When I am a rainbow, I am a perfect circle
holding the world in my colors.

It may be closer to the truth were I to say
that one fateful day I became a stone
and sank deeply into a stillness so profound
I could not hear even my jeweled heart
burning with the brilliant fire of the Earth.
I cannot recall what happened to my night-black wings
on the day I turned into a stone.

You may think it is not possible, not true,
that right now I am actually hearing you say, “But
a person does not simply turn into a tree
or a stone, into a rainbow or a bird.”
Now, see, I have told you your own thoughts
and you can feel free to be amazed.

But how can I not hear you
when you have become
the gentlest of breezes
and whispered your protest
with a smile
into my ear?