Juniper & Crow

The essence of Life and Spirit is found in this eclectic land of stone and heat, thorn and spiral. Stories are contained in the watercolors of bone-dry canyons and dusty horizons... These words are a love letter for the vastness of wild land, the mercurial nature of desert creatures and the holy presence of Life transcending constraint.

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Aleah Sato

Aleah Sato

Aleah Sato is a woodswoman, a poet and a desert wanderer who practices Gaia love every day. An eclectic pagan of no particular path, she seeks to find meaning in the sacred earth and its wild creatures. A lover of symbolism, oracles and omens, she aspires to find answers in the small and deep meaning in the ordinary. Her totem is the elusive yet ever-curious fox.

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Painting by Erik Heyninck for Dreams & Divinities

Recently, I had the pleasure to learn that one of the poems I had contributed to a book and exhibit, Dreams & Divinities, was read at a poetry reading in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas. While elated by the honor, I was also saddened by the fact that I couldn’t participate in the flesh and see the lovely neotropical gardens, the cobbled courtyards, and the exquisite architecture of the region, as well as be among artists, writers, and visionaries from across continents, countries, and states.

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“Gold lion’s going to tell me where the light is…” Yeah Yeah Yeahs

"The Delphic priestess in historical times chewed a laurel leaf, but when she was a Bee surely she must have sought her inspiration in the honeycomb." Jane Ellen Harrison

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor says #
    I'm really enjoying your writing. Maybe we'll run into you at the next Phoenix Pagan Pride Day. My wife and I don't get out as m
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Greetings, Ted! So glad to hear you're enjoying Juniper & Crow. I'd love to meet the two of you at the next Pagan Pride. Yes, I
  • Meg Beeler
    Meg Beeler says #
    Great blog!! The energy and vibration of gold are so fun to work with, and you capture them well. A long time ago I wrote "Finding

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

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I wrote this article to encourage us, as pagans, wiccans, polytheists, earth lovers, weirdoes, wanderers, and alternative folk to move beyond the sterile concepts of acceptance and equality. For many, being wholly accepted by the mass-produced mainstream becomes our goal. But why? Perhaps being equal to means being complacent to and abiding of habits and norms that are destroying species, lands, waterways, air quality, indigenous communities, traditions, and languages. Rather than hope to acquire the status of affluence and static commonality, sometimes we do greater service to our spirit by moving from comfort to challenging the perimeters of a “normal” existence.
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Greetings to all!

This is just a quick re-blog of an article I wrote about my experiences with mountain lions, lore & history, and the magic alive in being a witness, activist, and treehugger.

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   "to the seeds,
    to the beginnings; to one clear word for which
    there is no disguise and no alternative.”
    ~ Brackenbury

I have grown accustomed to mourning and rejoicing in tandem. It seems throughout my life some of the most profoundly joyful moments, good news, and inconspicuous but thrilling arrivals have found their way to me in the footsteps of sadness, change, and difficult times. If there is a lesson in this trend, I am still learning, growing with every new turn and opportunity to respond and adapt.

Just as I was accepting a job offer and entirely new course in life – including a major residential move – a friend lapsed into serious condition, then left this old, dusty world just a day beyond my acceptance of this new path. I was watching deer move delicately across a green meadow, the new morning sweet and endless, as my friend struggled for breath and held the hands of friends and family too numerous to name. Just as I stumbled up a mountain path, where a small doe stood sniffing the air, my family – back in Indiana - dealt with struggles of their own, how to honor an aging loved one’s wishes while serious health issues pressed against good conscience. And all the while my own conflicts provided sullen backdrops against the abundant beauty around me.

 Is it right to be happy when others are not?

How do we fully live while grieving for those who are dying or have gone on?

I grapple with my need to move quickly in the midst of so much emotion. By nature, I am a mover. To remain still, coming from my history and character, welcomes potential peril. I move on, even when my heart is broken and everyone around me lingers, catatonic in hurt. I move with the clouds. I say goodbye as the wind pushes memory and time over ridges, against the horizon. I carry stories. I speak them, and speak through them. I move, too, in the gray space, as everyone naturally moves away from our grasp. Friends, lovers, and family circle the wheel, just as I.

There’s ache in my heart for the many losses faced over the years, for the pains and sicknesses that have plagued those I love, and for the reality that, yes, our limited, linear life becomes ever more apparent as loved ones fly off into hereafter. Childhood, for those fortunate enough to be awarded this innocent time, is short. For many, childhood is merely a time to fight for survival. Fair or unfair, the wheel turns. We mourn. We move on.

As I reflect upon my time in Colorado and the deer that greeted me on my morning walks, I am reminded of a moment of holiness and complexity in my twenties. Holy is a word I choose intentionally. I was facing a devastating loss, dealing with the inevitable end to an ugly situation. I was very alone – not in the physical sense – but the dejected sense of being alone, when surrounded by people who could not or would not understand or acknowledge who I am or the obvious circumstances around us. I was about to walk into a hotel, when I saw a couple of young does rush across the busy county road. The first made it in a daring leap between automobiles. The second was not so lucky. Just as she made it into the first lane, a truck hit her hind legs… and without the slightest pause, continued to drive away. The doe stumbled twice but managed to cross into the National Forest land just beyond.

Without thinking, I left my stunned companion and darted across the road and scrambled under the barbed wire fence. Looking back, my companion simply walked into the hotel and closed the door – a final impasse. I keenly remember an urge to find the doe. I knew she must be in bad shape, if even alive, and I couldn’t stop my legs from moving into the thick green tangle of late summer foliage. I must have walked for an hour before reluctantly turning around to head back. That’s when I saw her. She was on her side, just beyond a thick stand of trees, lying on ferns. I neared and met her eyes. I could tell she was dying. I leaned down and placed a hand on her side as she took her last few breaths.

There was something in the acknowledgment of that final moment of life that was comforting. Sad, yes, but… the truth of being fully there, present and with this transition, soothed my mind. And, something tells me my being there soothed her also.

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She’s looking at herself in the bathroom mirror of a motel on Van Buren and 24th. Her friend is staying next door. It’s early and the sun creeps between the ripped curtains and missing blinds. A man is in the bed, another on the sofa. She hid a bottle last night and pulls it out from the pack she carried through various parts of town. Her hands are dry. Her mouth cracks. There is no water and the fan makes annoying sounds. Her head has hurt for two weeks. A few pills line her jean pocket. Lovers speak in muffled sighs and sentences she cannot fully make out. She can no longer look into her eyes, only at her hair, an eyebrow, the curve of her shoulder. The wrinkles are showing up in every inch of skin, a world map of miles she never intended to travel. There’s never enough time, yet all she has is time. Limitless time. Time like a knife killing minutes. She’s stopped wondering what happened. Now all she must do is move. There’s a word from the bed. She knows it’s time to go again.

 

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Jamie
    Jamie says #
    Ms. Sato, Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. I've not seen the things you've seen, nor is my life probably very much
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Thank you for your comment and for the work you do. It seems we are coming from similar perspectives and approaches, although perh
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Ah, I see, thank you for correcting my intial impression. Yes, giving addicts only one option is stupid if not abusive. As to yo

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On to Something


I am the letter and you are the hot wax.
I am the needle and you, the dancing midget.
We stuff our mouths – breadcrumbs and magpies.

I am the girl in the blue gown
Who has lost her eyes to the prick of a needle
She thought was a jewel.

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On Wednesday, I placed a soft blanket on my lap.  I invited my cat to be comforted. His breath was labored. His body was clearly shutting down. The will to live is stronger than any other emotion or drive. He wanted to live. He was bewildered. He knew he was losing the battle. He collapsed on the blanket, took two long inhales and let out a long moan that was the end of his life. The sound of death is perhaps unlike any other. The sound of that sigh – I cannot describe. Poetry has no language here - my words utter only stupid rhetoric. To experience this is more than can be expressed, but I try. I try because it is vastly important to me to know what death is and to not hate life for its cruel finality. Right now, it is difficult to feel peace with this life. I struggle to understand why - despite the ache of the body and the deep, known suffering - the will to live is so strong. When he passed, it was not like some say, this ethereal light leaving. His eyes shone bright. His body, warm. It was my light that diminished. My eyes were those that shut, unwilling to see the end. I could not sense the sweat and blood, or hear the hum of awaiting insects near the dirt that would cover him.

Most of my life I have been afraid of getting close to anyone. I covered my pain in drugs and alcohol, escape and romance. I hated my body - the body that knows everything - the cells that die and generate, the hold of lonesome evenings, the sharp brutality of disease and ache. Death has been marked in my life with distinct dreams of an understanding my body knew but my mind refused. My paternal grandfather died when I was 16. I remember a dream I had immediately following his passing. He sat in his armchair and warned me of events to come. Later, I would dream of my paternal grandmother who asked me to refute the truth. When I said I would not, her body fell into the earth as I tried to hold her. With each attempt to catch her fall, she fell deeper and farther away from me. My maternal grandfather died a few years ago and I went for a drive along the Sierra Estella mountain range. Somehow I knew he was there, up among those gneiss and schist peaks, looking over the desert valley, a terrain that must have seemed so stark and foreign to him. Whether the Estrella's were the projection of my grandfather's strength, or he was actually there - watching over me one last time - matters little. He was there when I was born. I was to witness his departure. It's an unspoken deal we make in love and community - offering protection only to know there are some things our efforts can never overcome.

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  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Aleah, I am sorry to hear of your loss. I just lost my own kitty, and know how it feels. I also commend you for selflessly using y
  • Paola Suarez
    Paola Suarez says #
    It's been awhile since I've read something reminding me of my dearest Ginger's sigh as she died. How you can't really describe it
  • Lia Hunter
    Lia Hunter says #
    This was a beautiful meditation. I appreciate your experience and thank you for sharing it.

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“The only magic we have is what we make in ourselves, the muscles we build up on the inside, the sense of belief we create from nothing.”
― Dorothy Allison
 
“Note to self: remember
What Emerson said
Of Thoreau-
That he loved the low
In nature:
          Muskrats
And crickets, suckers
And frogs.   
          Not stars.
 
Songs of the carnal,
Songs of what we are.”
― Greg Orr, River Inside the River

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Beautifully written - my father's people lived in the small mining/logging communities in the Trinity Mountains of CA, having migr

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There is a subtle narrative that exists in the desert, where I meander through a series of washes that lead into canyons. I am nicely secluded, despite being in the middle of one of the West’s largest cities. Summertime in the Sonoran Desert is perfect for a solitary fox like me… I scurry and watch, quietly observing ripening tunas on prickly pear, and listen to the curve-billed thrasher chiming a sharp morning hello to fellow winged compadres. The air is hot, even at 4:30am. The breeze is close but discomforting in its stagnant hold of sand and baked stone. I take a seat on the granite, smoothed by monsoon water flow, and wait for a story to be told.

This is the wash where I have spent many hours. When I arrived in Phoenix in 2007, South Mountain Park, or Muhadag Do’ag, as the range is known by the O’odham nations, was my first taste of this unusual land of light and edge. I have met many wild companions during my solo hikes here. I have listened to the song of five coyotes as they created day from night – turning stars into saguaro blooms. This is the place I watched resident owls descent in twilight, swooping low from their granite and gneiss shelters and out onto the cityscape, into December’s near-chill nights.

In the dusty wash, I climb up onto an outcrop where a lizard (dreamtime) skitters behind the branches of a Palo Verde. I shift my focus to discover a spiral petroglyph, about 10 inches in diameter, carefully concealed by the new growth of the spiny, pale limbs. The glyph can be anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand years old – here, it is tough to tell. I consider the spiral. I feel the maze of my own mind and body. The blood moves through my heart and across the fields and waterways of my being to animate my arms, my legs. I inhale – the air circulates through time. I think of the path I walk and the lifetimes of fellow walkers, all sharing the breath, movement. I have been feeling so disconnected lately. When I dream of the maze, I remember that I am never alone… only my mind is the great isolator, but life –
the rhythm of breath and circulation – brings me back to the world.

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  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Thank you, Nancy. I am so pleased the post resonated with you.
  • Nancy Vedder-Shults
    Nancy Vedder-Shults says #
    Your prose brings the morning you describe alive with its incandescent hummingbird!
Years to Burn: My Dance with the Dragon and Serpent

2012 - Chinese Year of the Dragon… If one wishes to know the face of upheaval, the Dragon is there, ready to breathe the caustic truth into the lives of those who are ready or, if not willing, need to be. The Dragon conspired to throw a fiery eruption of change my way. I know I am not alone in this. Many of my friends and colleagues found themselves in near-miss turbulence, losing homes, finances, lovers, jobs and perhaps even a bit of sanity. From within my own small story, I have experienced complete disarray and dismantling and the raw, naked pain that comes with such loss. My pride was taken. My wonderful ego, bruised. I felt – all at once – the effects of any good, symbolic Irish funeral – the end and the party to bid the end goodbye.

The details of this period of inner and outer turmoil matter less than what these changes manifested in me, the ripple of conversation and impact of shared stories, brief interactions and multiple facets of letting go. My spirit was broken – sherds of hope cut my hands where I held on, unwilling to accept hope’s limitations. Hope is always there to grasp, but also there to distract us from true choice.

My losses have led me to a place of re-discovery. 2013 – the Year of the Snake… Snake symbolism speaks of transformation. Snake allows change in a continuum of cycles – in the life/death/rebirth circle. Snake promises its victim will be devoured, but also radically changed into something more… I reached for my new skin. I slid into the painful end of love and painted my world with the colors of the setting sun. I let myself be warmed and made new.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    It is such a painful and amazing process that stripping down to surrender - and then the joy of what comes out of it. Blessings t
  • Jennifer Mills
    Jennifer Mills says #
    OH! Aleah...your words sing into my soul! I am SO glad you address Dragon and Snake...they too have been close allies for me for
  • Aleah Sato
    Aleah Sato says #
    Hello Jennifer! Thank you for the beautiful and insightful feedback. I will happily and gratefully join you on this journey of dee

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