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Friday
Jan272017

Brenda's Huffington Post: Women and Abortion: "Don't Give Up Your Power!"



The day after Inauguration, 3.5 million women and men marched to protest the Trump administration’s vows to defund Planned Parenthood and revert abortion from a woman’s right to a crime. Conspicuously missing in this largest protest march in our nation’s history were the anti-abortion women, most of them white Christian evangelicals, who by 80 percent voted for Trump and his promise to overturn Roe vs. Wade. 

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Women’s March, Washington D.C. January 21, 2016 photo credit: N. Acevedo

To understand these anti-abortion women is to realize that for them abortion is religiously driven. It is about pleasing a patriarchal God—the Old Testament God the Father. He has no mate, no God the Mother, and no divine daughters. This male god created man first, then birthed a woman from his own body. This Christian creation story is biologically backwards. It steals the spiritual power of birth and creation from the woman and gives it to the man. That is the patriarchy of the Religious Right. And that is where our country finds itself—in its last brutal grasp of male political and religious power—perfectly embodied by a president whose “grab for pussy” is also a power grab. 

Compare Obama’s devotion and credit to his mother’s influence with Trump’s practically invisible mother. His daughter, Ivanka, while pretending to care for women, perpetuates the patriarchy of God the Father. If she claimed any of her own feminine power, she would have influenced her father’s cabinet choices— dominated by old, white, rich males, the most patriarchal cabinet since Reagan. She would have advised against Trump signing away reproductive health funding to women in developing countries. 

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North Carolina Women’s March photo credit: C. Perry

But abortion is not just about women claiming their feminine power; it is also a spiritual issue, with two sides who do not speak the same language. How can a woman who carries a sign “Jesus Hears Their Tiny Screams” converse with another whose sign states: “Abortion: Every Woman’s Birthright!” It’s like a screaming match between two tribes who offend each other simply because they occupy the same territory—in this case, a woman’s body.

We have to go back to pre-patriarchal history to discover a well-documented body of scholarship on the ancient cultures, whose spiritual life was centered in the rites of biological motherhood and the Earth as feminine Goddess—Gaia, as the Greeks named her. Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas calls this the “Goddess or Great Mother cultures” in prehistoric European civilizations. Gimbutas writes: “There are no depictions of arms (weapons used against other humans) in any Paleolithic cave paintings.” Richard Leakey’s research also defines early humans of several million years ago as peaceful and cooperative. These cultures are noted for their flexibility, their egalitarianism, the strong bonds between mothers and children. This was our way of life until around 3000 b.c., when the advent of the Bronze Age and the warrior tribes produced weapons and a vengeance-seeking God the Father who denied and disappeared the feminine balance of God the Mother.

I well remember a hymn, “Power in the Blood,” from my Southern Baptist childhood—a soundtrack to this warrior god’s war on women.

Would you be free from your burden of sin?
There’s power, power, wonder-working power
In the precious blood of the Lamb

The power in these blood rites has to do with sacrifice of the divine son, the Lamb. But what about the spiritual authority in women’s blood and sacrifice? Before blood and power and sacrifice were united in the masculine art of warfare, they were synonymous in these Great Mother cultures with women’s blood—and not just the blood of birth, but also the blood of sacrifice. The power of birth and death belonged first to the woman. Just as the first way we told time was by women’s cycles: twenty-eight days between menstruations, twenty-eight days of the Moon’s cycle. The Moon was said herself to be “menstruating” as she fulfilled her fertile course, from waxing fullness to waning death to rebirth. Everything was in relationship to the circle, the whole. And in the center of this cycle were the Great Mother deities in reverence and sync with the Earth’s seasons. 

In those days it was not Jehovah, but the Great Mother who “giveth and taketh away” and whose name was nevertheless blessed. The root meaning of the word ritu or ritual is “menstruation.” For our ancestors, crossing the threshold from girlhood to womanhood was dramatic and awe-inspiring. The wonder of it all: a body bleeds, cleanses, and is reborn. A body does not bleed for nine full moons and so gives birth to another body. How powerful and mysterious, then, this women’s blood. No wonder this blood was saved, used to fertilize crops, and precious drops offered in only the most sacred ceremonies.

The Old Testament lamb that was later ritually sacrificed was an imitation of these menstrual rites. Jehovah borrowed power from the feminine blood to make His own ceremonies. The blessing and power of those early Great Mother cultures’ blood became the feminine “curse” and transmuted into the masculine warfare (blood-shedding) myths of the Old Testament. Whereas the New Testament Christ is more feminine—virginal, non-violent, and compassionate. 

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Women’s March, Seattle, WA photo credit: J. Smith

The anti-abortion movement is anchored in this Old Testament’s patriarchal denial of a woman’s power. It’s even in our language. The word hysteria has its root in the word womb; the word testament in the word testicle, or “male witness.” Hysteria is now used by psychology to describe feminine dysfunction; testament is considered a sacred covenant “between God and man.” Thus, the testicles can tell the truth; the womb lies. If a woman’s womb lies and she is hysterical, isn’t it then assumed that she can no more judge who lives and who dies, who has the power to “giveth and taketh away?” 

“Don’t give up your power!” shouted actor Scarlett Johansson at the Women’s March in Washington D. C. We will act together and resist the patriarchy’s attempts to steal away our spiritual, political, and physical authority. Biology will out: Men do not give birth. Women do. You can bet that if men were the ones to give birth, abortion would not only be a law, but a sacred right, a sacrament granted by God the Father. 

Three times as many of us marched for women’s rights as attended the regressive God-the-Father Inauguration. By these overwhelming numbers, the feminine will finally overcome the patriarchy and give birth to the future. That is wonder-working, feminine power.

Brenda Peterson is a novelist and nature writer, author of 20 books, including Your Life is a Book, selected by Oprah.com and the memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind, an Indie Next, “Great Read” chosen by independent bookstores. For more: www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com

Monday
Sep262016

Watch and listen to wolves howling with us at Wolf Haven!

 

Thursday
Sep012016

Preview our new WOLF HAVEN photo-essay book featured in Seattle Times Pacific Northwest magazine

 

 

Our new book featured on front page of Sunday Seattle Times and front page Pacific Northwest magazine! Get a first look at our new wolf book in this excerpt! You can order it now and receive it in a few weeks! 

 

 A new book illustrates our close connection with the fascinating inhabitants of Wolf Haven

A Washington sanctuary has provided a lifetime home for more than 200 wolves since opening in 1982.

Editor’s note: The following is excerpted from the book “Wolf Haven: Sanctuary and the Future of Wolves in North America,” essay by Brenda Peterson, photographs by Annie Marie Musselman. (Sasquatch Books, $24.95)

THEIR EYES FIND you first, often golden or dark-green and amber-flecked with a fierce and surprising intimacy. Direct, intelligent, eerily familiar. Though these wolves in their refuge at Wolf Haven are no longer wild, there is nothing tame in their gaze. Instead, there is a rich and vivid emotional life that we can somehow read, not just because humans have lived closely with Canis lupus since prehistory, but also because the wolves mirror us. And even behind fences, they connect. First contact.

One white wolf’s stare is stunning — Bart commands our complete attention, even as he rests, with his lean legs almost casually crossed. Lonnie’s eyes are shy but steady as he peeks out from behind branches. His expression reminds us that in the wild, wolves are extremely wary of humans and spend most of their lives hiding from us. Delicate Lexi, with her flattened agouti-colored ears, looks back cautiously at us as she retreats. Tala, the slender red wolf, steps so lightly and silently out of his hiding place that he startles us. Lowering his sleek mahogany head, he gives us a quick searching glance — and then disappears.

Wolves depend on eye contact for social relationships. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)Wolves depend on eye contact for social relationships. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

Even the abandoned wolf dogs — those who, as Wolf Haven’s director of animal care, Wendy Spencer, says, are “caught between two worlds” — haven’t lost the wildness or expressive depth in their eyes. Caedus, the lustrous black male wolf dog who shares his life with the delicate and somehow sad-eyed Ladyhawk, stands sentry, his buttery eyes both bold and curious. He might as well be perched protectively atop a remote mountaintop, scanning for his pups and family.

A wolf’s stare can be stunning — fierce and intimate. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)A wolf’s stare can be stunning — fierce and intimate. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

How many of us have actually ever had the privilege of looking into the eyes of a wolf? How many of us would ever know if a wolf was secretly watching us in the wild? We couldn’t smell them the way wolves can scent humans from half a mile away. We couldn’t hear them, unless they howled. Sight is the only way we sense a wolf, so they are at the advantage when it comes to sensory gifts. And even then, the wolf’s unblinking and powerful gaze is unusual in our species. Perhaps that’s why we stand riveted at the fence or in the forest when we catch a glimpse of this fellow creature.

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife authorized fieldstaff to kill the Profanity Peak wolf pack to prevent more attacks on cattle in the rangelands between Republic and Kettle Falls. The state is home to at least 90 wolves and 19 packs as of early 2016.

“Wolves look right through you, don’t they?” a Yellowstone biologist asked me in 1995, as we watched the first reintroduced wolves, the Soda Butte family, scamper with their pups and stride across a high meadow. Even from half a mile away, the wolves were keenly aware of our presence.

“Yes, they do,” I breathed, barely able to hold the telescope, my hands were trembling so.

Yes, I still feel that intense energy running between wolves and humans every time I visit Wolf Haven and encounter these animals who have found a retreat here since it opened in 1982 — giving sanctuary to more than 200 gray and red wolves, plus wolf dogs and even coyotes. We recognize ourselves in wolves — our own hungers, passions, violence and tenderness. Anyone who spends time with wolves understands that their social dramas — who’s in, who’s out, who’s on top, who’s struggling to survive, who’s ailing or lost, who is thriving — are as fascinating as our own. In the wild, wolves live in close-knit and complicated families. They are affectionate and loyal to their young, and the whole group cooperates to survive together. At Wolf Haven, these often-abandoned, -abused, -mistreated and -misunderstood wolves are given another chance, not only at living, but also at intimate relationships with one another.

Riley, a gray wolf now deceased, makes a rare appearance. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)Riley, a gray wolf now deceased, makes a rare appearance. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

A lone wolf is a rare wolf. All you have to do is hear a wolf howl to intuitively know that wolves always seek community. Just like their profound eye contact, the wolf’s howl is a language of loss and longing — and sometimes even joy — that we also instinctively understand. As you enter this book of Canis lupus portraits and stories, remember that you are in the presence of an animal who has always belonged very near us. Another top predator who has inspired in us both passionate devotion and unjustified cruelty. Another animal who even in a shelter is very much our equal: a spirit that can still hold and forever meet our eyes.

— Brenda Peterson 

About the author and photographer

• Brenda Peterson is the author of 19 books. Since 1993, she has covered wolf issues for national media.

• Annie Marie Musselman’s first book, “Finding Trust,” was published in 2013. Her work has been published in several magazines.

“HOW CAN I photograph anything from behind a fence?” I wondered, given the restriction at Wolf Haven that my subjects would be on one side of the barrier and me on the other. Still, I was eager to start shooting, and despite a storm warning, I drove the 75 miles from Seattle to Tenino in tense, slushy traffic. Then I arrived at a kind of forested wonderland complete with jet-black ravens circling above. I pinched myself. Dream or reality? Mature trees blanketed by moss towered overhead; a vast prairie bordering the sanctuary was alive with pocket gophers, bald eagles, hawks and an array of lush flora and fauna. Everything seemed to glitter, although it was dark and cold at noon, no sun in sight. All I heard were ravens chortling and the wind whispering in the trees. Wendy stood next to me — a kindred spirit, for sure — giving me the lay of the land and describing my boundaries, and how to act around these timid-fierce creatures.

At Wolf Haven, a Mexican gray wolf pup is given a health inventory. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)At Wolf Haven, a Mexican gray wolf pup is given a health inventory. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

Then I saw the wolves.

Book events 

Oct. 4: Tacoma Public Library Wheelock branch, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8: Village Books, Bellingham, 4 p.m.

Oct. 9: Bainbridge Art Museum, with Eagle Harbor Books, 3 p.m.

Oct. 13: Town Hall Seattle, 7:30 p.m.

Note: These events will be a combination of slideshows and talks by the authors.

They appeared softly from behind trees and branches, looking intensely at me, taking me in, remembering me.

The previous spring, I had been the fortunate recipient of a Getty Images Grant for Good. My plan was to document a sanctuary in Sulawesi, Indonesia, that harbored animals who were victims of the international outlaw animal trade. But with a baby in my belly and malaria lurking on the island, I was destined to find another place to make pictures. My focus in Indonesia would have been endangered animals and, more important, the indicator species — the keystone like the red wolf, the jaguar or the orangutan — that, if saved, would save countless other creatures as well.

When I found Wolf Haven, I felt blessed.

Wolves are difficult subjects for a photographer because they truly hate having their pictures taken, or even to be stared at, for that matter. So I had to prove that I wasn’t a threat, and this took precious time.

I portrayed the wolves as if I had met them in a natural forest. Sometimes I showed the fence to present the truth of their lives there. The land at Wolf Haven comes as close to the environment of their births as possible. The wildness of their surroundings that had been stolen has been returned in the gift of true sanctuary.

Shiloh and Jesse James (on her back) were partners. Within the past year, Jesse passed away of old age, within days of Shiloh’s sudden death. (on her back) were partners. Within the past year, Jesse passed away of old age, within days of Shiloh’s sudden death. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)
(Click on the Seattle Times link to see full images)
Shiloh and Jesse James (on her back) were partners. Within the past year, Jesse passed away of old age, within days of Shiloh’s sudden death. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

In the summer, I spent long days with Jesse James, a female gray wolf, and her partner, Shiloh. I sat on my dad’s old folding artist chair, surrounded by moss trees with birds and insects buzzing around and the sun glinting through. I pretended not to be interested in them at first, but as soon as I walked away, I turned around and there both of them were at the fence, smelling and staring at me. They want me to come back? When I did, they would disappear again. Ugh! This went on for weeks or more, until finally they began to trust me.

In the quiet of the forest, I watched their beautiful friendship unfold before me.

Jesse would appear, then disappear behind trees, then appear again right in front of me, unaware, striking and powerful. And then she was with me. An ancient being within reach. Behind us both was our history, our loving mothers, our families and the homes and forests where we grew and that we both missed dearly.

I sat with them for hours to uncover a moment of connection between two beings. I often used lighting to show the hidden intricacies of their beauty: the dirt on their fur, their sharp teeth and their arresting eyes that can often be hidden by shadows. At first I was afraid of their ferocity and their unsettling stillness. I also feared not being able to capture their exquisiteness on film, but slowly I began to take them in and to envision their incredible existence. I thought of their need for connection to one another; incredible sense of smell and eyesight; their heightened awareness of everything encircling them; and their ability to remain calm, most of the time, through it all.

We connected through our eyes and, I believe, our hearts. How much I will miss you, sweet Jesse and Shiloh. Jesse passed away from complications of old age this past year, within days of Shiloh’s sudden death. They were truly in love.

Driving back to town, where lives rush by and begin and end, I thought about the wolves and the silence in the sanctuary. I saw the sun piercing through their fur as it glowed and could feel myself sitting quietly in nature, paws crushing through the grass.

Shadow, front, lived in five homes the first few months of his life before coming to Wolf Haven. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman)
(Click on the Seattle Times link to see full images)

Shadow, front, lived in five homes the first few months of his life before coming to Wolf Haven. Juno, a wolf dog, is Shadow’s partner. (Photo by Annie Marie Musselman) 

Animals connect me to my true self. I ache to have a second of their exquisiteness. There is an inner quiet and peace that can be found only while lost in the woods and meeting a gaze with a wolf or a raven or an owl. A wonderful dream. I tried to manifest that feeling in these pictures.

I photographed through small holes in an incredibly strong fence that protected me. But it couldn’t keep me from falling deeply in love with these highly intelligent, beautiful beings.

— Annie Marie Musselman


About Wolf Haven 

Wolf Haven International is a wolf sanctuary in Tenino that has rescued and provided a lifetime home for more than 200 displaced or captive-born wolves since it opened in 1982. Wolf Haven offers 50-minute guided walking tours, plus a variety of educational programs. 

To reserve a visit, call 360-264-4695, ext. 220, or click on “Schedule Your Sanctuary Visit” on the home page of the website, wolfhaven.org.

 

 

 

 

Thursday
Jul282016

Who Says the Far Right Doesn't Have a Sense of Humor: They Just Crowned a Clown—my new Huffington Post

 

(HBO)Last Week Tonight with John Oliver 


There is only one antidote to this fear-and-loathing-filled Republican National Convention— huge and healthy doses of humor. So I gathered with friends, guffawing as Stephen Colbert resurrected his original Colbert Report character. And he welcomed back John Stewart, who looks like a cross between the Unabomber, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and your beloved rabbi.  Seeing those two do their old shtick—calling Trump an “angry Creamsicle”—was like the calm clarity that comes after heaving up the last of that food poisoning that has made you so nauseous.

Binge-watching late night comedy clips, my friends and I sat a little too near the TV screen—the way our primitive ancestors warmed themselves around fire. It made me realize how little real warmth or humor is offered in this Republican convention or its menacing presidential campaign. Where are the conservatives’ stand-up comics, their late-night comedians? Where are the right-leaning pundits who have the sharp, slapstick, or even sanguine wit to actually make fun of themselves and their opponents? 

The only real hope and change seems to be on late night comedy. When the Daily Show’s Trevor Noah begins his RNC coverage with the banner, “Submission Accomplished;” when Samantha Bee explains that Sarah Palin isn’t at the RNC—she’s “mad because Trump stole her word salad spinner;” when Larry Whitmore in his continuing must-watch series, “Blacklash 2016: The Unblackening,” skewers Trump’s anti-abortion stand as “late-term stupidity,” or warns that “Donald Trump is making America hate again”—it’s not always funny ha-ha, it’s funny like the bracing truth-telling fools in Shakespeare’s tragedies.

Black humor matters. That’s why we really need a good, long belly laugh after a seemingly endless election cycle that runs on blame, shame, and scapegoating—those tools of any nation’s dysfunctional political family. When Stephen Colbert takes back his desk in his familiar Bill O’Reilly imitation, and intones, “Nation!” this swiftly tilting Republican presidential campaign is set right again. It’s like waking up very late at night from a daytime nightmare.

DANCING WITH THE TSARS—The Daily Show, Comedy Central, with Trevor Noah Trumps "espionage" and shady deals with Russia—hilarious and frightening.

As my friends and I continued our comedic antidote to the RNC on You Tube, we howled and knee-slapped over Colbert’s riff on The Word: Trumpiness. We replayed the brilliant Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” coverage of the RNC, as she explained the unholy alliance between the Religious Right and a non-repentant Trump, who makes America safe again—especially for sinners and adulterers. We fell off our easy chairs laughing as John Oliver explained that “every time Donald Trump hears his name out loud, he has a shattering orgasm.”

Why are the Far Right Republicans so completely humorless? Their Tea Party feels more like a lynching than a party. The Far Right Republican emotional spectrum is stuck on the one-note-samba of fear and fury. A good sense of humor requires some generous detachment to observe one’s own and other’s foibles. Have you ever watched a Tea Party or Religious Right fundamentalist stand-up comic? Do they exist? New York writer, Frank Rich’s “Can Conservatives Be Funny?” cites a few, like Dennis Miller and Greg Gutfeld. Rich notes, “a lot of conservative comedy both expresses and panders to today’s Republican base, older white men who see America changing and feel impotent about thwarting it.” He concludes that “conservative comics rarely make fun of their own camp as liberals so profitably do.”

Has any speaker at this RNC said anything remotely self-mocking or sardonic in their tedious litany of Benghazi, Hillary’s emails, and illegal immigrants “coming to kill us,” as Trevor Noah says? Perhaps Far Right Republicans are born without much humor DNA. It’s a congenital weakness. Eve got the rib, and Adam lost his funny bone. 

Or just maybe Donald Trump is the closest outraged Republicans can come to humor. Trump’s surprise attacks, off-script rants, and off-color jabs all have the timing of a stand-up, audience-baiting extreme wanna-be comedian. Trump’s Twitter punch lines fall flat. His bullying blame-fests and name-calling have the panache of one-line riffs, not of a stiff, scripted politician, but an edgy off-the-rails reality star. People tune in to see how mind-bogglingly incoherent or just how low will he go. Trump is perhaps the Republican’s only lurch toward humor; and like most immature and badly crafted comedy, it just dies on stage. To be fair, Trump is not a comic headliner. He is better suited as the bouncer or like the Far Right carnival barker. He is their idea of a Big Tent.

Trump doesn’t have the chops for wryly intelligent observations like John Oliver’s outraged riffs on national debt or Olympic doping. Not once in Trump’s campaign have we witnessed true grief or compassion or kindness. So why should we hope for any comic relief? Trump’s wince-worthy version of a snarky put-down is downright mean at best, and jaw-droppingly insensitive or racist, at worst. Only the most talented comics, who are often the kindest people in their off-stage lives,  get away with insult humor. Think Don Rickles.

We must laugh at Trump because that will make us sane and strong again. And it just might be the only thing that stops him. Because if we make this dangerous clown president, we’ll be laughing so hard—it hurts.

 Huffinton Post link here

Bio: Brenda Peterson is the author of 19 books, including Your Life is a Book, featured on Oprah.com., and I Want to Be Left Behind, selected as  “Great Read” by independent booksellers. www.BrendaPetersonBooks.com 


 

Tuesday
Jul192016

Orca Rescue—Watch fabulous video!

Dear Readers,

As many of you who attended my Keynote at the Orca/Salmon event this month in Seattle know, I'm at work on a chidlren's book about orcas for my Leopard and Silkie editor, the wonderful Christy Ottaviano. The illustrator is the master artist Wendell Minor, whose painting graced my very first book cover for the novel River of Light in 1978. Wendell and I are having a wonderful time interweaving his illustrations and my text—bringing this book to life. I'll be posting some of my favorite videos of orcas as we progress deeper into the new kid's book. And perhaps a few of the dummy sketches! For now, enjoy this very moving and extraordinary You Tube video of an orca rescue by veteran orca researcher, Dr. Ingrid Visser.

 And here's the lovely art postcard for the Orca/Salmon keynote.