Category Archives: Nature

Winter Remembering…

We humans carry stories in our bones, born from deep connections to the natural world, a real one not separate from our daily earth lives or facebook news feeds.These stories of magical flying reindeer and red and white furry winter coats go way beyond white bearded guys scuttling miraculously down chimneys. Shortening winter days and long dark nights invite slowing down to listen and remember.

From Gather… **—“Medicine Women Healers” in Siberia and what once known as Lapland. “The red peaked, felted hats and curled-toe boots and warm mittens of reindeer-hide complete, what I believe to be, the feminine origins of perhaps the first of a very long line of Santa Claus replications. Their long lineage of connection with the induction of spiritual journeys through the drum, their relationship of healing with “Reindeer-Magic” and their ability to create potions and salves which could incite ecstatic visions or “Shamanic Journeys,” give us a deeper look at the Solstice and contemporary Christmas symbol. These priestesses-of-the-antlered-ones who flew through the night to gather blessings and healing and then distributed these gifts to their tribe members must surely be considered as proto-typical Fore-Mothers of Santa.”

So based on these sources (and I could go on!) it seems quite certain that there once an ancient deer mother goddess associated with the sun at winter solstice. It also seems likely that female shamans took to shamanic flight with the Deer Mother on this sacred night.—**

Read more…

Ground Cover…

Another view from my recent visit to the Crescent Meadow Trail….
I think snow may be on this ground very soon.
Elevation is around 6000 ft.

photo from Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park © Elsah Cort

What’s Next?

Spent the last two days listening to scientists and researchers presenting their work and wisdom during the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Science Symposium at St Anthony Retreat here in Three Rivers. I came away with immense gratitude for these people who are tracking, observing and learning about what is happening in our local national parks and the sierra nevada mountains (and the whole planet that is warming up very quickly).

I learned about meadows that were grazed by thousands of sheep 100+ years ago, about frogs that are being killed off by a fungus that made its way up the mountain ranges of South America, passing through Central America and now in our mountains (some of these frogs have been sent to the “froggy hospital” at a Bay Area zoo for fungal treatments and then they are released back from whence they came), about caves that are being protected and cared for because of their unique biodiversity (these are very big caves, just one of the over 200+ caves in SequoiaNP has 21 miles of passageways) and bats and snakes and birds who live in high places and how standing dead trees do not mean what you think they do and fire is needed and challenged more than ever now…and much more which I will share in coming days.

It’s not just the science or the fact-gathering, it’s the “what’s next?” part that intrigued me the most. My mind expanded just when I thought I knew it all. No, that’s not exactly true, I know I don’t really know it all. My mind changed about what I thought was happening, even in my own yard of desolate plants with no rain, vole invasions for the first time in 40 years, deer pruning of my jade trees and plants I thought they did not like and now I plan to take another look at everything, starting tomorrow….

meadow in Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park, photo © Elsah Cort


Potential dinner guests met me at the back door just now. Can you count seven? One has a head down in the rosemary. Nothing growing in the pots because it was eaten during last visit from this bunch.

[photo © Elsah Cort]

Going to Seed….

Mandala born today…it’s name told to me
“Conception: remembering the time when we were…each…just two cells old”.
In our memory bank, buried deep in that wordless space,
we change the world when we acknowledge every single human has been there.

"Conception" digital mandala © Elsah Cort

“Conception” digital mandala © Elsah Cort

A few hours later, watering the garden…going to seed.

"Going to Seed" photos © Elsah Cort

Love-in-the Mist and Rose Campion going to seed underneath the blue oak canopy.

The story of the days of my life lately. I return to a seed.

[photos © Elsah Cort]

A Bird in Hand

Birds fly in my house from time to time because I leave the back door open a lot.

After weeks of watching the canyon wrens feeding their screaming (in bird language) babies in the little nest hidden under the eaves on the highest corner of my house—and keeping the cats away from them—the babies finally flew the nest.

I think this little guy was one of the parents, flying into the house last Monday. Took me about 30 minutes to finally get him to sit on my finger, his mouth hanging open.

Canyon Wren, photo © Elsah Cort
He stayed still while I found my iPhone to do some portraits of of him.

Canyon Wren photo © Elsah Cort
Formal portrait on my finger.

Canyon Wren photo © Elsah Cort
Shaking so much on my finger, he did not know he could fly away.
So I placed him on the clothes line.
I began to gently take some cobwebs off his tiny feet and wings opened, off he flew.

How Flowers Changed the World

Spring is here again in the Sierra Foothills, and cannot be suppressed even by a sudden drop in temperature and snow dusting the hills for a few early morning hours yesterday. I long for Spring during all the other seasons, and as it bursts forth, I succumb to a huge “weed” burden on my foot paths and meadow edges around my house.

Weeds are just notions in our minds, after all, and I do hate to pluck to death those brave plants who want to live where I want to walk. Start anywhere, I tell myself, compost the weeds, invite them to be reborn into wildflowers.  I transplant the non-weeds—the poppies, the purple alyssum, the love-in-the-mist, the bush lupine seedlings, the rose campion (all derived by original plants and seeds given to me by Marion Gray in the late 1970’s), the sacred native white sage and the black sage, the mountain mahogany (I have four of these sprouted near my front door right now), tons of Spanish lavender, and purple violets, which have popped up in the path instead of the garden beds.

And when the weeding becomes just too much to bear, there is always photographing blossoms for future art works, and pressing flowers and leaves in old phone books for flower mandalas or swirled in handmade paper pulp.

Or, I  just sit, doing absolutely nothing, except sniffing the air for the first waft of the intoxicating scent of the ceonothus, wild native lilac (already one lilac bush is in bloom with its tiny white blossoms) at the meadow’s edge.

“Flowers changed the face of the planet. Without them, the world we know—even man himself—would never have existed. Francis Thompson, the English poet, once wrote that one could not pluck a flower without troubling a star. Intuitively he had sensed like a naturalist the enormous interlinked complexity of life. Today we know that the appearance of the flowers contained also the equally mystifying emergence of man.” from the essay by Loren Eiseley called “How Flowers Changed the World”.

photo by Elsah Cort

The palmistry of mountains…

There comes a time…

when you see something that pretty much sums up everything,

when you are gifted a glimpse, ever so feebly, of your life from so broad a perspective you may as well be looking down from the moon,

when poet people from the past show up in today, and the past is changed, like time moves backwards instead of forwards (which it does sometimes),

and you know the place where you live so well that you can point to the exact spot, on a map with no road signs, no town names, no boundaries of any kind…but just fine black, delicate lines, tracing the wrinkles, like in a human palm, of mountain and valley, where water has had the audacity to rush and drop over rocks and sand, seeping into roots of willow, sycamore, and mugwort (used by local Native Peoples as the equivalent of holy sage.)

Tonight I pin-pointed exactly where I live, on such a map, offered as “art” in a 12 foot, or more, by 6 foot, or more, lithograph quilt of the Kaweah Watershed, “hung” on a gallery wall.

Headliners for the Kaweah Land and Arts Festival on November 6-8, artist Matthew Rangel and writer/photographer John Spivey are exhibiting lithographs and photographs throughout November at Arts Visalia Gallery, 214 E. Oak, Visalia CA, open Wed-Sat 12-5 pm.

10DueEastfromMoroRock-largeStronghold – Due East from Moro Rock, lithograph
©Matthew Rangel

John Spivey
“We are part of something so profound that to call it random acts of chaotic probability, or to alternatively call it God, simplistically reduces this profundity to a shadow of what it really is. The ultimate answer to this environmental question is that we all have to learn how to live in relationship with this profound nature of life.”

©John Spivey, from exhibit at Arts Visalia “Luminosity of Stone
see also,

Spivey is author of The Great Western Divide, CrowsCry Press 2006.
“Is your mind abundant? How has it come to its present state of being?  Is is full of the nuance and fluidity of life or is it rigid and barren, painful and lonely?  It is never too late to come back to the fullness of who you really are, to come back to knowing.  Are you willing to restore the abundant landscape of your mind, maybe restory it? Is there an original story, one without words, only just knowing? Put another log on the fire if you wish to go further into all of this.  You need to stoke the fire a little for yourself.” page 45


New work ©Elsah Cort one of nine images finished today
in the form of 5X5 inch cards in a series called Square One.

Digital collage
from original mandala painting
and photograph of Kaweah River at my favorite swimmin’ hole
at the home of friends who live on Dinely Drive in Three Rivers.

Living walls…green art

Getting ready for the Three Rivers Environmental Weekend this Saturday and Sunday with the Green Home Tour, where I will be hosting a booth for the California Native Plant Society…..and also looking forward to the cooler temperatures coming in tomorrow and this week and knowing that soon I will be able to work out in the garden again without the stifling heat….plants are on my mind.

Here is my latest “foundling” online
from artist EDINA TOKODI who paints with plants:


her succulent wall in Brooklyn originally seen on

Human innovation is the camera…

These rocks and earth-forms were originally sun-warmed water.
Were they not?
Then the planet cooled and settled to what we are now


“Hideaway” digital art by Inga Nielson
[all over google images as a photo of the sun and moon at the North Pole]


from the website of German astrophysics student,
Inga Nielsen
(age 20 something)

My name is Inga Nielson and I welcome you to my homepage Gate to Nowhere. Many of the images in these galleries were done with a programm called TerraGen, a scenery generator, which was developed by Matt Fairclough. You can download a freeware version of the program at Planetside or at Terradreams. Most of the images are postworked with Photoshop. Parts of the landscapes and scenes are painted with a graphics tablet and some images are painted entirely. Additionally I use Matte Painting to create the scenes that come to my mind.

glass houses…no stones

greenhouse with no glass: absent gardener

greenhouse with no glass: absent gardener

green house with no greenhouse: off the grid

green house with no greenhouse: off the grid

[ on a visit to the Big Sur coast of California, halfway between Cambria and Carmel…not sure of exact location, just up a long dirt road into the mist and trees, ocean below, waves under the surface, no sight of the shore]

Keep your back door open…


A bluebird flew into the house today through the open back door (no screen door because the door is a full glass panel and I love the view.)  Over the twenty-six years of living in this house, there have been many birds flying inside.  But, never, before today, has a Western Bluebird shown up.  I could not resist grabbing the camera right in front of me and snapping this shot.  I opened all the nearby windows (also without screens) and gently guided the bird toward open air.  No wave of farewell, it was gone in a flash of blue.

Ted Andrews, in my cover-faded worn copy of Animal-Speaks, writes the bluebirds are now rare in the United States but used to be very common.  He translates the message of the bluebird as “often a reminder that we are born to happiness and fulfillment, but we sometimes get so lost and wrapped up in everyday events of our lives that our happiness and fulfillment seem rare…”

The idea that the bluebird brings happiness is a recent human version of its message. Andrews adds, “This is a symbol of a passage, a time of movement into another level of being…transformation.”

Keeping your back door open may be a good approach to your everyday concerns, especially now.

[This is only the second siting of a bluebird for me at this foothill homeplace.  I hear of other people in Three Rivers having bluebirds nest nearby and visit.  Never have I seen one cupped in my hands on a New Moon.]

PS. A twitter post from @GlowStick Happy New Moon #twerps 🙂 In Gemini we “turn up” our curiousity, discover the possibility & let ourselves be open to new *communication*~

View from the clothes pins


Looking up the Kaweah River Canyon (deeper than the Grand Canyon ) toward Sequoia National Park with Ash Mountain looking sharp and rocky in the late afternoon on a Wednesday.  Palm tree marks the spot where St. Anthony’s Retreat greets pilgrims from time to time and has a bell that rings out with no regular pattern to tell me to take notice of whatever is in that exact moment.  I listen.

Can I see the forest for the trees?


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