Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A story about finding your true gift.

Artwork: Crow Child, mixed media sculpture
Susan Gallacher-Turner c2006

I was standing in the grove hunting rabbits when I saw him. At first, it was just a black blur in the blue strips of sky between the trees. Then I heard a rustle among the leaves followed by the cawing a big shiny crow swooping and diving down to the forest floor. I ran to see what prey had fallen beyond the crow’s reach. There among the leaves and birch bark was his small still body. It was a baby crow, fallen from its first flight, left for dead by its mother. I sat still and watched waiting to see a wing move, a beak lift, or a breast feather quiver with a tiny breath. For a long time, there was nothing.

Then, just as my patience was giving out, the black body gave a tiny shudder. I knew the bird was alive. I carefully scooped the body into my handmade bed of leaves and birch bark. I moved swiftly, softly carrying the bird to Alyanna, the healer. She would know what to do.
Her tent was warm and smelled of the spices she used in her herbal medicines. I entered cautiously. I knew her power was great and I had always been a little afraid of her. As Alyanna turned, I shivered and held up my patient. Quietly, she came forward and took the birch bark bed from my hands. I sat down near the doorway to wait.

I watched as she gently ran a finger over the bird examining it from beak to tail feathers. She turned to her herbs and began mixing leaves in a bowl of hot water. As the brew streamed, she began making a clicking noise bending near the bird and then away. I watched and listened curiously, hoping I would not be seen and banished from my spot by the door. Soon, she dipped her finger into the hot water, carried it over to the bird’s beak, and let the drips fall.

Just as I began to relax, Alayanna turned in my direction. She stretched out her hand and motioned me across the floor. Moving toward her, I wondered if I was to be punished for disturbing the young crow. Crows were important messengers of Lug, the sun god, and the consequence of killing a crow was to be banished from our village for bringing bad luck.
Alyanna placed her fingertip above the baby bird’s breast and I watched it rise and fall with a regular rhythm. I knew the bird would survive. Alyanna’s hand came toward me then and stroked my face; I knew I had done the right thing.

The baby crow grew bigger and stronger along with me. I became known as sun boy, the one who had brought good luck and good weather to our village. We hunted rabbits, caught fish, bathed in the stream and perched in the birch trees together. At night, he slept on a basket handle, while I lay on the floor. He was my friend and companion.

Then one day, Alyanna came to me and said it was time. I knew that she often took younger ones with her to gather herbs needed for healing, but I had a sinking feeling that day. We walked away from the village, the crow swooping by my side. Alyanna looked up and smiled; yet I did not feel happy trekking through the sunny fields. I saw many important herbs, but Alyanna did not stop or ask me to dig up roots or trim leaves. After a while, we stopped to drink and rest. She took my hand, looking deep into my eyes and told me again that it was time. Then I knew. I shook my head, looking way not believing that I was being asked to give up my friend and companion.

Alyanna explained to me that I was chosen to find the crow. I had done the right thing bringing the crow to her, helping to heal him and giving him a nest in my home. By finding the crow I had shown her my true spirit belonged in healing and the crow had guided me to her. But now it was time for both of us to go our own ways, to live our lives in different worlds.

I can’t imagine a day without my crow companion. I said to myself, with a heavy heart, holding onto all the ramblings in the woods and sunny days on the riverbank, I was not ready. I don’t want to give up my one true friend and spend my days digging roots and boiling leaves in a dark hut.

But I knew I had no choice. Just as trees are rooted to the ground, birds are meant to fly free in the endless sky and I was meant to walk on the earth and look up to the sky for light and guidance.

I stood up, put out my arm for my crow to perch. With my free hand, I stroked his smooth dark feathers as we looked into each other’s eyes. He and I both knew, that as we lived in our separate worlds, we would always be together. I lifted Lug and he rose, silhouetted against the brilliant yellow sun. Just as he had guided me to Alyanna, he would continue to guide my spirit, no matter how great the distance between earth and sky.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

When nothing is something.

It's a beautiful autumn day. As I sit here, now, overlooking the river sparkling in the sun, feeling the warmth mixed with a crisp breeze that signals the changing season, I am trying to remember.

Last night, as I was reading I came up with a great idea for this blog. This morning I can't remember it. This bugs me. I'm sitting here hoping I would remember it by now.

Maybe that's it.

Nothing. The power of in no--thinking. Like the zen meditation practice of staring at a blank wall. Like slowing my speeding train of thoughts without even stopping at the remember station by doing nothing. Here and now. Just sitting on this bench looking out over the river in the sun.

Here & Now
Leaves are falling.
A train chugs past.
Birds fly by
A child cries
People chat in the distance.
The sun is warm.
The breeze is cool. trees surround me, shiver
And Now...crimson leaves reflected in the river.
A wind chime rings.
It's time to go.
Here & Now

Friday, October 06, 2006

A story about love and protection, this reflects my feelings about being a mother of two children and numerous adopted animals. When I wrote this story, I was working on a sculptural art piece that is part of my Shafeshifter Series. The story is mounted behind the copper repousse' door in the back of this sculpture. I don't remember which came first the story concept, polar bear mask, or mother & child clay sculpture. As with most of my sculptural art pieces, it seemed to evolve on its own. If you'd like to see more pictures of this piece or the rest of my Shapeshifter Series, you can visit my website at

I hope you enjoy the story.

Story Title: Mama Bear
Sculptural Piece Title: SHAPESHIFTER #2
C Susan Gallacher-Turner 2006

Sometimes we don’t know how strong we are until we have to be strong.
I had my baby in the late autumn. The tribal midwife was there to help me with the delivery and my mate was there for me, too. Several days after the birth, he followed after the tribe to continue hunting for game while the rest of our people gathered fruit and grains for the winter months.
The midwife stayed at my side until she was called to help another. I was not ready to move yet, so I waited with supplies of food; wood and blankets until my mate finished hunting and came to take me back to the tribe’s winter home.
It wasn’t until several weeks later, that I knew something was wrong. I woke in the dark, restless from a dream, and knew my mate was dead. On his way back to me, a bear killed him. I would have to remain in the cave, alone all winter.
One love was gone. Another was in my arms, and depended on me for all her needs. Like every mother, I knew the fear of birth and the awe of responsibility for a new life. I knew leaving to go back to the tribe would risk both our lives, but especially hers. I wasn’t afraid of being alone, snowed in the cave for many long months but of sickness, injury, attack or anything that could hurt my little baby. I knew, now, I must live to keep her alive.
And so I lived in rhythm with the new life in arms. When she slept, I slept. When she ate, I ate. I had plenty of food for myself from the tribe, and my baby had plenty of food from me. Water would be as easy as melting snow over the fire. I had already moved rocks in front of the door to keep out animals and drafts while still leaving room for fresh air. So we lived sun-to-sun, new moon to full moon and back again. The world went from golden to white to green and soon it would be time to travel back to the tribe.
On one of those early spring days, just as the snow was starting to thaw, I wrapped my baby up snuggly and went out to enjoy the warm sun. I heard a crack behind me. I quickly put her down under a thick bramble and turned to face the biggest, fiercest beast I had ever seen. The bear was twice my size, with paws the size of my head and claws like daggers. It lunged at me, swiping a huge paw just past my shoulder. As I ran swiftly around a tree, I felt a surge of fear and then, anger. I would not let anyone or anything hurt my baby.
I came out from behind that tree with a force I had never known before. Suddenly, I had power in every part of my being and I was ready to fight. I turned toward the bear and swiped back. My nails tore across its neck and blood poured down. My only thought was for my baby. As I turned back around to pick her up, I looked down at my hand. It was huge, with strong, sharp claws and savage power. Then my hand changed again…soft, reassuring fingers, reached out to pick up my baby. I cradled her in my arms; the world became so quiet around me, not even the smallest scuttle or chirp sounded. I didn’t think about it at the time until the next twig cracked and startled me to move around again. There on the now red snow, was the big, white bear being nuzzled by two cubs.
Aah, I should have recognized the passionate protectiveness of another mother. She and I had seen in each other only what any mother would have seen: danger. To save my baby’s life, I had killed her. And now her twins were back, nudging her still body, trying to stay alive, too. Tears rolled down my cheeks. I knew I had done what I had to do. And I knew I now had more to do.
Once more, I put my baby under the safety of the brambles. As I turned back around, my shape changed once more. My hands became paws on the ground; I went over to the twins still trying to nurse from their dead mother. With a giant claw, I stripped the fur from the still body on the snow and offered nourishment to the cubs. I settled them down under the large pine tree snuggled inside their mother’s fur. Then, I turned back to my own baby. As my shape changed once more, I took her back to the cave, fed her and put her to sleep. Before nightfall, I went back for the twins and herded them back to the cave, too.
And so I became a mother of three instead of one. I fell into a new rhythm of nursing, eating, and sleeping until it was time to make my way back to the tribe. I left my baby with the midwife and headed out, shape changed again, with the twins, to the spring feeding grounds of the polar bears. I taught them to hunt, in ways I did not even know I knew. They grew bigger and capable of surviving on their own in one season but I knew my other baby would take many more seasons. When my work with the twins was done, I changed shape again and headed back to the tribe.
That is where I am today. I sit holding another baby of mine, by the stream looking into the water, remembering. Many times, I wonder, was it real. But when I look into the stream, I see my true reflection. There I am,’ Mama Bear’.