Flicker Medicine

Photo credit: All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Like lots of people these days, many of whom have much larger problems than I do, I’ve been having a hard time with what’s happening in America. I’m stressed out about the hard time you’re having if you’re someone who has been targeted or burdened by unfair treatment from Donald Trump and his terrible administration. I’m stressed out about what that same administration and other republicans have been doing to animals and the environment (I talk about this stuff on Twitter all the time — too much, I’m sure, so I won’t go on here, but I have to say if your USDA is run by someone who thinks puppy mills are cool you’re a monster). And as I always say, once you fuck the environment, you can’t unfuck it. I don’t even understand how you could think it’s ok to be a total dick to Mother Earth, the planet we all call home.

So I’ve been doing what I can to try to help and to get by: Donating to the ACLU, the Humane Society of the United States, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Xerces Society, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Planned Parenthood. Calling my U.S. Senators, one of whom is a total asshole who doesn’t give a shit what I or anyone else who isn’t lining his pockets thinks. Writing letters, sending emails, signing petitions, putting signs in the yard, supporting causes, banding together with neighbors to try to make the world a little friendlier and more hopeful. Seriously considering getting solar panels installed on our house, even if it would require replacing part of our roof that’s only two years old, because I very strongly believe that right now, if you’re not an asshole who doesn’t give a shit about the environment, it’s your absolute duty to do everything you can to help. Engaging in escapist fantasies wherein we say fuck it all and move to Costa Rica, which seems to be a pretty perfect destination for us and totally doable, the downsides being malaria, dengue fever, rampant pesticide use, and the fact that you might wake up with a scorpion in your bed. Stretching it a bit, but supporting Nordstrom by buying a satin bomber jacket featuring bedazzled cranes that I’ll rock even after satin bomber jackets, which are everywhere right now, are out of style in approximately 10 minutes, like, when I’m old and I travel to crane festivals for fun.

Mostly I read Twitter, because I have to know what’s going on and whether I can help with something important at any time, and feel really, super down. If you’re an empathetic person who leans left, you feel the same way. It’s hard and it’s overwhelming and you see people telling you to take care of yourself but you feel like a jerk because you even have the luxury of taking care of yourself. People have died. People have been detained. People have had their rights violated. People are going to be able to kill sleeping bears in their dens and shoot baby wolves in the face. Puppy mills can be even more cruel to puppies and even talking about taking care of myself feels like esoteric bullshit.

But you have to, of course, or you have nothing left to give to anyone else. So I’m trying. One thing I’m working on is going hard into the hippie lifestyle I’ve been gravitating toward for years. I mean yeah, cool, I’ve been vegan since July, but let’s also start getting into herbalism. Let’s sit around looking at rocks (I’ve been trying to meditate for years and as someone with ADHD it’s hard, so baby steps, a pretty crystal gives you something to focus on). Let’s suspend disbelief and let smells change our mood. Let’s realize that nature is our religion, Mother Earth our god. Wearing what most people would consider pajamas out to dinner is totally cool.

I knew I was getting somewhere with this all when one day I told Ben about my spirit animal. I know that’s weird, maybe. But you know what it does? It helps me feel connected to earth and in tune with nature, and that’s monstrously helpful to me right now. And who am I to say no to a spirit animal who presents herself to me? You’re an animal and you’re my friend, and you’re telling me something I particularly need to hear right now.

We’ve had a bird feeder on our front porch for over a year, since Soren and I started homeschooling and he picked the black-capped chickadee as the North American animal he wanted to study. Getting a bird feeder is one of the best things I’ve ever done. I can’t even tell you how much joy it brings me. Before we had the feeder, I remember observing that there weren’t many birds around here. Now, I’ve gotten to know them, lots of them — the chickadees (as expected, they were the first to arrive), house finches, house sparrows, red-breasted nuthatches, dark-eyed juncos, the occasional downy woodpecker, and the northern flicker.

The flickers are the ones who speak to me. There’s a pair who take turns visiting our feeder. They’re much too big for it and cling awkwardly to the side but make it work. Sometimes one will sit on the porch railing, calm face looking around, beautiful feathers shining in the sun. They’re regal and radiate peace. Even if you’re inside with the windows closed, you’ll startle a flicker away if you move or make too much noise. So I’ve learned to stand still and silent, watching the bird for as long as he or she is there, forgetting myself and everything I was doing, feeling a sense of calm and connectedness I haven’t felt before. If I’m outside and hear the “kyeer” from a nearby tree I’ll stop to listen. Even when I don’t see them, I feel better knowing they’re there.

Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with a gentle expression and handsome black-scalloped plumage. On walks, don’t be surprised if you scare one up from the ground. It’s not where you’d expect to find a woodpecker, but flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you’ll see a flash of color in the wings – yellow if you’re in the East, red if you’re in the West – and a bright white flash on the rump.

–from All About Birds by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Flicker medicine is showing you that it is time to find your rhythm, for you have a new cycle of growth that you will be entering. She is grounding and will teach you to connect with Mother Earth and to find balance and harmony in the physical, mental and spiritual realms. Flicker is asking you to take a look at the issues in your life, find the deeper meaning and the hidden qualities in the patterns and “coincidences” that you are experiencing and accept that your perceptions are changing. Trust in your intuition. Flicker’s constant hammering is telling you to have tenacity in your endeavors, while also having patience. Her rhythm will guide you to perfect timing and show you how important it is for healing love and how powerful forgiveness is.

Have you found your balance? Are you connected to Mother Earth and nature spirits? Rhythm is a powerful way to affect your energy – are you tuning in to your own unique rhythm? If you have tuned in to your unique rhythm, are you following it? Do you follow it with tenacity? Do you get frustrated or do you exhibit patience? Do you honor what works for you? If you have not tuned in to your rhythm, then it is time to change what you are doing. Open yourself up to your own healing love and forgiveness so that you can find your rhythm. Do you look at the aspects of your life rationally? Do you jump into situations or do you take the time to dig into them to find the hidden meanings?

–by Susan Jolley, posted on healingcrystals.com

I know it’s hard right now, but if you can, find your spirit animal, your whatever it is that helps you feel a little hopeful for the uncertain future.

Urban Homesteading

I know the world needs another asshole hipster who lives in the city and wants to go all hippie and, like, get some chickens, but it looks like I’ve caught the homesteading bug. I’ve been headed in this direction for a while now, but the other day I found a blog that really inspired me: Home Sweet Homestead. It’s about a family with two little kids from Los Angeles who sold all their stuff and drove a camper to Tennessee, where they bought some land and are setting up a homestead, which includes building a tiny cabin themselves. I read and clicked “Older entries” until I got to the beginning (it’s a new blog, so it’s not that long). Then I did it again. I’m in deep, serious love with everything about it.

My thoughts on homesteading and related subjects are wild and disorganized, as my thoughts are wont to be.

First, it’s is so refreshing to read a blog that isn’t plastered with ads and full of sponsored content, product placements, product reviews, giveaways, and any other forms of shilling. I’m so tired of shilling. I’m also tired of consumerism. I don’t need to see another list of things a blogger is obsessed with or yet another post showing off new purchases. This shit bores me and kind of makes me sad. I like reading about people who are doing more than instagramming their things or acquiring more things or trying to persuade you to acquire more things so they can profit.

Although the idea of homesteading greatly appeals to my hippie sensibilities, several things are true:

  • We’re not going to move. Ben and I are city people and we’re happy in Denver.
  • We’re not going to quit our jobs. They’re pretty cool and we like having the benefits employment provides.1
  • We’re not going to homeschool. I think being around lots of people from different backgrounds in a school situation is important.
  • We’re not going to get bees or chickens (at least not now). Seven animals + one 3-year-old = enough.
  • Ben is just not that into the idea of homesteading and frankly he’s probably tired of hearing me go on and on about it. I bet to him I sound like one of those Charlie Brown adult voices, with random homestead speak thrown in: Blah blah blah chickens blah blah composting toilet blah blah build cabin blah blah wood blah blah Guinea fowl.

What I’d like to do is incorporate more homestead-like activities into our life. When I say “homestead-like” I mean more than growing all your own food and trying to be self-sustaining (and less than, because growing all our own food and trying to be self-sustaining isn’t realistic for us right now). After reading Home Sweet Homestead, I want to — I don’t know — try to capture the essence of what they’re doing and put it into practice as much as I can while living in the city and having a job and doing the things I do.2

So what the hell does that mean? Trying to reduce our impact on the world. Living simply. Doing more DIY projects. Doing more hippie adventure stuff.3 Planning next year’s garden.4 Making more stuff — and focusing on making practical stuff instead of making things like necklaces I really don’t need.5 Not acquiring more stuff. Getting rid of some stuff. Reusing or repurposing some stuff. Going without some stuff. Wanting less. Using less. Being outdoors more. Reading more. Being quiet. Ummm, I know I’m getting really vague here, but do you know what I mean?

I know I talk about this sort of thing from time to time, but then I usually get off track. I think it can be hard to live a sort of homestead-like life when you’re — well, when you’re me and it’s easy to go back to your old behaviors that involve getting consumery and losing touch with what’s really in tune with your hippie sensibilities. Sometimes I get caught up in stuff that gets me off track, you know? Like, we’re at the point in our lives where friends are moving to big, fancy houses and you catch yourself thinking hey, is that what we should be doing. And it isn’t, for any number of reasons. Aside from finances, we’re a 3-person family. Our 950-square-foot house with a little yard is all the room we need. When I get annoyed by precariously stacked things falling on me in my closet, the problem isn’t the lack of space — it’s that I have too much stuff. Anyway, in my experience, more space leads to more stuff, and we don’t need more stuff. Plus it’s more expensive and time-consuming to maintain.

I think small changes can be harder than big changes because they’re not a huge exciting adventure. That’s cool, though. Let’s go on a little exciting adventure.

1. Now that I think about it, though, I could do my job anywhere as long as I have access to electricity, internet, and a computer. Editors are pretty self-contained creatures. Maybe I could arrange a work-from-homestead situation. Having a homestead office seems a little weird, but maybe it could work. One day.
2. Of course, the things I do include totally non-homesteady stuff like watching football on tv and running on a treadmill. I almost included “drinking beer” here, but now that I think about it, I believe there is room for beer drinking in homesteading — and in everything, of course.
3. We’re doing pretty well with avoiding GMOs and buying organic stuff when possible. Somebody may have purchased the wrong vegetable oil and cheese can be a pain in the ass — for example, I’m not a big fan of having to make a special trip to Whole Foods to get hormone-free mozzarella cheese. Overall, though, it’s not bad and we’re still making a lot of bread and ice cream.
4. I’m so annoyed by the fact that I’m better at planning a garden than I am at gardening. I don’t think I ever told you about this year’s garden after that time I wrote about my plans for it. One thing I learned is that I’m never starting seeds indoors again. Total waste of time, in my opinion. Planting seeds directly in the garden is easier (especially if you have cats — oh, the cats) and plants grow just as well. Oh also! We’re still composting and it’s super easy! Even Soren knows what goes in the garbage, what goes in the recycling bin, and what gets composted.
5. If you’re wondering about my “30 Days of Making Stuff” project, it went to shit after I made a bunch of stuff for Soren’s birthday party and we had the families in town. Don’t worry (not that you would!), I’ve made a few things since then that I’ll tell you about soon and I’m definitely going to finish the project (which I’m now defining as making 30 things in a somewhat reasonable number of days).