Men! I ask that you honor and value your direct sensory awareness of earth. Do you taste plants, or crush leaves to smell them? Can you name the plants or animals in a nearby wood? What is the history of your place? Are you willing to go exploring until you are lost, and then celebrate that moment with laughter?

That deep connection is pure energy through which you can discover the connection of your soul to your totem. You may encounter numerous animals. Often the first few are not your totems. They appear for a reason, to teach us about this moment in time. Your totem is probably not your favorite animal either, and may be more closely related to the gift of your shadow than what you visualize as your gold.

Meditation in nature can amplify the tuning fork of your heart. Before an encounter with your totem, animal guides will appear. Each animal you meet carries a unique message, a unique vibrational energy. You decide the meaning. How will you know your Totem? A Totem emerges as the manifestation of your soul. In some sense, our men’s work is about stepping more fully into our soul. It would make sense to give your self space in that journey.

A final point – there’s a profound relationship between the spirit of play and your ability to sense your totem. Maybe play is one of the first neural pathways that develop; or maybe play necessitates letting go and being open to the moment. Play is a moment of ultimate trust.

I was joyfully reminded of my need for play at a recent men’s retreat, how a water balloon and squirt gun fight, with little or no rules, can lift my heart and mind. I’ve been in play deficit, probably for some time. My inner grown up has been in charge much too long.  Although I consider the craft of writing science and poetry a form of play, rarely do I experience physical play. Working out is not really play, but it can be. My girls claim I play like a boy, a bit too wild. Are you playing everyday?

I want to give a shout out to my best bud, Chaz. Whenever we are together, we play. Let me share what I miss the most. He was living in Norfolk and when I’d visit we inevitably ended up at the beach. Our favorite game was to take a ball or a Frisbee and play catch with a twist. The player without the ball ran into the surf at full speed and the thrower tried to lead them into a full layout as a cresting wave arrived. Joy was awarded to the most extreme collisions!

It was returning from such a trip, settling into my body, stripped of the veneer of my fears and worries, that Bill Bear (a friend and Mandan Medicine Man) brought me a wolf puppy, stating you do not understand your true nature. Esta Nica (sky blue eye) was my first guide, but was wolf my totem? I believe and trust in intuition. I also hold the opinion that men are uncomfortable expressing uncertainty. We jump into things with a false bravado or conviction. Using language reinforces the propensity to harden toward conviction.

What would happen if we allowed ourselves to feel uncertain, to revisit our choice of Totem? Where did you first encounter it? Why did you decide it was indeed your Totem? When you offer it to a circle of men, what does it say about you? What do you want other men to understand about your soul? What do you understand about your own soul?

Published with permission of the author, Michael Tims


Merriam Webster defines a “cognate” as
a : related by descent from the same ancestral language
b of a word or morpheme : related by derivation, borrowing, or descent
c of a substantive : related to a verb usually by derivation and serving as its object to reinforce the meaning


Evolutionary dispersal of humans across the planet can be traced via the diversification of language. How do researchers know the approximate age of words? If they trace common words back to a point of common origin they can predict when the word first appeared in a human language. Common ancestry is used to designate language families. The individual words with common ancestry then are cognates.

Father (English), padre (Italian), pere (French), pater (Latin) and pitar (Sanskrit) are cognates. They share a common ancestry within the Indo-European, spoken by 46% of the world’s population, including  languages such as English, Spanish, Russian, and Hindi/Urdu. Other language families included Inuit-Yupik (Arctic languages); Chukchi-Kamchatkan (languages of far northeastern Siberia); Altaic (modern Turkish, Uzbek and Mongolian);  Dravidian (languages of south India); Kartvelian (Georgian) and Uralic (Finnish and Hungarian).

It makes sense a word as important as father would be highly conserved within a language family. Recent research probed which words were more likely to be conserved across several language families. They found 23 ultraconserved words that are cognates in four or more language families.

A Washington Post article reporting on the research spoke with the lead researcher, Mark Pagel of Reading University. “I was really delighted to see ‘to give’ there,” Pagel said. But the research team was surprised by the presence of “bark” as a conserved word.

“I have spoken to some anthropologists about that, and they say that bark played a very significant role in the lives of forest-dwelling hunter-gatherers,” Pagel said. Human technology involved using plants for everything from storage utensils, rope, fuel and medicine.

Among other ultra-conserved words they found “mother,” “not,” “what,” “to hear” and “man.” Those ideas in sound are expected because of their base importance in various cultures/peoples. However, why “to flow,” “ashes” and “worm”? What does it tell us about our unconscious awareness of human life?

Listen to some of the cognates here.

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Upgraded Human Language Families (wikicolors)

Upgraded Human Language Families (wikicolors) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Born out of Black Mountain College, and Charles Olsen’s Projective Verse, a stye of poetry emerged responsive to the breath, and characterized by nonlinear design that butted up against chaos.

Coyote also traces the boundary between human need for order and chaos. Among Indigenous tribes of the American southwest, Coyote is considered one of the First Peoples, creator of the world-as-it-is. A trickster/transformer, he prepares humans to enter the world, to take life seriously.

A coyote in Yosemite National Park, California...

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Coyote Dialogues

Grown hollow like reeds
I weave memory into movement
step over icy leaf break
to appear out-of-nowhere
and not yet full of surprise

Elevated and downwind a fleeting brown
tucked down backside ghosts across the white horizon
willing to trade access to the rift
Ma’ii is hungry

From a low ridge
I watch him trap words
with other humans
language wary of open space
is not enough
I am hungry

Nuzzled into pine needles downhill from the laurel
where we loped all day under branches I had to bend
and sometimes snap to pass with kindling
now stacked near a lean-to
rosemary and trout tied over embers
Ma’ii grins and calls me Shilna’ash


Fields unfold
into Aspen and Cedar
two crows will circle
step forward into snowfall
spread dark across the dead grass
where no sound can follow

I look back along the edge where memory gathers
brushed up near old fence posts by the dying wind
silence like polished glass I have been saving
breaks apart in this chill air

Is this the point of contact
my sudden presence must decipher?

Published with permission of the author, Michael Tims

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Do you allow light to emerge from the darkness in our poem? Playful healing and breath become silent partners in your descent. Playfulness comes from how far you push it.

The Way Money Changes Hands

Hands cringe.

Horses in my Dreams #4

(Photo credit: nicodeux)

Either it’s not enough
or it’s wasted away without provocation,

like an old ranch hand with missing teeth
knocked off a bronc too quickly.

Or recoiling from the touch
of currency and then desperately
reaching again as if
this might be the last meeting.

And what about the hand
that slaps a C-note down crisply

enjoying the sound too close
to that of sharks’ teeth.

We would pay for things underwater.
Occasional fingers would float to the top
and we’d find the rare reef littered with bills
ink leached and all but gone.

But that would take us backwards
to a time when we had gills,
no thumbs and small forebrains.
Remember, in the movies?

So instead, take them out of your wallet
crush them inside your fist
smooth them out again
like crinoline readying for the ball.

Place them inside the heft of your favorite
book on horses
ride them
bareback across the plains of your dream.

Lie down among them,
their breath like whales spouting.
A heart beat,

the pulse of your hand.

Published with permission of the author, Michael Tims

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Recently I started using science articles to generate the substructure or scaffolding of poems. Much like ekphrasis, which uses visual art as a jump off point, science reporting offers both unique phenomena and vocabulary to plump.

I recently read series of articles about atmospheric activity, everything from Earth’s magnetic field, to what occurs when lightening forms, to the microbial presence on water droplets in the sky, all of which provided me a unique perspective to consider my relationship with Gaia.

Generally, I lack awareness of atmospheric activity, unless the weather compels me to pay attention. These ideas gave me the context for evaluating my own existence in the larger scheme of Earth cycles and allowed my subconscious the space to work its magic under the surface. Like any good story, I wondered how it was going to turn out, until it did.

A Theory of Air

Gaia’s magnetic field snaps back
displeased at being rubbed
the wrong way.
An aurora borealis pungent
and teeming spills over
the invisible edge
we are all creatures of air.

Hurricane speed tide plumes plunge
ice crystals down to the surface
as electrostatic discharge
organized in previously unexplored
directions, seeding nimbus dust
slurries of reproducing
bacteria on troposphere mist.

Our cellular progenitors, we carry
their helical imprint of sky, engulf
each other in symbiont desperation
a reverse sublimation to terrestrial
bodies of water, Gaia
intending our existence to be
a lighter resurfacing
less of the organized, arrogant
tissue we now drag through air.

Published with permission of the author, Michael Tims

I have some of my woodcuts and linocuts from the ’70’s published in this online literary journal.. also had my large drawings published in Syndic No. 1. Thought perhaps some of you writers/and/or other artists would like to submit material for consideration. I recommend it! Here’s the link:

Susan Pearcy

Desert rivers, like neural pathways or facial expressions, leave fleeting impressions. Is this memory? Gaia’s self-exploration? The evanescence of all human emotion every felt?

Photograph by Adrianafranco Franco: Rivers form tree-like shapes in the desert in Baja California, Mexico, in a picture submitted to National Geographic's My Shot in December.

The narrator in the video below adapts a passage from Joseph Conrad’s A Heart of Darkness, removing that edge of menace. My father loved the novel.  A WWII veteran, he flew two full tours in the Army Air Force. I’m convinced it was the darkness, or menace, that drew him into the story.

A seed of destruction has guided my own creative engagement with the world. Maybe dad was the same? He hinted as much.

But the darkness had already pulled him down into a morass of alcoholism by the time I was born. I lived his darkness without the benefit of seeing it redirected into creativity. His darkness taught me to fight and to find a way around fear. So much of the lighter moments of his life were subsumed in privacy. I dug up his account of the 445th Bomb Group raid on Kassel. It reminded me of the quiet courage many men of his generation shared.

One of the last things he said to me at the hospice was, “I’ve always admired your fearlessness Michael, I’ve lived my life afraid.” His gift, as I now see it, unlocked the dark in me. Gave me light and dark as roiling playmates for the days I spent alone. I wrote this poem in honor of my father.


Silent Years

Tufts of hair run a crescent over the back and veiny side
curled around callous and palm etched with simple lines
the facts as you might call them

A lug heavy with waiting, the last piece of a puzzle
bounces inside the uncertainty of my fingers
reminds me of blessings you gave these tools
and anyone else standing near-by
I’m sure your mixed images of sex and religion
came from some larger more private creation myth
you’d hoped to pass on to me

I had expected your years of silence
and molded them in my hands
wanting what I made to be lighter than I remembered
less of the brooding anticipation
the facts of your palm called for

Father you gave me your hands
I hold them aloft like kites

We Were Wanderers On A Prehistoric Earth from James W Griffiths on Vimeo.

When the light splinters during the winter months, I feel compelled to wander, untethered from everything except human warmth and a good pub for listening to stories. I spent yesterday wandering around various museums with a good friend. At the Corcoran Gallery of Art, we enjoyed the “30 Americans‘ exhibit and I was struck by one line in particular. Rashid Johnson’s photo  of someone dressed like Frederick Douglass included a description of his work. Paraphrasing the artist, he stated that his generation no longer felt the need to define the African American experience, with hip-hop and numerous media outlets already doing so. His object was to engage in more complex conversation. After a year spent struggling with other Smithsonian Faculty Fellows to introduce academic conversation on racial identity in 21st century American, I felt a kinship with him.

Image from Corcoran website: Rashid Johnson, The New Negro Escapist Social and Athletic Club (Thurgood), 2008.

The “Strange Fruit” exhibit was very provocative. I felt like the memory/fear/hatred of lynching was now built into the neural structure of African Americans on some level that I will never fully understand. I was moved and on the outside. One photo showed a beautiful woman and her precocious child, both dressed to a “T”, standing outside a “Coloreds Only” neon sign. I remember as a five-year old child coming home from Hong Kong to visit my cousins in Biloxi Mississippi and going to a water fountain unaware that it also had the same sign, only to have my aunt rush over to redirect me. It was absurd then.

Finally, in the mid-level space of the museum as you go up the stairs to the Rotunda, sat a circle of stools with a noose hung from a very high ceiling in the very center. On each stool sat a white clan hood with empty eye holes pointed toward the middle. Stunning.

I hope this season of stillness rekindles your spirit and allows you to celebrate community.