The False No and the Real

Something that often comes up in Amy Jo’s sexuality workshops is the question of “How can I really understand what is a no, and what is just my fear talking?” or the converse: “How can I understand what is really a YES for me and not just me doing what I think the other person wants?”

Cut off and dissociated from the source of own life-giving eroticism, is it any wonder that we have lost touch with our own internal signals of yes and no? We live in a culture of mixed messages in which sexuality is both shameful and titillating. Stories from men: “I started to put my hand up her shirt and she said ‘no,’ so I stopped; and she asked me ‘Why did you stop?'”
For many of us, the sense of wrongness emerges from childhood. Our early sexual memories are a melange of childhood sensuality and the deep sense of wrongness we felt from adults–the repression, the discomfort with their own adult sexuality displaced onto the inherent eroticism of their children.
And as adults, we live in a world of media in which depictions of dubious consent are so normalized. In which breathlessly panting “no” in the ear of the co-star is written to be part of the come-on. No wonder we adopt those scripts for ourselves, in our teenage bedrooms, in the back seats of cars, under the bleachers, in the dim rooms of our own sexual explorations — and then wonder why we don’t feel the way we think we are supposed to feel. Truthfully, seduction without consent is just violation. The real deliciousness comes, not from overpowering someone else’s no, but from the mutual awareness that we both want this, even though it scares us.
So which one is the false no, and which one is real? The only way to tell is by feeling it in your own body; knowing it, trusting it, making it real through voice and action. And that is something you will never learn from a book or a magazine or a movie or the casually practiced gossip of your more sexually experienced peers. You will not feel it in yourself until you can unlearn the numbness and detachment and find your way back to your wild, wanting heart.

Delight In Your Design


Part of the Daily Poem series.

Somewhere in darkness, the light bloomed
and fell back again into a crack in the earth.
Or was it in fact my father’s body? I saw
secrets, chasms, magma of love, old hurts
atrophied into darkness visible. Father,
I see you in hunger and tenderness,
in your impeccable skillfulness,
I see delight in your design. And
in the purple lilac’s bloom,
crepuscular twilight of the visioning cave
there are dreams shaped by heaven’s lathe —
beyond sight and sound
and rhythm unbound
there’s a love so deep it heals us both

The Ice Tendrils Were Climbing

snow on daffodil. flagstaff, AZ 2014

Part of the Daily Poem series.

In the forest, the ice tendrils were climbing
down from the spruce line into the maple
hardwood forest
and the snow sheathed itself well
into the granite
in the dusk and

I felt your energy in the forest all around me
and the tableau of dreams that preceded the day;
I brushed balsam fir & remembered
the organic nature of your kiss —

I could feel your pulse in the frozen lichens and
the rocky outcroppings and ice spears
and snow blossoms that together sang
kyrie eleison

Conjure Visions of Foreign Birds

At my mother's kitchen table, May 2013
at my mother’s kitchen table, may 2013

Part of the Daily Poem series. For Ben Maisel.

Tea drunk from this cup
will conjure visions of foreign birds: for you and
I, when I go traveling
under the name Arctic Tern
pole to pole, by daylight and starlight
through sadness and exhaustion
and joy, and restoration
which comes in the lines of a familiar face
or easy silence of shared history:
Kindness is the only thing that makes sense anymore
(like Naomi’s poem, handwritten on Mom’s fridge)
along with the ease of old songs
and dreams of the Green Mountains
when echoes of friendship from over the years
hit the sun-slashed golden hills and
return unbroken to my ear

May The Dark Be Gentle

Photo credit: via / CC BY
Photo credit: via / CC BY

Part of the Daily Poem series.

Sun, sinking slow, shedding sweet
light on low hills of home —
sudden golden light outpouring,
tears breaking through the veil —
all of us wishing to come home, to
the sudden stars. Across the narrow sea.
Sun at solstice, tender grief.
Heavy light and nights are deep.
And the weight of the world is love, is love.
And only in silence, the word, the word. And only
in dying, life; in the taking and the giving, life.
And in the chiseled dark of winter’s bone,
let us find beauty in the seed. In our lowliness,
the wish to rise. And everywhere let this
small light fall and with it, may the dark be gentle.

Wolf Mother says…

Photo credit: pattoise via / CC BY-NC-ND

Part of the Daily Poem series.

It’s good to howl into the night and sanctify the new year
with the song of wolves. Even if it wakes the neighbors.
It’s good to clench my thighs under the dinner table
at secret memories, and moments of pleasure
and sniff the world just for the sake of it. It’s good
to be alive for another moment when death becomes birth,
and dark finds its way again into day.
I love. I have loved. I will love again.
I have been hurt. I have hurt. I will hurt again.
I have lost. All I have will be lost again.
But for now it’s good to dream, and sing.
Wolf Mother smiles in her implacable way,
licks her lips, looks with feral yellow eyes
and sighs, Daughter
if you thought you could get through this Life
without being noticed, you’ve got another thing coming.



Nature and the Real vs. the Metaphorical

We live at a time where it’s difficult to get one another’s undivided attention, which means that having someone put their iPhone down to look you in the eye must be a sign that they really like you.

And if you’re like me, your Facebook feed is filled with images of the natural world: woods, fields, mountains, beaches, all perfectly Photoshopped. Perhaps you, too, have experienced how easy it is to sit behind the computer and click “like” on Facebook images of the woods… instead of going out the door and actually getting into the damn woods.

And as someone pursuing an earth-based spiritual path, I can’t help but notice the trend by which we turn our supposedly sacred elements of earth, air, water and fire into metaphorical tableaus that are easily collaged and re-pinned on Pinterest.


We feel so entitled, so casual about the elements when clean drinking water always comes out of the tap, and the gas burner obediently lights when we turn the knob. And the paradox of resources is that value increases with scarcity. So you become a lot more mindful of water when, every time your ten gallon bucket runs empty, you have to haul it up and down the steep hillside to fill it. And you’re much more likely to worship fire if it starts being something that will actually save your life.

I realize the inherent contradiction of starting a website about nature and art in order to dismiss the value of representational nature art. But I guess what I’m saying is, if our search for the Sacred leads us to the natural realm, let us look for the experiences that are real, because the reality of nature is so much more reverence-inducing than the metaphors we humans make about it. And if you want to deepen your relationship with the element of Fire, don’t look at “sacred fire” collages on Pinterest… let’s go hang out in the woods with a bowdrill set.

To Run Amazed

birthday bow & arrows. 24 years old. vermont, 2013
birthday bow & arrows. 24 years old. vermont, 2013

Written in the autumn of 2015 as I took the Running with Artemis class at MountainSong Expeditions, a 6-week course of trail running and archery that culminated in a 5K run through the beautiful woods of Worcester, Vermont. Part of the Daily Poem series.

It’s autumn
and the red maple has wept her tears
till in the stand by the mountainside
only the yellow beech still blooms.
I’ll run till this race on earth is over, and
a voice rises up, and then another:
it is the chorus of those long dead
who turned far away to
follow the lure,
the dream of the white hart
that calls me fearlessly through
this forest.
For they gave me breath to run the woods
by the hollow tree, and the hollow
hill, where the sun rays catch
in the glistening web,
where the bow is instrument
of blessing and power
and at their call, I wake again
to run amazed
in the glittering world.



Seven Nights at Home in April, and the Rest on the Road

photo from

In August 2013 my friend Alex Beeken and I started a daily poem exchange where, each day, we’d e-mail each other an original piece. We’ve kept up the collaboration, though the deadlines have relaxed somewhat; nevertheless Alex’s friendship and poems have been a constant in my life over the last 2.5 years. I wrote him many versions of this poem while spending 6+ months of the year on the road. This is the best version of it, I think.  

To read more of the Daily Poem series, click here.


I spent seven nights at home in April
and the rest on the road
in the dry dry canyons of the west-southwest
where the sun shines dark on crow wings
and braided hair

but I don’t know the names of the plants
or people there, who find red flags in how I walk
and there was snow in Flagstaff and the
Phoenix sun burned me, and the Bay dusk
drew a jewel-like path down to the Farallons;
I flew ocean to ocean in just two days and found
there were dolphins on one side
and tears on the other
and the tulips were scarlet in New York, crimson …

I think I don’t have a home anymore, except
for these poems I write you.
In these hours of lassitude and introspection
on a flight someplace, somewhere over the Midwest.

The Earth is a Witch, and I Her Lover

collage (by me) of images from taproot magazine, january 2016

Part of the Daily Poem series. Written after Vermont Witch Camp, 2015.

The earth is a witch and I her lover,
casting off old cauls, have
danced undaunted in the fall fields beneath
the gibbous moon.

You can call me by many names: I have been
Pretty Flame, I have been
First Snake. I have even been nameless
for a time, and crawled rawly naked
through the damp earth
in darkness before light
was born.

How could any touching seeing hearing
tasting being doubt inimitable She
of a Thousand Names and breaths and wings?
The earth is a witch and through our blood
she sings.