Posted tagged ‘inspiration’

Midsummer Tale

August 20, 2018

In the middle of this harsh, Tucson summer filled with plenty of heat and anticipation of the monsoon rains, plus my exhaustion with our country’s political reality show, something very joyful happened that directed my attention to a very different reality.

Returning home from a three week vacation, I discovered that I had a new neighbor!  A charming, energetic female established her home very near my studio where I work. Actually, she moved so close that it was a bit shocking for me, as I never imagined such a possibility. Her place is so near that I can see it (and her, as well) from the window above my desk and when opening the studio’s door. Such a neighbor could be very annoying if it were a human, but it is… a hummingbird!

In the Nest

Yes, they are present around our property, and we are aware of them. A couple of feeders and local desert plants, which are part of our landscape, keep them happy. They seem to like the long dense row of oleanders next to the small white building that is my Word Studio.

It was immediately very clear that my tiny neighbor is a SHE, because I know that HEs (male hummingbirds) do not participate in building nests, or sitting on those two (they lay only two) precious eggs, or feeding the offspring. She has to do it all! As a woman and a mother, I immediately felt solidarity with her!  I have felt such solidarity with cats, cows, horses, and other mammals, but not with a bird.

What possessed her to build that nest on the wires of lights decorating our outdoor covered ‘sitting room’? I do not know! Perhaps she is an intellectual bird that likes books? Actually (joking apart), it is a very safe place – sheltered from rain and winds by a huge tree on the north side and the walls of the enclosed part of the patio on the south side. There also is a fringe benefit – closeness to a hummingbird feeder that might be very handy for a busy, expecting mother hummingbird.

Lenika's Nest

The next question was, will she accept my frequent coming to my studio or will she abandon the nest? Being concerned and knowing that hummingbirds love red and other bright colors, I initially wore my red summer dress. Each time I approached the door of my studio while she was in her nest, my heart was beating a bit faster from excitement, but of course, it could never match her amazingly powerful heart that beats more than 1000 times per minute when in flight. She did not fly away from her nest, and I felt great relief!

A day or so later, she accepted my presence around the studio, even when I was wearing a variety of colors. Wow, it felt great!  Soon a couple of frequent visitors were accepted by her, as well. One of them suggested that we should name her; after all she (the hummingbird) is a part of this establishment now. ”Tina or Tania, perhaps?” They were almost okay – short, energetic names…. “Oh, no, nothing with a T”, I protested!  “Grace maybe, since she is so graceful?” That one did not fly either — there was something “too much” about that name. “How about Ana, Ania, Anna?” The fact that there are Anna’s hummingbirds, and I am still not sure what kind of hummingbird she is, we decided that such a name might be too confusing. Finally we settled for Lenika, created from parts of our two middle names. And that’s who she is – Lenika.

Lenika closer

One day Lenika got inside my studio by accident and immediately flew straight into one of the windows. Of course, she was not able to get out. Surprisingly, Lenika let me take her into my hands without any resistance or fight. She sat there calmly and let me enjoy feeling her silky small body as I walked outside to let her go free. Soon enough she was back in her nest.

Lenika trapped 2

Three weeks or so past, and I noticed that Lenika became restless and less trusting. She flew away when I entered my studio, or even when I approached it from the far side of our large patio. I have to confess that upset and hurt me, as if she were a real person and not a very small bird. I concluded that it might be the time for her to become a mother, and I started tip toeing around her, like around a woman at the very end of her pregnancy. Other times she behaved like before and at night was back in her nest – very calm, deep in her sleep. That made me calmer, too. Still, some worrying thoughts entered my mind; maybe there is some delay in hatching? Perhaps they are already hatched, and I can’t see them because new born hummingbirds are the size of a raisin and would not be visible yet. And what if the eggs got broken for some reason?

Nest on Patio 2

I truly hope that Lenika’s story will have a happy ending — for her sake and mine. She will have her babies, and I will be free from worries! In the meantime, I am amazed how powerful this tiny, wild creature influenced my behavior and feelings!  Such is the case when one cares about another person or another living thing. It can by joyful, and it can be painful, but it makes us more connected to each other and to this planet.


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Text and photos Copyright © 2018 by Alicja Mann,



Writing out of the Darkness

February 25, 2011

Her name is Zowee and she sits in front of my studio silently guarding its door. She is a black panther, and a very handsome one. Alert, yet calm, she can scare you quite a bit. Not to worry though — she is not going to harm anyone. She is a large statue, a new mascot for my studio. I first saw her as one of the items in a silent art auction. The auction was part of a terrific “Evening of Music, Dinner, and Giving” — a benefit for the Owl & Panther Project. I enjoyed the entire evening, but my mind was occupied by that black panther. The minute I saw her, I wanted to have her and was very determined to win the bid. And so I did.


I am so glad to have Zowee, because I am an enthusiast and supporter of the Owl & Panther Project. Zowee’s presence reminds me and connects me emotionally to that project and to its gentle philosophy. There is also another reason I am happy to have her. Lately I have longed for an inspiration for my creative writing. Zowee fits that need perfectly; after all she is the creature that helped quite a few to guide themselves out of the darkness.

What does a panther have to do with writing? There is a Cherokee creation story that ties strongly to the Owl & Panther Project and to its philosophy.

Below is the beginning of the story.

When the world was new, the Creator gathered all plants and animals. “Stay alert and stay awake for seven days and seven nights.”

“I am sure we will be rewarded if we do not sleep!” said Zebra. “We can do this,” Cat agreed.

The second night found some of the plants and animals drooping. “This is harder than I thought,” exclaimed Penguin.

The next night almost all of them (animals and plants) fell asleep. When the seventh night ended, it was just the owl, the panther, and a few plants who were still awake. “I will reward you two animals with the super power to see in the dark,” said Creator.

That is why the owl and panther can guide all kinds of creatures (including humans, of course) through the darkest times.

Logo for the Owl & Panther Project

The Owl & Panther Project is an outreach program based in Tucson that serves refugees who arrived in the United States from many distant countries. Its focus is working with children and young adults to help them cope with their past traumatic experiences and help them adjust to living in a very different culture. Creative writing is the major tool of expression. As the motto of the Owl & Panther logo says, “Writing out of the darkness.” Young participants write and perform their poetry, share their personal stories, and gain confidence through that process. They are also learning that they are not alone — that others who have experienced tragedy, violence, and losses have learned to overcome their fears.

The project is funded by several cultural organizations and private contributors, but in today’s economic reality needs more support than ever. It is guided and sponsored by the Hopi Foundation.

The Hopi word for trauma, ’tsawana’, means “a state of mind that is in terror.” Like the owl and the panther we must learn the power of being able to see in the terrifying darkness and to strive towards a state of Qa Tutsa wanavu — a state of living unintimidated by fear from any source — as I learned from one of the Hopi leaders speaking that evening. This Hopi belief is the philosophy of the Owl & Panther Project, its participants, and many dedicated volunteers.

Owl & Panther Project participants

I might not know about the Owl & Panther Project if not for Marge Pellegrino, its Program Coordinator. Both being writers, we met in a writing group a few years ago. Still, I would have no clue about her dedication and passion for that group if I hadn’t gone to a large event presented by the Owl & Panther project at the Loft Cinema in May of 2009. The event was unforgettable! The cinema was packed to the brim. The presentation of the young people’s stories on the large screen and the opportunity to meet them in person touched me deeply. Since then I have tried to participate in the group’s events as often as possible. That is why David and I attended this year’s benefit on the 12th of February. It was our Valentine’s celebration, as the entire event was associated with Valentine’s Day. We all received large hand-decorated heart cookies.

Heart-shaped cookie from Owl & Panther Project

Here is my cookie. It’s too pretty to eat! Together with Zowee it reminds me of the Owl & Panther group and of the Hopi Foundation — their philosophy, their work, and their huge caring heart for others who need a lot of loving.

Darkness and overwhelming difficulties are not so frightening when you know that there are groups like this in our world.

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P.S. Please remember my gift offer for new subscribers at the end of my previous post.

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Logo and photograph of the group – copyright © by the Owl & Panther Project. Text and other photos copyright © 2011 by Alicja Mann.

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