The New Year, A Reading

Dear Friends,

A new sun moves north as the days slowly lengthen toward spring. In Southern California in the Simi Hills, for a week before and a week after the solstice, at dawn a finger of light enters the notched entrance and passes along the length of the ancient pecked and painted sandstone cave. As it moves, it vivifies the images and all they portend.

May the new light also move through each of us, awakening our courage and concern of all beings.


Please join me for my first reading in the new year hosted by the venerable Harry Northup.

Harry’s Announcement: Please join us to see/hear two brilliant poets, Susan Suntree & Tom Laichas, read their poetry on Harry’s Poetry Hour, Creative Chaos MPTF, on Tuesday, January 3, 2023, 1-2 PM PST. Thanks to Jennifer Clymer, Director, MPTF Studios, & the Creative Chaos Team.

Here is the Zoom link. Please check in a few minutes before 1 PM.… Passcode: MPTF  Please share.

Here’s the discount link to the Sacred Sites audiobook where you can learn about the Simi Hills sacred sites:


A Three-part Series

Free and open to the public! In addition to my talk and Raven’s observations, I will show slides of places in Southern California that are rarely seen and even more rarely recognized for what they are. Learn the story! See deeply into this amazing homeland!


indigenous peoples and native realities

ANNOUNCEMENT from Duane Bidwell

Can’t wait to attend this Monday night–Susan Suntree is a treasure.

Join Raven and Coyote as they guide us on a tour through the primordial origins of Southern California, beginning with the Big Bang/Great Silence to the present.

It’s the first gathering of a three-part series, “Indigenous Peoples and Native Realities.” Join us for a meal in Fellowship Hall at 6p, followed by the performance at 7p in the sanctuary.

Susan’s presentation, drawn from her book “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California,” is equal parts Western scientific thought and Native American myths and songs, telling a dynamic and poetic story about the Southern California landscape. Included in the presentation is a full-color slide show of images taken by renowned photographer Juergen Nogai.

Upcoming Reading and Wonderful News!

Dear Friends, On Sunday, October 16, 2022, at 2 PM I’ll be reading from my recent book harvest at the Seven Stars Gallery, 210 Spring Street, Nevada City.  Please join us! Refreshments! Signed books!

Susan Suntree reads from her latest works

Good company brings literature to life!

I will accompany my reading of Dear Traveler on the dulcimer, joined by Tynowyn, Nevada County’s celebrated flute and dulcimer player.  And I will play an excerpt from the audiobook of the new, revised paperback edition of, Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California, as well as read excepts about the ancient era when CO2 was at the level it is now. Though the past does not necessarily predict the future, it helps us understand the Earth’s ways of responding to dramatic changes. If time permits, I may read a few new poems apropos of this critical moment.

I’d love to share this celebration with you! Join us!


PS Your reviews really do help! If you shop on line, I recommend


Recently I was honored by being inducted into the Antelope Valley High School Hall of Fame. Our high desert high school, serving a community of only fifty thousand people at that time, has saluted such alumni artists as Frank Zappa and US Poet Laureate Kay (Pederson) Ryan. I am especially pleased to join my cohort of honorees who have made rich contributions to music (including a founder of Captain Beefheart and His Magic band), journalism, teaching, and coaching. I posted on my website (go to Posts) my short speech and a poem describing how I came to be a student there and how the school and my childhood in the desert became significant roots, nourishing my life path and work.


AVHS HALL OF FAME      MY TALK      September 22, 2022

Thank you for this honor! Your praise and appreciation is deeply moving.

            My grandparents moved to the Antelope Valley when I was six and they soon bought us grandkids a horse that became our transport into the then wild desert. Gramp installed the glass in the new schools and housing for Boeing and Edwards Air Force Base workers. The flood of these new residents generated a real estate boom. When my family returned to California from our stint in the Bahamas, I was thrilled by the prospect of attending a real high school.

            I arrived at Antelope Valley High School as a junior, followed later by my brother Ted and sister Peggy. I’d spent my freshman and sophomore years, along with my older sister, Ginger, at a very strict girls’ boarding school where there were no televisions, radios, or record players. Our mail, in and out, was read and censored, though somehow a few letters from friends in Arcadia, where I attended middle school, arrived with news about high school life: surfing, the Beach Boys, sports, boys, dances! And, oh yes, so many classes! Wow!

            The first day of the fall semester at AV, I was terrified: There would be boys everywhere and such a complex world, one I had longed for but that suddenly looked overwhelming. Quickly, however, it became my teenage paradise, a feast of opportunities. There was a theater program, a speech team that went to tournaments, student government, a newspaper, clubs and classes of all sorts. There was sports for girls as well as boys, and modern dance, and so much more. I loved it even as I suffered my teenage miseries. And there were my excellent teachers, especially Mr. Guzman, my English teacher, who was a foundational influence in my life.

            My two years at AV, junior and senior, shaped my life in ways that have become more and more clear to me over the decades. In fact, my first one-woman performance, “Origins of Praise,” was based on my experiences in the Antelope Valley desert.

I’d like to share with you the poems I wrote and presented at my class reunions which starts with the year of my graduation. I think it describes the world I experienced and that deeply shaped who I am and how I have lived:  

For Antelope Valley High School’s Class of 1964


High desert children

                        migrants to Lockheed payroll

                                    to Edwards Air Force Base

            to test pilot’s BOOM banging into windows

                        to Yes it’s gonna BOOM next year

                                    real estate jumping up and down

                                                            with a speculator’s wink

Oh beautiful for spacious skies

                                                wide ocean skies

            wind blown into waves across the Great Basin

                        the ancient dust stirred

                                     from dry lakes’ once blue green shores

Joshua forests made farmland

                                                alfalfa, hogs, cattle, horses, and wheat

Wildness around the edges

                                    coyote’s cry heard in the housing tracts

Kids working on their algebra look up

                        smell dust in the wind

                                    worry about their hairdos

Dardenelles, LaDonnas, Debonairs

            Spartans Barons Lettermen

                        our tribal collection

                                    practicing everyday

                                                who we thought we wanted to be

            each the most lonely

                                    most likely to say the wrong thing

Cruising the Drive In, A&W, Denny’s, cafeteria odors

                                                drift from sandwiches all day in paper bags

                        trays rattling with the jukebox beats

  Angel Baby my Angel Baby   He’s a rebel and he never does what he should 

  Do you wanta dance and hold me tight?

Our dreams

            spread out so wide

                                    the moon is no limit

Burst from our simple desert socks

                        Right on! Sisters and Brothers

                                                into George Orwell’s arms

We, so finely shaped

                        and sent to the streets to change.

20th Reunion–1984

“I had a good time at my 10th when I went with my wife.

Going single to my 20th was different….”

20 years making lives

To explain atom bombs to step-children

                        our short hair

                                    coifed to fit an uneasy era.

How do we look?

How do we feel?

Deaths, broken homes,

                                    sagging or sharp successes

                                                new loves, knowing our work well

Those of us who are happy with small things

            happy with layers and layers of things

                        never happy

Alma Mater, nourishing mother, the reliable desert wind

                         reveals our bond:

                                                it is not this year

                                                            these memories

                                                                        this paraphernalia of the past

Our bond: death and the dreams

                                                we measure against our youth

Dancing at the Antelope Valley Inn

                                    awakening the dreamers

                                                                         for another 20 years.

50th Reunion–2014

“All paths are the same: they lead nowhere…I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t, it is of no use.”  Carlos Castaneda

Since we met, thirty years

            to get it right

            or wrong, to fit our lives to

            old dreams new dreams no dream


                 dawn to dusk

the wind still blows,

                        dust clutters the windowsills

ravens turn across the sea blue sky.

Our memories toss their burdens, bright

                                    or fraught, into the present

We fray and bag in familiar places

                        old Levi’s fade, stitches loose at the seams

Yet we are sturdy in spirit

                        children unto grandchildren

                                    careers unto beguiling vistas or debt and worry.

There are no recliners for our lot

            the fuse of history lighted under our hearts

            sent us flying into our lives

            with rockets to the moon, space shuttle to the space station,

            classes to teach, newspapers to edit, pipes to fit, gardens to tend.

            Vapor trails of Endeavortomark our passage

            through wars, assassinations, climate threats, cycling boom and bust

Wherever we go, our inevitable interior landscape:

                                                                        desert simple vistas.

If all paths lead nowhere,

                                        here we are

Our bond: death and the dreams we measure

                        against the spaciousness of our hearts

We 60s dreamers

            this year more dining than dancing

                                    at the Embassy Suites Hotel.

Susan Suntree

The New Year (2022)

Dear Friends,

A new year arrives as the sun moves higher overhead and a goldfinch couple feeds in the lavender by my front door. After a month of rest, I am reviewing the marvel of our Sacred Sites audio book adventure. I am heart-full with gratitude for your support! Thank you to all who have written to us since the audio book was released. Your praise has kept us steady and inspired!

“…riveted from beginning to end.” ” Thank you so much for creating this beautiful experience.” “… an absolute delight.” And from AudioFile magazine: “…don’t miss listening to this astoundingly creative exploration of the history of place… Gary Snyder’s introduction, read enthusiastically by Peter Coyote…The emotional nuances of Suntree and Queypo’s delivery will make your ears dance.”

We intended to create a beautiful, entertaining, and mind -changing production, and your responses tell me that this is what we accomplished.

Just before Christmas our production team attended the Society for Voice Arts and Sciences (SOVAS) awards gala at the Guggenheim Museum theatre in New York City because Sacred Sites audio book was chosen as one of five finalists for sound design. We were competing with an international slate of entrants, which highlighted all the more our composer/editor Tom Zehnder’s fabulous work. What a delight it was for our team to celebrate our Sacred Sites audio book this way.

Now we continue the adventure of letting people know about this work. Your ideas about how to get the word out are most welcome! Please be in touch. Radio, TV, print, pod casts and social media connections would be great!

Author’s discount: or wherever audiobooks are offered including many libraries. (Yes, our GoFundMe is still up if you would like to support our publicity campaign:

[Photo: Susan Suntree; Tom Zehnder, composer/editor; Gopika Sharma, producer; Tom Keegan, director]


A R T S & E V E N T S
SoCal’s Secret History Santa Monica author releases new audiobook
By Haley Beyer

Susan Suntree’s best-selling, award-winning book, “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California”, was first published in 2010 and describes the origins of the universe, the evolution of plants and animals, migration of humans and much more.

In 2021, Suntree released a new audiobook version of her book, which is available on 41 sites including Amazon, Google and Audible. The inspiration for the audiobook stemmed from her curiosity of how things came to be. “I asked myself how did things come to be the way they are?” Suntree said. “I wanted to see through the palm trees ; and concrete.” Suntree wanted people to feel like they were part of the world they lived in. SoCal expert Susan Suntree’s new audiobook “Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California” features little-known information about the geological formation of the landscape, Native American sacred villages, and the coming of the Europeans, She felt misplaced in Los Angeles because there was no information available about the landscape or indigenous people. She used her experience as a performance artist, teacher and 18th Street Art Center resident artist to start her research and worked with tribal leaders, artists, historians and scientists at major universities and museums.

What Suntree discovered changed the way she viewed her home and she wanted to share that with everyone around her. “Southern California is a dynamic place,” Suntree said. “There is continual transformational landscape. It is a force of life on this astounding planet. It is all intelligence. All alive.” In the audiobook, Suntree covers the history of the Native American people who lived in Southern California for more than 15,000 years. She also shares information about the Tongva and other indigenous tribes with their villages Cahuenga, Tujunga, Topanga and other familiar locations. One fact that most people do not know is that the oldest human skeleton in North America was found in LA. After exploring the Santa Monica Mountains, 16-millionyear-old seashells that were once coastal seabeds were found as well. Earthquakes are responsible for pushing the mountains higher, and after the Ice Age ended, the bay that once filled the LA basin retreated and the region basked in the current Mediterranean climate that LA is known for today. Suntree’s journey began as a one-woman show, which was then made into her best-selling book. Making it into an audiobook “restored it to its native being.” “My worlds didn’t collide, the two worlds became braided together,” Suntree said.

To prepare for recording, Suntree went through voice exercises and lessons. Once the work began, she worked every single day until it was completed. The work was tedious because the layering of the music, voices of the characters, and creating a clear concept of the timeline was essential to creating the perfect interpretation. The music helped move the story along and Suntree enjoyed working with composer Tom Zehnder and featured Ernest Siva. She also worked with actor Kalani Queypo and Peter Coyote, an Emmy Award-winning narrator of documentaries. “It was so important for me to work with these two people,”Suntree said. “It felt right to have the male voice of Queypo, an indigenous person, tell the story alongside someone as brilliant and experienced as Coyote. “To purchase the audio book, visit The audiobook is narrated by Suntree and actor Kalani Queypo, and features Peter Coyote, the voice of Ken Burns’ documentaries. CREDIT: TONY VEREBES




With my heart brimming with appreciation for your support, I am thrilled to announce that we will launch our Sacred Sites Audio Theater via Zoom on Saturday, March 6, at 5PM PST!

Our team has worked for a year, with support from so many of you, to create what we feel is an audio performance that speaks to the heart of the current climate and social crises and summons us to live in balance with all beings. As Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gary Snyder writes in his foreword (read by Peter Coyote): This book “brings us home.”

Please join our celebration sponsored by 18th Street Art Center! It’s going to be a joyful show! Meet the cast and crew, hear clips from the book, experience Sacred Sites presented in the oral tradition which is its source. Though there is much left to do to bring this work fully into the world, now is the time to stir up a party!

Register right away!…/reg…/WN_jfvznkHpRUysh-jLwffbHA

Please post and share with your friends and family. All are welcome!

With gratitude!


Audio Theater Update

November 19, 2020

Dear Friends,

In a year of continuing challenges, we have very good news to report: Phase one of our Sacred Sites audio theater production is completed! I am thrilled to type these words!

We are so grateful for the support so many of you have provided. Without you, we would not have come so far. After months of preparation rehearsing, working with linguists and other consultants, and much more, we have completed 22 hours of recording. The Media Staff studio, a supporter of this project, has one of the best recording rooms in Los Angeles. The raw material sounds excellent. In my next letter, I will share clips of the recordings.

It is a pleasure to introduce to you Kalani Queypo (Blackfoot, Hawaiian) who reads with me Book 2 and the Epilogue. He is a founding member of the National American Indian Committee at SAG-AFTRA. Among his many credits are Terrence Malick’s The New WorldJamestown, and Fear the Walking Dead. I’ve included his headshot and bio plus studio shots at the end of this letter.

Phase Two has begun: editing, music composition and licensing, mastering, distribution, and publicity. Since we are an independent production, we must do everything we can to get this timely and inspiring project out to the public.

To do this, once again I need your assistance. Please reach out to anyone you feel would love this work and would join our mighty team of supporters — no amount is too small (or too large!).

Sacred Sites is a story that weaves the world together. It inspires us to love this earth and, thus to care for it in every way we can. It is essential that we understand natural systems and learn the many ways we humans have and can, once again, live in harmony with all life.

Thank you for being a part of this creation.

Or send a check made out to Sacred Sites LLC to 41 No. Logan St., Denver CO 80203.

With deep appreciation,


Kalani Queypo (Blackfeet, Hawaiian) proudly serves on the Native Voices Advisory Council and is a founding member of the National American Indian Committee at SAG-AFTRA. He can be seen in the Oscar-nominated, Terrence Malick film, The New World, Steven Spielberg’s Emmy winning Into the West and Slow West (Sundance GRAND JURY PRIZE). Television credits include Jamestown (producers of Downton Abbey), Saints & Strangers, Fear the Walking DeadMad MenNurse JackieBones, and Hawaii Five-0. Queypo is currently filming the new CBC series, The Trickster.

Kalani and me at the end of his session.

Director Tom Keegan and engineer Anthony Alfaro

Me on my last day of recording (16 hours over four days!)

Jerry Mayfield, whose Media Staff studio was a wonderful place to work. He is famous for his sourdough bread which he served at every session with his homemade jam. What delight!

Good news

Dear Friends,

I hope you and your family and friends are safe, well, and steady (enough). I deeply appreciate all of the support you have given me and my creative projects over the years and I wanted to give you an update. In the midst of the world being upside down, I’m pleased to share some good news.

SACRED SITES: THE SECRET HISTORY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA was selected by its publisher, University of Nebraska Press, to be brought out in an updated paperback edition. I am very grateful to the press for their faith in the book. They feel, as do I, that it will reach more people in this new format. I’ve attached the cover which includes some new praise (including Stephen Greenblatt and Glen MacDonald) and which makes good use of the beautiful design they created for the hard-back edition.

It is now available. Your reviews posted wherever you buy books and on social media are a great plus and I thank you in advance for that support.

READINGS: On the official publication date of the paperback edition of Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California, June 1, 2020, I was scheduled to read at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History at the invitation of the Santa Barbara Archaeology Association. It is postponed. When it is scheduled I will let you know.

My presentation includes a colorful slide show of largely unknown cultural and geographical features of the Southern California landscape discussed in my book. Please tell your friends who live in that area to join us when the reading happens.

I am also scheduled to read at 7:30 PM on June 18 at the E.P Foster Library in Ventura at the invitation of Phil Taggart.   See next post for information about how to attend via zoom!

If your organization, bookstore, or get-together of friends would like me to read, please do be in touch. I love sharing this work. Yes, one day we will gather again. Meanwhile, we can zoom!

SACRED SITES AUDIO BOOK: A marvelous team has coalesced around the project of producing Sacred Sites as an audio book. This has been a dream of mine for years! And now it is coming to fruition. Based on the updated new paperback, this production captures the book’s poetic essence. Epics have always been sung, and though I am not going to sing, the audio book will capture the sense of the work as a song cycle.

We are thrilled that Peter Coyote has recorded the foreword by Gary Snyder and the introduction! It’s a big project requiring the input of linguists, musicians, consultants, and many others. We are already in rehearsal via zoom and soon will be raising money to fund a stellar recording to share with the world. I’ll keep you posted!


You may remember that I adapted the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a poem and that award-winning composer Adrienne Albert’s set it as a choral work ( The Preamble of our composition has often been sung, but now the 75-voice Concord Chorale of Concord, New Hampshire will premiere the complete composition with orchestral accompaniment. Originally scheduled forMother’s Day weekend, this unforgettable evening is postponed. I will let you know when it is rescheduled.

I learned about the UNDHR when I compiled and edited, Wisdom of the East: Stories of Compassion, Inspiration, and Love (Contemporary Books) for which the Dalai Lama wrote the foreword. One of the essays recounts the connection between the Roosevelts’ encounter with the Dalai Lama and Eleanor’s inspired shepherding of the document to international ratification at a meeting of the United Nations in San Francisco on December 10, 1948. When I first read the document, I knew that a choral work would allow it to resonate in the hearts of all who sing and hear it.  

Finally, I am so very pleased now to have a studio at 18th Street Arts Center. It’s an honor and a boon!

Please like the Sacred Sites facebook page and check for it on Instagram. I’ll be posting lots of updates on my soon to be updated website:

Lately, when I breath the cleaner, bluer air here in Los Angeles, I am reminded of what is truly possible when we act on behalf of the community.



September Post

3 September 2019

Dear Friends,

Literary Good News:

Attached is the flyer for our Writers Circle reading at Beyond Baroque Literary Center on 6 September, 8 PM, in Venice. We four writers meet weekly. Each of us has developed a body of work, both poetry, storytelling, memoir, creative nonfiction, and fiction that demonstrate a range of styles and voices We are eager to share. Join us!

Sacred Sites: The Secret History of Southern California will be published in a paperback next spring which will include a few updates in the science section. I am thrilled about this! And there is an audio book in the works which I will report on in the fall.

In November, I will be reading on the creative writing panel at the Pacific-Asia Modern Language Association (PAMLA) conference in San Diego.

11th Street Historic Bungalow District:  Our indefatigable committee has regrouped after the intense effort that led to our success in establishing this district. Now we are preparing for negotiations about the rules that will govern its ongoing care.   I am ever grateful to all of you who helped along the way. Every single contribution mattered!

The Santa Monica Conservancy honored me and my co-chair, Diane Miller, with the 2019 Preservation Advocacy Award. They also honored Mid City Neighbors for their essential support of our project. I felt truly honored to receive this recognition which not only honors me but all the many people who contributed to the establishment of this historic district.

I’ve finally completed my notes and sorted the slides about my grueling and utterly fascinating journey last August to Western Mongolia which I am happy to share with you. I held a screening for a few people last week and am happy to do so again.  Meanwhile, I’ll soon set out on the Norwegian mail boat from Kirkenes, a very far northern Norwegian town,traveling south through the fjords. My sister and I will disembark at the Lofoten Islands for a few days before completing the journey to Bergen. Thereafter we will take the train over the mountains to Oslo. We are promised spectacular scenery and wild weather.

Summer with its heat and light, bumper crop of crises, and garden vigor presented itself with the lengthening and now slowly shortening days. In the afternoon when it’s time to stretch and walk, I look out my studio window here at 18th Street Art Center with increasing wonder at the earthly beauty of the Holocene, lately named the Anthropocene for the human hands and minds that want to overtake that beauty while some of us work to restore and support it. Our work is ever present.

With the season, Susan