My sister-in-law is a wise woman. She gave this gentle advice last week for how to respond to anxiety. Look to your left and describe what you see there. Look to your right and do the same. Look in front of you and describe that. Then, look behind you, where the shadows and the unknowns are, and describe that–the physical space here and now. It makes the other unknowns, the ones that freeze and weigh on me, seem less unknown, less likely to pounce.
Every morning before I begin my round of prayers, I cast a circle. I speak of beauty at all the directions, then beauty above me and beauty below me, beauty within and beauty without, and now, I very consciously look to the beauty to the left and the right of me, to the beauty before me, and finally, with gratitude, to the beauty behind me, taking care to notice the safe beauty of my physical surroundings. Then I call upon the Earth which is Her body, the Air which is Her breath, the Fire of Her bright spirit, and the Waters of Her living womb.
Last year at this time, I felt so vulnerable, so unprotected, so endangered, even while I felt such a surge of love and support from my students and their families, from my own family and friends and church community. Now, I create protected space in that circle every morning. One of my prayers is: “Draw me into the dance, into the circle of your radiant loving arms, and protect and preserve me from those who would wish or seek or will or do me harm.” I am befriending the shadows of my anxiety, and also making boundaries to protect myself.
One of my favorite viral internet photos is of a grinning caiman with butterflies all over its head. I read that the reason the butterflies hang out on the caiman is to drink their salty tears. This morning I read of the discovery of the habits of the Gorgone macarea moth of Brazil, which sips the tears of sleeping birds at night.
Today’s prompt (Robert Lee Brewer at Writers Digest) is to write a shadow poem. Today I went a little more concrete in the sculpture of the poem. It’s not quite a moth, but not quite not.
1. The sounds of sheep and goats baaing in the field across the holler
2. Thermal delight and the breezes of springtime
3. What the shadows have to teach me
4. Good physical work and still energy to keep going in the day
5. The grass is full of violets and the holler is filled with the singing of birds
May we walk ever in Beauty!
“Let me tell you what I do know though…
I know mountains grow because of their fault lines. I know lakes turn that gorgeous shade of turquoise because of their silt. I know jewels are formed under pressure. I know trees can grow through rocks, and rivers can break canyons.
I know there are 120 crayola crayons to choose from, so you can color yourself any which way you like.
I know the earth smells fabulous after a hard rain, and I know she breathes. I know out of the destruction of forest fires, new and stronger ecosystems can emerge. I know there is life in the deepest depths of the ocean and her tides can soften stone.
I know there can be no shadows without light. I know the passion is in the risk.
I know time heals, and most things will be okay eventually. I know you are made of the star stuff, and I know out there somebody loves you; exactly the way you are, even if you haven’t found them yet.
I know all these things, and tell them to you — in case you forgot to remember.” —Jacquelyn Taylor
“It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.” —James Baldwin
“We have tried to create a watertight social system so that mercy is not needed, nor even attractive. Mercy admits and accepts that not all problems can be solved by our techniques, formulas, and technology. The ‘superfluous’ opening of the human heart that we call mercy is essential for any structure or institution to remain human and humanizing.” —Richard Rohr
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.”
“Your heart and my heart are very, very old friends.” —Hafiz
“Now I see the secret of making the best persons, it is to grow in the open air and eat and sleep with the earth.” —Walt Whitman
“Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.” —John Muir
“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.” —Roald Dahl
“A writer is not so much someone who has something to say as she is someone who has found a process that will bring about new things she would not have thought of if she had not started to say them.” —William Stafford (but I have changed the pronouns to feminine)
“America stands for exactly what Americans will stand for. History doesn’t write itself. It must be lived and practiced.” —Jesse Williams