Awakening Dragons

Album cover of “Martha’s Dragon” by Cantiga on Spotify. If you know the artist, please let me know! I have been unable to track them down.

In the fairy tale, the myth, the religious text, the story: there are two sisters, one dark and one light, one radiant and one beastly, one beautiful and one ugly, one pure and one profane. Sometimes, perhaps often, they are the same woman, two halves. As the patriarchy tells it, the pure one is malleable and tractable, dutiful and kind and good. She is holy, as long as she is holy, and then she is the Other One. The Other sister is wayward, deranged, defiled, dirty, and dangerous. She is likely a prostitute. She may be possessed of demons.

Think Eve and Lilith. Eve was the pure one. Until she wasn’t.

Think Isis and Nephthys.

Think Inanna and Ereshkigal.

Think beautiful Helen and avenging Clytemnestra.

Think Mary and Martha of Bethany. And these two are interesting, in their dance between the poles of acceptability and disgrace. Mary of Bethany (my friend says we need a book of Mary for Dummies, there are so many Marys) is the sister of Martha and Lazarus. But even that is in dispute. Some scholars look at references to Martha and some modifications on the initial scroll that indicate even this dyad was perhaps one person. As the story is most often told, however, they’re two women, who with their brother Lazarus are best friends of Jesus. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus and receives his blessing for it. Martha asks Jesus to get Mary to help him, and is lightly scolded for it. Mary the contemplative, Martha the scold. Martha the dutiful, Mary the shirker. Things get interesting when you read the scholarship that suggests that Mary was the same person as Mary Magdalene, the best best friend of Jesus. Although there is almost no evidence that the following is true, this Mary carries the legend of being a prostitute, who hosted seven devils that Jesus cast out of her. Even to tell this story, I am conflating Marys, allowing the confusion about Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary the sister of Martha, and Mary Magdalene to stand.

More lore: In the Catholic folklore of the French countryside, when the Marys (who knows which ones?), Lazarus, St. Sara (daughter of one of the Marys and probably Jesus) and maybe Joseph of Arimathea, set sail on the Mediterranean to escape persecution, they end up on French beaches. It could happen. It is also a convenient way for European folks to transport the sacred stories of their Middle Eastern-centered faith to their own lands. In the legend, Mary Magdalene (Bethany) lived out her life in a grotto-cave that you can still visit today. Martha lived in a seaside town that was beset by a dragon named Tarasque, who was in the habit of eating people. The villagers appealed to Holy Martha, who sprinkled Tarasque with holy water and tamed the ferocious beast. She walked the tamed creature into the town, where the villagers attacked it with sharp spears and killed it, poor thing.

St. Mary the radiant lives a holy hermit life in the mountains. Her sister St. Martha takes the more practical and worldly life and tames a dragon.

So here is where I pick up the story. Mary and Martha, radiant and beastly sisters, both with Mar- as their name-root. Mar, meaning “of the sea,” meaning “bitter,” meaning “beloved.” Maybe the pairing is too convenient. Perhaps I am creating something that isn’t there. But that’s the thing about stories. They become ours as we pick them up and work with them. The Keepers of the Patriarchy have been using these stories for their own purposes for centuries: Women, be dutiful, be pure, be careful, be attentive, be hard workers, be pure. For if you aren’t, you are that Other One. And even if we look at this story with a metaphorical psychological lens, we see Martha taming the dragon. Does the dragon represent women’s sexuality, power, passion, drive? Good old Martha tamed that stuff right out of Tarasque, enough that the righteous spears of the village could destroy the fearsome thing.

But if we look at this story as we do fairy tales, uncovering the layers of religious and psychological patriarchy, we see a sister who devoted her life to contemplation, and a sister who engaged with dragons. We can look at Martha outside of the realm of a woman who works with the patriarchal village structure to tame dragon-nature, but as a woman who engaged with dragons, who awakens dragons. I know it feels like the opposite of the Tarasque story, but it feels like something is more deeply embedded here, that practical Martha is one who tends to the dragons, like the Tarasque story both hides and encodes something essential about this shadowy sister of the radiant contemplative. Think Martha the Dragon Whisperer, Martha the Tender of Dragons.

I’m seeking to reawaken my own dragon, the passion and fire and fierceness that I know was a part of a younger me, a past self (either in this life or lives previous), that I know is part of the birthright of women, and of my own family line (although it is sometimes hidden in those genetic spirals). I’m grateful to my friend Chris and her references to Sharon Blackie’s talk about dragons in Hagitude for leading me to the lair of the dragons.

I love the image from the cover art of Cantiga’s album “Martha’s Dragon,” where the saint rides the dragon in a joyful spiral rather than taming it for slaughter. Perhaps I will ask St Martha to help me awaken and tend to my own wild and fierce inner dragon, so I may find both my fire and my flight.


Gratitude List:
1. Following the fire in a story
2. The thoughtfulness, professionalism and good-heartedness of my colleagues
3. Grey as it is, I know that the light is returning
4. Making new habits
5. So many good books!
May we walk in Wisdom!


“If you want to change the world, you have to change the metaphor.” —Joseph Campbell


“Find ecstasy in life; the mere sense of living is joy enough.” —Emily Dickinson


“Adults keep saying: ‘We owe it to the young people to give them hope.’ But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

“I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.” —Greta Thunberg, 16-year-old Swedish climate activist


“Create your community. Be good to each other. And do not look outside yourself for the leader.” —Dr.Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“The opposite of death is not life. The opposite of death is birth. Life has no opposite.” —Eckhart Tolle


“Compassion is a lifetime business. You can’t say something like, ‘I will have compassion on Monday, Thursdays and Fridays only. But for the rest, I will be cruel.’ That is hypocrisy.” ―Israelmore Ayivor


“Stop being horrible in the name of God.” —John Pavlovitz

Good Words to Begin the Year

One of my beloveds nearly died this past summer. I’m not being over-dramatic about that. It was touch and go with his first treatment for his lymphoma, whether his failing liver and kidney function could support the clean-up work of the immunotherapy and chemo. I felt Death hovering in the corners of the room, thought I could see the shadowy and bright forms of his escorts from realm to realm.

Today, the oncologist gave us some glorious words: “complete remission” and “probably a cure.” I still don’t know how to articulate the joy of this. It’s a moment to pause in the glorious rays of morning sun and whisper hallelujah.


Gratitude List:
1. Those miracle words of such great relief: “complete remission,” “probably a cure”
2. Trusting that excellent substitutes can take my classes for two days while I finish my Covid isolation
3. A warm house
4. Patty Griffin’s song, “Mary”
5. Words! So many words!
May we walk in Beauty!


“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.” —Minna Thomas Antrim


“How do we go on living, when every day our hearts break anew? Whether your beloved are red-legged frogs, coho salmon, black terns, Sumatran tigers, or fat Guam partulas, or entire forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or the entire planet, the story is the same, the story of the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved.” —Derrick Jensen


“The Work. I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment. And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter Drucker


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.” —Margaret Fuller


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T.S. Eliot


“So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.”
― Naomi Klein

WORDHOARD

I said I wasn’t going to choose a specific word or theme for this year because I had so many words I wanted to work with, and that in itself became a word and a process. Of course. So my word for 2023 will be WORDHOARD. In the past week, I’ve been foraging for words (and hoarding them) to make into little cards to represent lots of ideas and themes that have lingered in my inner rooms.

I’ve been painting the insides of cereal and food boxes with gesso, then cutting them into 4×5 cards, then painting and collaging and drawing on them, and pasting a word from my wordhoard–these are the words that I have already foraged and printed from a document. I really like the Courier New font for a project like this. I already have several dozen words in my hoard. I have lots of little cards to make!

After all the recent years of metaphors and symbols and inspirations that I have chosen for my Word of The Year, it feels a little strange to move to something so nearly concrete. It’s my hoard of words. But it has also been–already–a really energizing creative process, both linguistically and visually. I’m including the animal symbols that have been meaningful to me, and words that have been previous Word of The Year words. I’m studying Swahili, so instead of Bridge, I will make a Daraja Card. And Spider will be Buibui.

It’s going to be a chance for me to do some experimental work with artistic processes. I find myself thinking about different ideas I want to try for laying on paint or embellishing.

We usually tend to celebrate New Years Eve at home, and with three of the four of us down with Covid this year, we aren’t going anywhere. Some of us will probably be going to bed in a couple of hours.


Gratitude List:
1. The challenges. I don’t want to do this year again. But I am grateful for the things I have learned through the challenging times.
2. The sighs of relief. I know that good news does not always follow bad, but this year’s run of bad news was frequently followed by sighs of relief.
3. Making things, coming up with ideas and then making them happen.
4. Moments in time when we look backward and forward, like the god Janus, who sees both past and future, and integrates them into the work of the now. New years, new months, new eras in our lives. How the future reflects the past.
5. You. All my Beloveds. I can’t imagine how I would have moved forward this year without the amazing community of people who surround me. I am grateful. Sometimes it’s just a nod or a little word of encouragement or commiseration that makes the difference.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.


“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming


“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman


A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)


“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana


“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley


“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy


“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson


“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie


“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich


“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill


“In the teaching of history, there should be no undue emphasis upon one’s own country. The history of wars should be a small part of what is taught. Much the more important part should be concerned with progress in the arts of civilisation. War should be treated as murder is treated. It should be regarded with equal horror and with equal aversion. It will be said that boys under such a regimen will be soft and effeminate. It will be said that they will lose the manly virtues and will be destitute of courage. And all this will be said by Christians in spite of Christ’s teaching.

But, dreadful as it may appear, boys brought up in the old way will grow into quarrelsome men who will find a world without war unbearably tame. Only a new kind of education, inculcating a new set of moral values, will make it possible to keep a peaceful world in existence. In the future there will, after all, be plenty of opportunity for adventure, even dangerous adventure. Boys can go to the Antarctic for their holidays, and young men can go to the moon. There are many ways of showing courage without having to kill other people, and it is such ways that should be encouraged.” ―Bertrand Russell,


“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” ―John Lewis


“The web of life both cradles us and calls us to weave it further.” —Joanna Macy


New Year Poem
by May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.
We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.
Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.
We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.
There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)
Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.
Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.


Someone Should Start Laughing
A Poem by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing—Now!


Mary Oliver:

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

Harvesting from the Dreamtime

The Dreamtime this year has been. . .dreamy. We have Covid in the house, so we cancelled all our plans to attend family holiday gatherings this year. It was definitely sad, and yet we’re all homebodies, so we’re fine, other than feeling like we missed out, and missing our families.

And although it has been dreamy, we have been getting stuff done. I’ve been knitting and crocheting, painting, organizing, learning a lot of Swahili. Jon’s been spackling and painting and fixing stuff. Josiah has been getting his room ready to repaint.

Yesterday, I finished going through files from my previous job: I let that be a ritual of release. Whoosh! It’s out the door, into the trash, out of my life. I kept a few things–poems, articles, notes of encouragement. So, of course last night in the dreamtime, I was finding space for myself in buildings, and trying to negotiate what my feelings should be in the context of other people.

Here’s the dream: I am going to a funeral with a friend. I think that she was probably closer to the one who died than I was, so when she decides to wait in the hall before our group goes in to sing, I wait out there with her. But she looks bored, like she doesn’t really care about what is happening. I long to be in the service, so I leave her with some others in the hall and go in. When we get up to sing our special music, the man who is holding the hymnal for a couple of us in the singing group keeps shifting it away so I can’t see it. I keep shuffling to get a better view and he shifts it away again. I think we must look ridiculous to the people in the audience, so I just shift into the back row and ignore hymnal-guy. He’s left standing awkwardly alone in the front row.

In the second half of the dream, I am finding office/living space in the basement of the church where the funeral was. There’s a lovely big heavy curtain walling off my personal area from the rest of the basement, giving me privacy. Someone is concerned about the smell of shrimp. We discover five or six large (lobster-sized) peeled shrimp lying around my space. They smell strongly–not rotten, just shrimpy. The dog has been chewing on them, but doesn’t really like them. I think maybe we can clean this stuff up, and hope the odor doesn’t last.

Perhaps I am hoping that the “odor” of the really negative energy that still remains will not mar my new experiences. I not only have to rid myself of the old files and things, I still need to deal with the lingering bad energy. In the early morning, I found myself dreaming–again–of explaining carefully to someone why I was forced to resign my job.

I’m glad that I made decisions during the funeral part of the dream to do what I needed to do instead of being led by others’ notions, to let myself be emotionally involved in letting go instead of sitting outside, to step out of the dance of someone else’s manipulations.

This year, I am not feeling the desire to choose a single word or theme for the year. Usually I end up with layers of themes anyway. A week ago, I had a moment with a friend when the words Curious / Cure / Curator came into focus together. I’ve been playing also with the connection between Curative and Creative. And there’s another one to add: Connective.

So maybe this year does have an overarching theme after all: Harvesting and Foraging for words and ideas that suit. It’s a free association process, following the bright trail of words and images, expanding the dreamtime from the high holy days of late December and early January to the whole year. I’ve started painting cards with some of the words. Perhaps I’ll stop after ten or fifteen. Perhaps I’ll do a word a day for the whole year. Maybe I’ll end up with my own personal oracle deck.

Curious curiosity cure curator curative creative creator envision vision embolden bold badass connective secret spaces wonder welcome belonging wildness winsome wisdom widen spiral. . .


Gratitude List:

  1. Holding a little house finch in my hand as it came back to awareness and life after hitting the window. How its heart beat against my fingers. How its eye shifted around to find me. How it settled into the warmth of my hand. How it suddenly lifted and flew off. Such perfect feathers. Such lightness of being.
  2. Rumination time
  3. How prayer and magic connect us
  4. Zoom. Even though Covid kept us from family, we could still participate in some important conversation
  5. Dreaming myself into the cure
    May we walk in Beauty!

“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“Your suffering needs to be respected. Don’t try to ignore the hurt, because it is real. Just let the hurt soften you instead of hardening you. Let the hurt open you instead of closing you. Let the hurt send you looking for those who will accept you instead of hiding from those who reject you.” —Bryant McGill


“Contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. It does mark us. What we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.” —bell hooks


“I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.” —Louise Bourgeois


“When you have an ancient heart and childlike spirit you must feel deeply, but go lightly. To trace and learn the language of waves. How all the seas carry secrets, yet still move freely. I am still learning how to be water.” —Victoria Erickson


“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor E. Frankl


“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” —Desmond Tutu
*:
“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” ―Anaïs Nin


Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.
―Wendell Berry


“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again…

to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


Martha Beck: “The important thing is to tell yourself a life story in which you, the hero, are primarily a problem solver rather than a helpless victim. This is well within your power, whatever fate might have dealt you.”


“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.

It seems that we Christians have been worshiping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey. The worshiping feels very religious; the latter just feels human and ordinary. We are not human beings on a journey toward Spirit, we are already spiritual beings on a journey toward becoming fully human, which for some reason seems harder precisely because it is so ordinary.” ―Richard Rohr


“What if nostalgia is not a fruitless dwelling on those irretrievable moments of the past, as we are taught, but an attempt by sweetness to reach you again?

What if nostalgia is really located in the present, like a scent or ambience which is gathering around you should you avail yourself to it.

As anyone who has been heartbroken knows, there comes a time when, long after loss has been well-lived with, a small melody of love always returns. And to your surprise, you may recognise the tone of that love as the very same love you believed you lost.

It’s then that you know that your love was always your love. And if you let yourself be unguarded to it, nostalgia may find its way back into the generosity of your presence.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“We often cause ourselves suffering by wanting only to live in a world of valleys, a world without struggle and difficulty, a world that is flat, plain, consistent.” —bell hooks

Following the Dream-Keeper

The Dreamkeeper, doll by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Every year at Solstice, I begin to watch my dreams very closely for images and ideas that might coalesce around a word or image that might become my theme for the coming year. This year’s theme was Embodiment, Magic, and Creativity, focusing on the word Embodiment. This year of Embodiment has been a doozy. I was attacked by parents at my school and ended up losing my job. My parents were both diagnosed with cancer and we nearly lost my dad. I got a new and incredibly satisfying job. I’ve learned to speak up for myself. My parents survived, my father almost miraculously. I’ve begun a new daily prayer practice which is fulfilling and connecting.

Part of me wants to kick 2022 out the door while yelling obscenities. Part of me wants to thank it for being a great teacher. Here I am on the first full day of a generous winter break with a little time to settle into the beginning of the process of year-end self-reflection, and looking forward to the future.

I am heading out soon for an over-due eye exam, perhaps my first word to put into the basket of consideration for the coming year should be Vision. Suddenly I have remembered that in last night’s dream, someone hands me a sheet of paper covered with exquisite drawings of eyes. I’m particularly caught by one eye with dark eye shadow and little white moons and stars along the upper lid.

In so many dreams throughout my life, I find hidden rooms in a house. I’ve always felt like it’s my Deep Self telling me that I am developing new inner capacity, or that I have inner resources that are not visible to everyone.

In Saturday night’s dream, I have been desperately trying to escape from people from a former job. A kind friend has been driving me all around the island, and we have managed to stay several minutes ahead of them, but they keep almost catching me.

Finally, I tell my friend to drop me off at my grandmother’s house. I grab my handful of special rings and quartz crystals and head through the first secret door. It’s in plain sight, but nobody ever seems to notice or go in there. Door after door, and stair after stair. Some moments when I’m almost discovered, but even then, there are more secret ways.

At one point, I accidentally come out of the secret part of the house into a library. I check out a book and tell the librarian to look out the window. When my pursuers ask where I went, he can honestly say he didn’t see where I went. I slip through a secret panel and back to safety.

I was so incredibly bothered when I woke up with how derelict the hidden rooms were. Sometimes when I dream secret rooms, they’re richly colored, with beds and couches and pillows, curtains and sparkling sun coming in the windows. The rooms in this dream were unfinished, filled with abandoned construction materials: wood and nails and broken things. Piled up by many of the doors were piles of filthy rags which people had dumped in there. There was a time this spring when I felt that someone had breached my spiritual spaces and dumped their garbage there. I have been expanding the safe zones inside myself since then, but perhaps this dream suggests that I need to get rid of the garbage that was dumped on me, create livable internal spaces, not just safe zones.

So I add Safe Space, Self-Preservation, and Moving In To My Self to the basket.


Gratitude List:
1. A generous break
2. Walking with a friend
3. Making all the appointments–catching up with the self-care
4. Moving In To My Self
5. Vision
May we walk in Beauty!


“Never miss an opportunity of noticing anything of beauty …” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“The incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life.” —Macrina Wiederkehr


Never Broken

I am my own Home, now.
Wherever I move
the Light –
It moves with me.
I open all of the windows and the doors
so that God can come and go easily.
I don’t know why God takes such delight
in this House I call “Me.”
This place
where hearts come to be broken.
At the end of the Long Day I always ask.
“God? Why, hearts to be broken?”
And God always replies,
“Never broken, dear Lover—
only Opened.”
—Em Claire


“Find the antidote in the venom.” —Rumi


“Only two more days of the walk into the darkness. I am so grateful for the way the light kept finding me today. I’m not really on the edge, and I am not losing it, but I feel the edges of the panic, the sense of claustrophobia. I like the darkness. I love the inward-turn of winter, but always, at the edge, there’s the. . .well, the edge. So. There’s the Sun. And Stars and a growing Moon. And Mother Darkness. Comfort me. Disturb me.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (from several years ago)


“I wonder what Piglet is doing,“ thought Pooh.
“I wish I were there to be doing it, too.” ―A.A. Milne


“People make meaning like bees make honey. Gathering experiences and images like bits of nectar and synthesizing it into something new, rich, and uniquely ours. Respect the meaning you make. The family you choose. The wisdom you craft, sweet and golden on your tongue.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

The Marker

At the T, where Indian Marker Road meets River Road, is a Plaque that commemorates the site of Conestoga Indian Town, where the last of the Conestogas lived–the Conestogas, who were the last of the Susquehannocks, a large and prosperous people at the time of the European invasion, tall of stature, who fished and farmed and traded and hunted and built large settlement-towns along the Susquehanna River. By 1763, their numbers were so greatly reduced by war, illness, attacks by colonists, and forced repatriation, that only this small village remained.

Yesterday I visited the marker again, on the 259th year since the genocidal ride of the Paxtang Boys murdered six of the remaining inhabitants of the tiny town. Someone had been there before me. A bundle of dried sage hung from the marker on a red string, new feathers were tucked into the crevices, and fresh roses were laid at the base of the marker. I added my stone, and turned to the east, where Chief’s Hill rises into the winter-grey sky.

Sheehays
Wa-a-shen,
Tee-kau-ley
Ess-canesh
Tea-wonsha-i-ong
Kannenquas

Several years ago, I memorized their names, feeling the new combinations of vowel and consonant slide up my throat and across my tongue, clicking my throat closed at those interruptive hyphens, wondering how close I was getting to the sounds they used for themselves. Then, a year or more after I had memorized their names, I woke up one morning, aware that I had been chanting them in a dream.

Today, in a pouch I often wear around my neck, I carry the list of their names, and of the final fourteen who were murdered on December 27th of that year, when the Paxtang Boys rode again.

I have no doubt that people were shocked and aggrieved and outraged at the murderous acts of the Paxtang Boys. Still, none of them were brought to justice. The murders of the Conestogas, the final act of genocide, went unavenged. Though Benjamin Franklin himself called out for justice upon them, justice was never done.

And today? What does justice look like, for the Conestogas? For other First Nations people here?

And who are the Paxtang Boys of today? Are we stopping them? Are we putting ourselves between them and the vulnerable people they would destroy? Who will speak out and stand up for the ones who stand in the path of the riders?

For more detailed information about the Susquehannocks, their origins, and this story, please buy a copy of Ghost River, a graphic novel with extensive interpretive text. From the web page: “Written by Lee Francis 4 (Sixkiller, Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers), illustrated by the incomparable Weshoyot Alvitre (Deer Woman: An Anthology, Sixkiller) and edited by Will Fenton (The Library Company of Philadelphia), this new graphic novel from Red Planet Books and Comics chronicles the last days of the Conestoga People and brings their story to light; a story of despair and hope, loss and love, ancestors and the ghosts of history that are always with us.”


Gratitude List:
1. Snow Day! (Ice Day, actually) My school does not do Remote learning during snow days, so I am resting and writing and folding clothes and reading. . .
2. The people who work for justice, who truly care about restoration, who believe that people are more important than institutions and structures
3. Boundaries. Good, strong, solid, clear boundaries
4. That one scarlet leaf up there in that bush
5. Fairy ice along every twig of the tiny Japanese maple on the hill.
May we walk in Beauty and Justice!


“We are the nurturers, the encouragers of all the dreams, all the seeds deep in all the hearts where the future of a redeemed and rescued land now dwells. So we hold fast and see beneath the snow, always calling others to recognize their own magnificent possibilities, to see and plant and join our hope with theirs.” —Vincent Harding, Hope and History


“How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in. Like light on waves.” —Margaret Atwood


“Every moment is a gift of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“Only a fool knows everything.” —African proverb


“Note to self: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.” —Anne Lamott


“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.” —Brené Brown


“God made mud. God got lonesome. So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up. See all I’ve made….the hills, the sea, the blue sky, the stars.” And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. Lucky me. Lucky mud.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“‪The fact that feathers are naturally occurring objects is beyond awe inspiring.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“‪The best poems are owls. A reflection of the landscape, but singular and strange. Smooth and effortless as smoke. A trick of the eye that scatters bones in the underbrush, hard and real.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

Definition

I’m trying to get at the idea that women and others who refer to themselves as witches very often do so because in the first place they have been marginalized because they cannot be pinned down in the rigid categories of the religious establishment. The label or identity of witch does not necessarily mean that one situates herself outside the bounds of church or religion, but that her spiritual practices or ways of seeing the world and the holy are threatening to the religious status quo. Witch may be a chosen identity marker, but it may also be an identity conferred by religious dogmatists. Although I have been revising and re-revising, it still feels to me as though this is a poem in process.

Witch (noun) wich,
SEE ALSO HERETIC,
a word used by the spiritual gatekeepers
within religious and social establishments
(no matter how nominal their own piety)
to denote those who cross the hedge
between the status quo and the wildlands
of spiritual inquiry.

the witch is an excuse
the witch is a scapegoat
the witch cannot be catalogued
the witch will not denounce her truth
the witch disrupts the proceedings
the witch does not offer herself up
to be easily understood

What they do not understand,
they call the Devil,
and banish and punish and shun.

When difference is disciplined,
how do the tamed ones
manage their sameness?

What they do not understand
is that they will snare themselves
in their own rules of order.

For when one question is proscribed,
who knows which questions
will lead to the mine field?
Better to eliminate questions altogether.

the witch is feral and free
the witch is both/and
the witch is a shapeshifter
the witch will ask a thousand questions
and expect more questions in response
the witch has already given herself a name


Gratitude List:
1. A winter-bare tree filled with crows in a drizzling mist
2. People who trust my essential goodness and don’t require me to prove my piety
3. Lunch and good conversations with beloveds
4. The joy of the last week of school before vacation
5. Clean windows. (It’s been a while. Don’t judge.)
May we walk in Beauty!


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to all.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The insects and birds and animals are singing themselves into being; this autumn land is dreaming and I am part of that dreaming.” -Sharon Blackie


“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” —Emily Dickinson

Walking into the Labyrinth

This afternoon, I crawled through cobwebs in the attic to retrieve two full snakeskins and several partial snakeskins that someone had shed at the same place in the eaves. I tried to talk to the AI about a woman with snakes for necklaces, but I wasn’t happy with any of those, so I altered a picture of myself.

I led Sunday School today with a Poetry for Advent theme: Feeling our Way Into the Darkness. One of the various prompts I offered for writing was to write a poem in a labyrinth. I printed out copies of Lisa Gidlow Moriarty’s Dancing Woman Labyrinth. This afternoon, I pulled phrases from my labyrinth poem to make this.

Darkness calls.
My shadow blends
into shifting Shadow,
and I am borne upon wave
upon wave of indigo shade.
I am uncertain
but unafraid
stepping into
the fresh adventure
of unknowing.


Gratitude List:
1. Crows
2. Treasure trove of snake skins I found in the attic
3. Pileated Woodpecker in the treetops
4. The songs and conversation about Mary in church today. In the stories we tell, so often she has no agency, but we get to choose how we tell the story, who we make of her. For someone who daily prays the rosary, this was a particularly meaningful morning.
5. Poetry, and how it opens us to ideas, to each other, to Words.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


“People talk about medium. What is your medium? My medium as a writer has been dirt, clay, sand—what I could touch, hold, stand on, and stand for—Earth. My medium has been Earth. Earth in correspondence with my mind.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The country is in deep trouble. We’ve forgotten that a rich life consists fundamentally of serving others, trying to leave the world a little better than you found it. We need the courage to question the powers that be, the courage to be impatient with evil and patient with people, the courage to fight for social justice. In many instances we will be stepping out on nothing, and just hoping to land on something. But that’s the struggle. To live is to wrestle with despair, yet never allow despair to have the last word.” —Cornel West (2005)


“Do one thing every day that scares you.” —Eleanor Roosevelt


“There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” —Jane Austen

And Then. . .

Today’s prompt, the last of the month, is to write a poem titled “And ________.” I will probably take a break from daily poeming after today, but I hope not to be so absent from the blog as I sometimes am between the Poem-Months of April and November. This month of poem-a-day has been almost as rich for me as the first one I ever did, which deepened my poetic voice. I am grateful for these challenges.

And then the story ended.

And then the wild one
broke through the walls we’d built
to keep out the harrowing questions
and protect our careful dogmas.
And the wind scoured our spaces
clear of the lies and dissembling,
tearing down the towers we’d erected
of malice and spite and smugness,
breaking down the bridges we’d placed
above the perilous chasms.
None of us escaped its shriving.
And some of us were devastated,
and many of us were relieved.

And then the story began.


Gratitude List:
1. Dogs. Every school should have dogs that come to visit sometimes.
2. Poem-a-Day. I loved the work of this month, and how it expanded my craft as well as pushing me to do more intentional inner work. But I am also tired and ready for a break.
3. Guidance and protection
4. A happy lamp–full spectrum light to get me through the gray days. (I do love rainy days, and even rainy November days, but it is nice to have my alternative sunshine to get me through days of no-sun and early night.)
5. Shiny stones
May we walk in Beauty!


“I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“To wantonly destroy a living species is to silence forever a divine voice. Our primary need for the various life forms of the planet is a psychic, rather than a physical, need.” —Thomas Berry


“All through your life, the most precious experiences seemed to vanish. Transience turns everything to air. You look behind and see no sign even of a yesterday that was so intense. Yet in truth, nothing ever disappears, nothing is lost. Everything that happens to us in the world passes into us. It all becomes part of the inner temple of the soul and it can never be lost. This is the art of the soul: to harvest your deeper life from all the seasons of your experience. This is probably why the soul never surfaces fully. The intimacy and tenderness of its light would blind us. We continue in our days to wander between the shadowing and the brightening, while all the time a more subtle brightness sustains us. If we could but realize the sureness around us, we would be much more courageous in our lives. The frames of anxiety that keep us caged would dissolve. We would live the life we love and in that way, day by day, free our future from the weight of regret.” —John O’Donohue


“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…. What are the words you do not yet have? What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”

I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to have us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people, get us called bitchy or hypersensitive and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until laws are changed and lives are saved and the world is altered forever.

Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.

And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” —Audre Lorde

Truth AND Dare

Art by AI and EWK: “The Naked Face of Truth”

Today’s prompt is to write a truth and/or dare poem.

What will you dare for truth?
Will you look inside yourself,
past the veils of arrogance
and self-importance,
beyond the doors of certainty,
to claim doubt and humility
as guides and guardians
to lead you safely
over pathways perilous
to the place where she resides?
Can you bear her glowing nakedness,
her fierce regard, her clarity?
Will you dare to seek her unreservedly,
without artifice or guile?

There is no choice–
of truth
or dare–
for the greatest daring
is in the choice you make
to seek the open truth.


Gratitude List:
1. My classroom plants. Today, I added an aloe plant that my nibling Keri was giving away. It’s in a mug shaped like a Viking head, and it makes me smile every time I see it. I am calling it Snorri Sturluson, of course.
2. The incredible emotional intelligence of some of my students. One of their beloved former teachers died last night, and their processing of their loss is tender and beautiful.
3. Even on the perilous pathways, we are not alone.
4. Divergence. It is in divergence that transformation is born.
5. Also, the creativity of students: We have open lockers at our school, and one student has painstakingly created a miniature apartment in the top of hers for her Black Panther character doll. There’s a bed and a bookcase and a refrigerator and a tiny Christmas tree with presents, and pictures on the wall and a couch, and LED lights strung up around the inside of the “room.” Such delight and magic shared with everyone who passes by.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. And that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” —Ijeoma Umebinyuo


“No matter where we are, the ground between us will always be sacred ground.“ —Fr. Henri Nouwen


“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” —Gretel Ehrlich


“‪The fact that these words and the jumble of lines that create their letters has no real, inherent meaning outside of a human context, yet they hum with life, is a wonderful reminder that what we imagine can easily become real and powerful simply because we decide it should be so.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“Writing at the library. Surrounded by thousands of books, windows into other minds. Some of these writers are living. Some are not. Neatly ordered rectangles of concentrated human life and intellect. A book is certainly a kind of ghost and libraries are pleasantly haunted places.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“The beauty of the world…has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” —Virginia Woolf


I know nothing, except what everyone knows —
If there when Grace dances, I should dance.
—W.H. Auden


“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”
—Charles de Lint