Loosening Attachments

A few somewhat random thoughts, some drawn from yesterday’s discussions:
* Just as I want to loosen my attachment to the physical stuff that bogs me down and overwhelms me, I want to loosen my attachment to my sense of the infallibility of my perceptions. Admitting that my own perceptions may be fallible does not mean that I am relinquishing my core beliefs.
* About that loosening of attachment to stuff: Tidying, de-cluttering, un-hoarding, relinquishing–all this allows me to actually deepen my delight in the Beauty that surrounds me.
* In much the same way that loosening my attachment to stuff allows me to see Beauty more clearly, perhaps loosening my attachment to my righteous rage might allow me to see the complexities inherent in moments of injustice.
* I learned about Anonymous Collective Rage from a friend yesterday. I think I knew what it was, but I didn’t know it had a name. While I would never join those who write threatening letters and who call for violence against the young men from that school, my own immediate rage was part of the collective pile-on. I feel some shame at my quick leap into the fray. Still, that rage is born of a sense of justice and a desire to bring change.
* There are not two sides to racism or misogyny, or to mistreatment of elders. While events like the one that occurred in DC on Saturday might be more complex than they first appeared, disrespectful treatment of others based on their age or their race is unacceptable. Always.
* Could people who are experts in restorative conversations, in rebuilding peace in tense situations, offer to help moderate conversations between those boys and Mr. Phillips and his group? This could be a time for real healing and learning.
* I think that the time of Catholic boys’ schools is pretty much over. Time for a new model. They seem to simply be training schools for the patriarchy.

Gratitude List:
1. Yesterday’s time off. I needed the rest. I always need the rest.
2. Tidy drawers with clothes folded so I can see everything at once. Now I look forward to getting dressed instead of hating putting clothes on. I hope I can sustain it.
3. The lines of tree-shadow cast by the morning’s moon
4. That red eclipse
5. This is going to be a really busy semester for me–I have more preps than is ideal, but I love the classes I am teaching, and I love the kids in them. Last year was my first year teaching Speech, and although it wasn’t bad, I just didn’t quite have a handle on it. This year, I feel like I am much more able to pin down the perfect resources. Of course, I am only one week in, but already the course is taking shape with greater liveliness and interest.

May we walk in Beauty!


fire and flight

“In writing, and perhaps all endeavours, there must be a way which doesn’t simply do as men before us have done, but turns to its own erotic authority. The feminine voice comes from the body’s knowing. It is the writing of aches and ragged breath and dirty fingernails from climbing out of the underworld. It is the sonority of our words which is primary, not their definition. This voice is the howling of a child for its mother before language is even learned. It strives not for the objectivity which is removed from feeling, but rather sinks us deeper into the muck of it. It takes things personally. And it gives personally in return. There is no such thing as impartiality when you live in a body. And it speaks from the flesh and bone rhythms of that first belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner


“A noise annoys an oyster, but a noisier noise annoys an oyster more.” —Anonymous


“…The green earth
is your cloth;
tailor your robe
with dignity and grace.”
—Rumi


“When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty.” —Thomas Jefferson


fire and flight

after the fire
has kindled
within you
patient gestation
of coals beneath
your heart
between
your ribs

fire within you
fire in the earth
fire in the fruit
the egg
the seed

flames will burst forth
and you will rise

you will know
your wings
you will
open your feathers
catch the breezes

the old world
of magic and monsters
will fall away
below you

you will dance
on pillows of cloud
you will swim
in rivers of air

you will hear your
true name
in the voice
of the wind
—Beth Weaver-Kreider

after the fire
has kindled
within you
patient gestation
of coals beneath
your heart
between
your ribs

fire within you
fire in the earth
fire in the fruit
the egg
the seed

flames will burst forth
and you will rise

you will know
your wings
you will
open your feathers
catch the breezes

the old world
of magic and monsters
will fall away
below you

you will dance
on pillows of cloud
you will swim
in rivers of air

you will hear your
true name
in the voice
of the wind

–Beth Weaver-Kreider

Rounding Out the Story

I don’t think it would be a controversial statement to say that no story has a single truth, that our perceptions about the facts of a story are guided by our prior knowledge and experiences and prejudices. Plato’s Levels of Intelligence paradigm puts Opinion a simple rung above Ignorance, and true Intelligence two whole rungs above Opinion, with Reason in between.

Watch a video of a group of young men chanting and laughing as an old man, a Native American elder, walks into their midst, playing his drum. Observe their red hats, their regalia that marks them supporters of a man who has been divisive in our country, sexist and racist and xenophobic. Watch still images of a smirking boy standing in what appears to be defiance blocking the old man’s path. I formed a pretty strong opinion in response.

Then I watched the events from the angle of a video shot by the four or five members of the Black Hebrew Israelites, who were taunting and mocking the young men before the incident occurred. It was a long and frustrating video, showing the story in a different light. I watched as the BHI men singled out a black student in the Covington group, insulting him personally, calling him names. I watched how his friends gathered around him, shielding him from the vitriol. I heard the things the BHI men were yelling at the boys. I watched the boys begin their school chants to try to drown out the insults. I cringed at the in-your-face nature of sports chants in an already heated situation. I watched a couple other videos of the moments of direct engagement between the boy (Nicholas Sandmann) and the man (Nathan Phillips).

And then I read this two-and-a-half page letter from Mr. Sandmann. His tone is measured and thoughtful, if a little defensive. He states that he does not understand Mr. Phillips’ intentions, and can’t explain what the older man’s intentions were. He is an articulate and careful writer.

Were the boys in the crowd mocking the old man and taunting him? Probably some were. It’s hard not to see that in the videos. Is it possible that some of what appeared at first to be taunting might instead be boys chanting their school chants? Probably. Very likely. Looked at through that lens, the energy of the group shifts a bit, seems less sinister.

Some of my take-aways:
1. MAGA hats are a really unfortunate apparel choice for young white men at a faith-based march. They are saying more than they intend, perhaps, and they set themselves up for the sort of negative snap judgements that the BHI men, and I, and most of America, seem to have been making.
2. I am really judgemental about white men in MAGA gear. Not only do I rush to judgement; in the midst of a larger array of facts, I still struggle to open my mind when there are MAGA hats in the picture.
3. Even video can tell a misconstrued story. As we were discussing it last night, before I saw the second video, I kept saying, “But I saw that video. It’s really clear what was happening. You can’t just throw out video evidence.” Still, it seems that the story told by the first video is different from the one told by the second video. In the long and rambling video of the BHI group, I heard no chants of “Build the wall.” I don’t doubt that some of Mr. Phillips’ group thought they heard that in the school chants, but I don’t think they said it.
4. Looking at the various videos, I think it is highly possible–likely, even–that both Mr. Phillips’ group and the Covington boys had two separate understandings of the event, that both Mr. Phillips’ account and Mr. Sandmann’s account are “true,” because they’re true to their experiences.
5. As harsh and demeaning as much of the BHI group’s taunting was, they had some things to say that I wish these boys could hear and learn from. They are privileged. Their privilege is built on centuries of white exploitation of black people and people of color, from enslavement of blacks and genocide of Native Americans in the beginnings, to the hoarding and consolidation of resources and the means of production, to outright discriminatory laws and systems, to lynchings, to redlining, to police brutality. I am afraid that this experience will wall off the possibility for these boys to do any deep reflecting on this subject.
6. This would be an excellent opportunity for some real, deep education. Instead of expelling the boys, I think the school should bring in outside educators to talk to about stereotypes and stereotyping–both their own stereotypes and the ones they have experienced from others (people like me). I would love to see the diocese invite Mr. Phillips to talk, create a listening session where he can hear the boys and they can hear him. Bring in an outside mediator, someone who can help them talk, help them listen. This is a perfect opportunity to help these young people learn to think critically and compassionately.
7. I find it really problematic that a boys school would bus a group of young men wearing MAGA hats to protest a Women’s March. I realize that they perhaps put it in the context of Marching in a Pro-Life March, and they’re tying it to their compassion for babies. Still, when it comes down to it, the visuals are of a large group of young religious patriarchs being groomed to take up the reins of the patriarchy marching in a march deliberately planned to coincide with a March for Women. It’s ugly. (I added this point after the original post.)
8. I think I am pretty media savvy. I’m not as savvy as I thought I was. I think perhaps none of us are.

Dream Elegy

. . .holding this bagful of winter.

In the dream, as I was waking:
I am translating a four stanza Spanish poem into English. I race to get the translation down. Something of my dreamself knows that I am waking, and I must hear the whole thing.

In real life, my Spanish is shaky at best, not sufficient to translate anything like this. I lay in bed for a while before I got up, reciting the last lines (all I could remember) over and over again, so I wouldn’t forget them the minute I got out of bed:

“. . .and so you left us, holding this bagful of winter.

And you,
freshest flower of the morning,
will bloom forever
in my heart.”


Mary Oliver’s “box full of darkness” may have been in my subconscious, though that hasn’t been one of the poems I have been meditating on in these past few days. It feels too personal to be my own elegy for her, not having known her. But hers is the death I have been living with for these last few days. Were I to write such a poem consciously, I would cringe a little at the rather overblown feel of “freshest flower of the morning,” but I somehow feel as though I am messing with words and ideas that aren’t quite mine, even though they escaped the dreamhole in my brain.


Gratitude List:
1. All the poetry she left us.
2. The way she taught me to look, and then to SEE,
3. to examine the inner as well as the outer landscapes,
4. how she encouraged me to feel at home roaming both inner and outer worlds.
5. How her words always find me when I need them.

May we walk in Beauty!


I keep pondering the arrogant smirk of that boy in the pictures of the protests yesterday, mocking an elder, defiant, twisted, domineering, entitled. I am so sad for him and his friends, so troubled for the shallow and scrappy world they are setting themselves up to live in. I’m angry, too, of course, and I hope they face consequences, but I pray (yes, that’s the word) that they will have to face themselves, somehow, that the mirror of Nathan Phillips’ face will help them to look at themselves, that they will take warning, that they will take up their humanity.

In my own life are quite a number of young men, and some of them tend toward arrogance. Some of them, caught in such a moment, would perhaps join in the energy of such a mob. I hope to heaven that they wouldn’t, but I see some of that self-satisfied arrogance in some of my own circle.

I must look again into the faces of the young men in that crowd and know that they, too, are loved and loveable. They are redeemable. But not if we keep giving them the wall of our rage to butt up against. They are begging for a wall. Let’s follow the example of the wise elder Nathan Phillips and give them mirrors instead.

Young MAGA men, I hope you look back on yesterday and feel shame, great shame, for your actions and words. I hope those of you who stood by and laughed will understand that you, too, were participants in an act of great arrogance and entitlement and shame. I hope you know that by not stepping in and standing up to your friends, you, too, wear that shame. And Smirking Boy, I pray that you will be able to see yourself through the thick haze of patriarchal dominance and posturing that seems to have caught you in its grip.

But I hope you do not stop at shame. May the shame itself be only the outer shell of a seed that will burst forth within you, a seed of desire to do right, to respect your elders, to offer recompense for your terrible disrespect of a man, of a people, of a history, of humanity. May you be humbled, may you choose a new way, may you seek beauty and goodness and respect and gentleness.

And may the rest of us be mirrors instead of walls. I would walk in the footsteps of the drummer.


Daughter, the songs of women
are the first words of children
—Abby E. Murray, in Rattle Magazine


“Our vitality is inextricably bound up with creativity. Like a tree whose expression is fruit, giving our gifts is what keeps life pushing through our veins. It’s what keeps us feeling alive. As anyone who has strayed too far from their creativity knows, without it every corner of one’s life can fall prey to a terrible greying spread. As Kahlil Gibran writes about trees in an orchard, ‘They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, then let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it. Perhaps this is what Thoreau had in mind when he said, “the more slowly trees grow at first, the sounder they are at the core, and I think the same is true of human beings.”
—David Sobel


“We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.

Tabula Rasa, Sort of

I’m not quite sure what that white rectangle is down on the lower right, 
but it seems to be the blank page.

One thing I love about being part of The Academy (I like the pompous sound of that, more than “school system”) is that twice a year I get a fresh start. No matter how badly I feel about myself at the end of a semester, there’s always a fresh, uncharted page coming up, and I can write myself onto that page as solidly and competently as I possible. There’s a hopefulness, a sense of lightness and release. Maybe I can do this, after all. After the slog at the end of the semester, suddenly, there’s a burning fire of creative juices, and a little chorus of inner voices, saying, “You can do this thing!”

Some semesters are harder than others, and this past semester got caught up in the grind of my slip into the year’s shadow. It was harder this year than it has been for a long time. So there’s a soberness to the creative fires that are sparking for the new page before me. And I still have all that work to finish up from last semester. Still, I love the bright shine of that empty page ahead, stretching out before me like the fields of snow I woke up to this morning.


Gratitude List:
1. The beautiful singers at my school. They’re so brave, these young people who get up on stage to perform for their whole school. I am grateful for my colleagues in the music department who offer our kids such a powerful music education. I have tried not to push my own child into the music classes–I want him to be free to take whatever he wants, to explore all his interests–so I am really delighted that he is taking chorus and two different bands this semester.
2. This week’s birds: kestrel hovering, vultures everywhere (as usual), two bald eagles, blue heron, owls calling in the bosque, and crows and geese winging across the sunrise skies. My soul is stirring, too.
3. Tabula Rasa. The fresh page.
4. Snow.
5. The magic of air filling lungs. I listened to a Shakespeare scholar talk this week about how a line of iambic pentameter is just the right number of beats to fill the human lungs. I might have to start reading Shakespeare sonnets to wake up in the mornings.

May we walk in Beauty on the Fresh Page of Today.


“This is the season of owl,
of winds that howl through the hollow,
the season of the sharp bark
of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.

This is the season of bitter,
of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands,
the season of crystal, crisp and cutting,
of beauty that will slice you open.

This is the season of rising,
thin and pale, into the dawn air,
but also of burrowing, huddling deep
into the layers that hold you.

Walk the thin line of today with care,
one foot precisely placed, the other. . .

Perhaps you will notice,
when you raise your eyes for a moment,
how the line curves out ahead of you,
bringing you
always
back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)


“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost


“I am always doing what I cannot do yet
in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh


“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney


“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman


“‎The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou


“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)


“Love the earth and sun and animals,
Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks,
Stand up for the stupid and crazy,
Devote your income and labor to others…
Re-examine all you have been told
at school or church or in any book;
Dismiss whatever insults your own soul;
And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”
—Walt Whitman


“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.

“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich

Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

Today is Epiphany, the day the light dawns, the coming of the wise ones, the baptism of light, the moment of the Holy Aha! Cultures throughout the world celebrate today as the coming of the Three Kings. Orthodox Christians celebrate this as the day of the baptism of Jesus.

There is a moment, in the baptism story, when the Spirit of the Holy One appears in the form of a dove and speaks to those gathered, saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” My prayer for you, for me, for all of us in this coming year, is our significant dawnings and discoveries may be accompanied by the absolute shining certainty that we are the Beloved Children of the Universe. That the One who watches us, who wings above us, who blows through us, who shines light into our confusion and grief and fear, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, but it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved.


Here’s my Dream and Meditation Soup from the Dreamtime. I’m organizing them by character, symbol, theme, and word:
1. Rhiannon, Epona, Kingfishers, the Madwoman in the Attic, the Ferryman, crossing-Maker, two-faced people
2. Bridge, Boundary, Shadow
3. Crossing, grief, solitude (privacy), sufficiency (insufficiency), resistance
4. Maferefun (Praise be!), Sawabona (I see you)

For the coming year, the three words that I will carry with me:
Bridge, Boundary, Wing

I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for kingfishers this year.


Yesterday, my Beloved friend Mara asked her friends to write Epiphany poems. Because of its association with the Three Magi, I wrote my poem about the legend of La Befana, sometimes called the Witch of Christmas, because she flies around the world on her broom searching for the Child of Promise. When the wise ones stopped at her door on their journey to find Holy Child, they invited her to join their caravan, but she was too busy with her own concerns. The moment their dust disappeared in the distance, she regretted her choice, and ever since then, she searches. Sometimes she gives children sweets.

La Befana: The Epiphany Witch

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.
Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to. I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and besom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies on my broom,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude:
1. The search for the Dawning
2. Bridges, even when they’re rickety and dangerous
3. Boundaries. I don’t believe in political walls. I do know that to preserve my own sanity in the coming year, I have to develop stronger boundaries within me between the working self and the creative self. I need to know myself separate from my work and not defined by my specific work identity.
4. Wings. Flight. Seeing things from new perspectives.
5. Knowing myself a Beloved child of the Universe.

May we walk in Beauty, Beloved Children of the Great Mystery.


Words for the Holy Aha!
“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” —Maya Angelou


“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” —Phil Ochs


“The sense-making in poetry is about getting behind the brain. A poem is a door. Sometimes poets make sturdy, locked, exclusive club doors that you can only enter if you are one of ‘us,’ or if you can speak (or pretend to know) the password. A really good and satisfying poem is an open and inviting doorway that frames the view in a particularly compelling way. ‘Look!’ it says. ‘Stand and stare. Take a deep breath. Then tell me what you see.’

“Good poetry, I think, holds a paradoxical perspective on language itself: it acknowledges the inadequacy of words to completely map an inner geography, and it also steps with reverence and awe into the sacred space that language creates between writer and reader. Words are both inadequate and holy.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“Where does despair fit in? Why is our pain for the world so important? Because these responses manifest our interconnectedness. Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. To use another metaphor, they are like a ‘shadow limb.’ Just as an amputee continues to feel twinges in the severed limb, so in a sense do we experience, in anguish for homeless people or hunted whales, pain that belongs to a separated part of our body—a larger body than we thought we had, unbounded by our skin. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or ‘tipping point’ by which new forms of behavior can spread. There are as many different ways of being responsive as there are different gifts we possess. For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.” —Joanna Macy


Why Are Your Poems So Dark?
by Linda Pastan

Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?
And doesn’t the white page
seem unfinished
without the dark stain
of alphabets?
When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.
Instead he invented
ebony and crows
and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.
Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”
Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.


“In a time that would have us believe there is always more to strive for, more to accumulate, more enlightenment to reach – the most radical stance we can take is enoughness.
What if we quit trying to be spiritual and aspired to be human instead?
What if there is nothing to fix because we are already whole?
What if there was no time to prove ourselves, because we’re consumed with marveling at life?
What if there is no reason to hold back our gifts, because they are meant to be given?
What if every morsel, every glance, every moment and every breath is a miracle of enough?” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa

In the Dreamtime, Day 14

The Morning Star.

Today is the last day of Dreamtime. Tomorrow the light dawns. Tomorrow, I will look through the soup of dream-images from the past two weeks and choose the word for the year.

In last night’s dream, I am at a book sale, focusing on the books on the table in front of me. At one point, I become aware that a man facing me at the next table down has a face divided into two: his hair and beard on the left side of his face are white against his brown skin, and both hair and beard are closely trimmed. On the other side, his hair and beard are black and fuller, scruffier. When he faces toward the right side of the hall, he’s an older, white-haired man. When he faces the other direction, he’s younger. It’s like there’s a line down the middle of his face.

Looking around, I notice that everyone is standing in profile in relationship to me. I look down and then up again, and they’re all looking the opposite way, and they appear to be completely different people. Everyone has opposite faces! As I move faster around the room, they find it more difficult to keep only in profile to me, and the game is up. Everyone is two people. They all look toward me, and I can see the lines down the center of their faces where hair and beards and make-up are divided into two different sides. I find out someone’s been doing a social experiment. I figured it out pretty quickly.

Two-sided people, showing you two different sides to themselves.

I woke with a phrase from a song in my head, from a song they sang in chapel yesterday, something about “bringing all his sons to glory.” It really made me feel uncomfortable that young people are still singing and speaking in such patriarchal language. The music was beautiful, though, and the young woman leading the music was a former student with an absolutely angelic voice.


Gratitude List:
1. Books
2. Comfy jammies
3. Playing games with the family
4. The weekend
5. Warm showers

May we walk in Beauty!


Saturday’s Messages:
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —e. e. cummings


“Again and again, our dreams demand leadership of us, calling our life’s vision forward into the world, step by tenderbrave step.

“The practice above all practices is to relinquish the immature desire to be taken care of (by our parents, spouse, government, guru, church, etc), and to parent our own originality. To give ourselves the support that we may never have received.

“To get behind the creation of one’s life is to recognize your influence in ‘the way things are,’ and nurture your vision with protective discipline until it is strong enough to serve in the world on its own.” ―Toko-pa Turner


“You learn to write by reading and writing, writing and reading. As a craft it’s acquired through the apprentice system, but you choose your own teachers. Sometimes they’re alive, sometimes dead.

“As a vocation, it involves the laying on of hands. You receive your vocation and in your turn you must pass it on. Perhaps you will do this only through your work, perhaps in other ways. Either way, you’re part of a community, the community of writers, the community of storytellers that stretches back through time to the beginning of human society.” ―Margaret Atwood


“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” ―Fred Rogers


“Good poetry, I think, is more about finding your way by signposts than about following a map. It gives readers a few cues and clues, sets us loose, and then waits for us to say, “Oh! I recognize this territory! I know this landscape.” A series of seemingly unrelated but compelling images can spring to life when sprinkled with the fairy dust of beautiful language or the hint of a story. While I want to be able to understand enough of the controlling idea of a poem for it help me create some sort of sense, the most satisfying meaning that I derive from reading a good poem comes not through the intellectual front door, but through the back door of the emotions. Meaning made through emotional connection rather than mental processing often appears in the form of wonder and holy surprise, even when it comes in a painful or angry guise. Poetic understanding is gut-level understanding. I have long been a fan of singer-songwriter Paul Simon. I don’t think I know what he means about anything, but he always makes me feel something.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014

In the Dreamtime, Day 13

We’re still within the twelve days of Christmas, but since I start counting the Dreamtime at Solstice, we’re on to Day 13 now in this little pocket of my counting of time.

One of the things I begin to discover at this point in the process of collecting the words and images from my dreams is that I start to catch echoes of my collection in the world around me. Bridges and boundaries are common enough metaphors, but because they’ve been swirling around in my dream-soup, when I catch references to them in people’s daily speech, it feels like I am receiving secret messages. I am listening for echoes now, affirmation that the words and images I am sanding and honing are the ones I should put in my internal medicine pouch to carry into the coming year.

In last night’s dream, Jon and I and a child (perhaps an amalgam of the two boys) are trying to get somewhere, hitching rides on the trains like hobos. It’s really dangerous, and I am terribly worried that the child will fall off. We finally decide to stop taking the risks and walk, but by this time we are far out in the wilderness, in the woods, and getting to civilization will take days. We sleep in the woods, and find our food where we can. Despite the long walk and the uncertainty, it feels like the right choice. I think the child is really me, and some of the recent choices I am making about the way I work, and the boundaries I set, are making the journey harder and lonelier perhaps, but safer for that inner child. Good choices.

In other dreams I am trying to text Jon that my meeting has gone really short and I can take Ellis home from school after all. Technology and phones never seem to work in dreams. I cannot find the numbers or the right app to text. Typical anxiety dream. Will Deep Self really be able to get the necessary messages across to Waking Self?


Gratitude List:
1. The dawning of women. I was unprepared for quite how relieved I would feel yesterday looking at the images of those joyful, powerful women entering Congress. I thought I had experienced all the joy when I learned they had been elected, but yesterday was a joyful day.
2. The three million women of Kerala who made a chain to tell the world that it is the time of women.
3. It’s the Tuesday of my work week, but it’s Friday. I really needed this slow start.
4. Michelle Obama’s book. She weaves words and ideas well. Her story is so completely her own story and her family’s story, but she deftly weaves the connection of her story to the experiences of black families in the past century, so that as I am learning her own history, I am developing a deeper context for understanding the Great Migration, white flight from cities, and the persistence of structural racism.
5. Dean’s pies. Every year my colleague makes a tableful of pies (8? 10? 12?) for us. It creates truly impossible choices. I take tiny slivers of several. And it’s sublime. Yesterday was a delicious day.

May we walk in Beauty!


“The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, not the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“We use language to build the structures upon which we hang our ideas. Language is the scaffold upon which we develop whole structures of thought. Language anchors and shapes and breathes life into thought and idea. Conventional thinking, and conventional language, can end up being a pretty tight little box of a windowless building that doesn’t let in the light. The air in there gets pretty stale. When language—and its attendant ideas—become calcified and crippled into arthritic patterns, poetic image and word-use can find new ways to say things, can break windows into the walls of those airless rooms and build ornate new additions onto the old structures. Poetry jars the cart of language out of its constricting wheel ruts. This is why poets and writers can make good revolutionaries—if they know their work and do their jobs well.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“The nuclear arms race is like two sworn enemies standing waist-deep in gasoline, one with three matches, the other with five.” —Carl Sagan


Mary Oliver, on the Great Horned Owl: “I know this bird. If it could, it would eat the whole world.” And then: “The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I too live. There is only one world.”


Fierce Wild Joy
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2016

May this year bring you joy
like crows rising from the fields

fierce
wild joy

yelling full-voice
into the wind

rowing through the tempest
with nothing but feathers.


“Have patience with everything
that remains unsolved in your heart.
Try to love the questions themselves,
like locked rooms and like books
written in a foreign language.
Do not now look for the answers.
They cannot now be given to you
because you could not live them.
It is a question of experiencing everything.
At present you need to live the question.
Perhaps you will gradually,
without even noticing it,
find yourself experiencing the answer,
some distant day.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


“With life as short as a half taken breath, don’t plant anything but love.”
―Jalaluddin Rumi

In the Dreamtime, Day 12

Last night before I went to sleep, I read an article about hypnogogia, that half-dream state between sleeping and waking where the mind is churning through images that feel portentous and wildly creative. It was a helpful reminder to me about dreamwork, about how to catch those elusive butterflies of dream and story that flitter away in the moment of waking. It makes me grateful that my body wakes me before the alarm, because I have those seconds to try to hold the moments of dream before the sudden noise of the alarm startles them away.

1) In the dream, I am in a grand-looking inn, but we are quickly noticing how poorly the place is built, more like a cheap television set than a truly beautiful space. The opulence is false.

2) In the dream, we are on the second floor of a building, dancing and pounding our feet, enjoying the sound of the echoes. We suddenly remember that there is someone living below us.

3) In the dream, I am standing under an umbrella on a bridge in the dawn, misty rain falling around me. There is a word in my head: trophism. I had to look that one up upon waking. Google says: “the turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus.” (Ah. I am turning my face to the light, like Kris’s poinsettias in church on Sunday.)


Gratitude List:
1. Words that come in dreams. In this case, “trophism,” like what I do when I turn toward the light.
2. Dream-bridges
3. Making a plan to catch up, and implementing in. Slow and steady, little tortoise.
4. Slow starts. “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,” said the poet, and it applies to oh-so-many forms of waking.
5. I think, perhaps, I can begin, just a little, to notice the increasing day.

May we wake to Beauty!


“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.” —Barbara Brown Taylor


“He said the wicked know that if the evil they do is of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have only stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing.


“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
―Parker J. Palmer


“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
―T. S. Eliot


We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and our eyes.

The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
—Hafiz


“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers


A poem for the New Year:
Love Your Life

And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love Your Life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go your well-worn list
of all you felt you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open trails, the markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain~
a realm of intimate, tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only you will not amass it:
you are it.

—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Befriending The Soul


“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
—Terry Pratchett

In the Dreamtime, Day 11

The traditional Twelve Days of Christmas last until January 6, Epiphany. Since I begin my Dreamtime walk on the solstice, I give myself a few more days in Dreamtime, and choose my images and words for the year from the soup of my Dreamtime stew on the sixth of January. Perhaps I throw things off by adding a few extra days to my high holy days of winter. The twelve days have particular cosmic significance, being the number of days’ difference between the lunar and solar years. The twelfth day itself is only a partial day. I suppose I could have my Epiphany tomorrow, and then I’d have committed myself to only twelve days of dreaming. But maybe I need a longer gestation period for my ideas and words and images.

This morning, I woke up with the word “Maferefun” in my head. I had been reading an article earlier in the day about religious traditions around the world, and Maferefun is the Yoruba greeting for the holy ones. It means something like, “I greet you. Praise be!” A nice word, I think, to greet the new year, and a reminder to myself that all about me is holy. All carries the spark and imprint of the Creative Mystery. It is our work to notice and to greet it as we see that livingness in the world and the people around us.

Elderly bench that holds me as I sit in the morning, I greet you. Praise be.
Purring cat who wakes me in the dawn, I greet you. Praise be.
Owl calling your family home from hunting, I greet you, Praise be.
Sun soon to rise over the ridge, I greet you. Praise be.

As Peter Mayer says in his sweet song, “Everything is holy now.”


Gratitude List:
1. Slow Starts–Today is Professional Development, and then two days of classes for the week.
2. Setting boundaries
3. Knitting and Crocheting: Making beauty from a knotted piece of string
4. The Enneagram, a thoughtful tool
5. Reading together as a family. Jon bought us a copy of Danny the Champion of the World to read to us this break because he remembered loving it as a child. I missed part of it while I graded yesterday, but I heard the beginning, and the tender ending last night before the children went to bed.

May we walk in Beauty! I greet you! Praise Be!


Words for Wednesday’s Slow Start:
“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


“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


“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


“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


“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, Dreams


ONE OR TWO THINGS
by Mary Oliver from New and Selected Poems: Volume One (Beacon Press)
1
Don’t bother me.
I’ve just
been born.

2
The butterfly’s loping flight
carries it through the country of the leaves
delicately, and well enough to get it
where it wants to go, wherever that is, stopping
here and there to fuzzle the damp throats
of flowers and the black mud; up
and down it swings, frenzied and aimless; and sometimes

for long delicious moments it is perfectly
lazy, riding motionless in the breeze on the soft stalk
of some ordinary flower.

3
The god of dirt came up to me many times and said
so many wise and delectable things, I lay
on the grass listening
to his dog voice,
crow voice,
frog voice; now,
he said, and now,
and never once mentioned forever,

4
which has nevertheless always been,
like a sharp iron hoof,
at the center of my mind.

5
One or two things are all you need
to travel over the blue pond, over the deep
roughage of the trees and through the stiff
flowers of lightning– some deep
memory of pleasure, some cutting
knowledge of pain.

6
But to lift the hoof!
For that you need an idea.

7
For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless, in the wind.
“Don’t love your life
too much,” it said,

and vanished into the world.