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Go Back to the Shire & Start Again

When I was a teenager, and we got our first Apple Computer, we bought a Hobbit adventure game. It was one of those where you have to successfully execute a series of tasks in order to level up. You started at Bilbo’s house in the Shire, and you needed to get certain supplies to get on your way, and then you’d go through adventure, and you’d get to the trolls, and you had to figure out how to defeat them, but it you had forgotten to pick up a key that you had passed way back near the beginning, you would fail at getting into their lair for the next step, and so you would have to go way back to the very beginning again, and you’d have to remember to pick up the key, but then you might forget to open a door somewhere where you were supposed to pick up your sword, and so you’d fail again somewhere along the way and you’d have to go back to the beginning again and start over. I don’t think I ever got as far as Rivendell. The goblins always got me.

When my son and I were sent home from school yesterday because of a Covid exposure, I felt like we had fallen into that game all over again.

I knew we should get tested. That only makes sense, right? The way to prevent the disease is to make sure that people who are exposed get tested, so we make sure they aren’t passing it on to their families, and on and on. So we went on a Quest for a Test.

Call the Urgent Care. Sorry, no more appointments for testing today. Are you experiencing symptoms? Then you probably can’t get tested anyway. Sorry. [Go back to the Shire and start again.]

Call the doctor’s office. Sorry, no more appointments today. Call first thing in the morning and we just might be able to get you an appointment that would get you an order to get swabbed sometime next week. [Go back to the Shire and start again.]

Call the kid’s insurance company. Yes. He should get tested. Go to the York Expo Center Drive-Through testing site. His insurance pays the whole thing. And by the way, he’s due for his well-child check-up and a dental appointment, and he can get a free flu shot at Rite Aid. [Angel sound. Door opens. Pick up swab test. Pick up flu shot. Pick up well-child check and dental appointment.]

Drive to York Expo Center. No one is there. Find people on other side of huge parking lot. “No, there hasn’t been a drive-through test here for months.” Sorry. [Go back to the Shire and start again.]

Call MedExpress again, in York and Lancaster. No. Sorrysorry. No. Call doctor’s office again. No. [Sit in the Shire and think about how ineffective you are at your life.]

Take a nap and wake up with a terrible headache and the sniffles. Wonder if you probably have Covid. Isolate yourself in the bedroom for the night. Call MedExpress again and tell them you have symptoms. “Try calling in the morning.” [Go back to the Shire and stop bugging people.]

Call MedExpress in the morning, as they suggested. Busy. Call. Busy. Call. Busy. Repeat. Repeat. Call the doctor’s office. Busy. Call. Get partway through automated phone ladder. Wrong choice. [Go back to Shire.]

Call doctor’s office’s Very Confusing Phone Labyrinth again and again [Go back to the Shire. Go back to the Shire] until you get a voice. [Angel sounds.] “We can get you an appointment for Monday.” [You don’t have to go all the way back to the Shire, just to Bree.] Anything, please, yes, but is there no chance we could see someone today? Pause and go on hold. “Yes, I’ll schedule you both for an appointment at 11:00.” [Angel sounds. Doors open. Pick up sword and key.]

Ten minutes later, receive a call from doctor’s office. “The doctor would actually like you to get swabbed this morning so you don’t have to wait until next week. Come to the office, but drive around to the back, in the employees’ entrance, and get in the car line to get tested. Stay in your car.” [We have broken through to a whole new level now, Bilbo!]

Swabbed and teary-eyed, we head for home, pull up our video conference with a very pleasant but tired-sounding doctor. My symptoms are not consistent enough with Covid to concern him, especially since I tend to get headaches, and I have allergies, and people are catching cold right now. We don’t need to isolate within the house–the others have been exposed to us for five days already since our exposure. We’re to quarantine until November 30 (though a negative test might free us sooner), and the others in the house can come and go as they please, as long as they take all the precautions. We do not need to wear masks in the house any longer, and the cats are grateful. [You have made it to Rivendell. Rest well, small hobbits.]

So that is where we are. Because school was to go virtual beginning Monday anyway, we’ll just work from here and hope the wi-fi holds up. If I get a negative test, I might be able to teach from my classroom using the school’s wi-fi for the week following Thanksgiving.

Heron Feather

I am finding new rooms in the house of my voice while I write with Jindu. When I respond to something in one of his poems or something he has said, and then weave it into the sense and the sound of my next poem, the writing gets electric and lively in ways I can’t often set myself up for when I write simply for myself.

Heron Feather
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

On my altar are bones and
a blue heron’s feather a shard
of broken pottery a snake skin
five seeds three pennies and a
statue of an ancient goddess
I made from clay some milkweed
fluff a pen I love to write with and
a paintbrush tools of the trade
some sea shells and a stone
from the path to my house
in the village where I was born.

Some of this is a lie but all
of it is true and when I die
you may keep all my lies
but put the stone into my
left shoe so I will know
where to go and put the heron
feather in in my hand so I can
fly there but don’t make plans
for a long time yet I have lots
of magic yet to make I think
this is what it really means
to be alive.


Gratitudes:
1. Glad we decided to go to virtual learning when we did. My son and I were sent home early today because we were exposed. I’m grateful that my school takes tracing seriously. I hope I can get a test tomorrow.
2. My students are such tender and sweet-hearted folx. I’m going to miss seeing them in person, but I look forward to seeing their whole faces for a while on Zoom.
3. Writing with Jindu. I am learning so much about poetry from writing with someone with such a rich sense of craft and word-work. It is such an honor.
4. Wordplay and artplay
5. Lancaster’s ExtraGive. Every year my town has a day of giving, and people give to their favorite charities, together, and every year it raises more money for people do to good in the world. It gives me hope.

Stay safe, Beloveds!


“…when women speak truly they speak subversively–they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert.
We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.
That’s what I want–to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you–I want to hear you.” —Ursula Le Guin


“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” —Muriel Rukeyser


“Oh to meet, however briefly, the greatness that lives under our surface. To summon enough bravery to be without armour and strategy, for the chance at meeting that irreducible power. Oh to make of our terrified hearts a prayer of surrender to the God of Love; that we remain safe in our quivering ache to be near that Otherness, even for a moment. To touch that ancient life who will never relinquish its wilderness, who lets instinct make its choices, whose knowing lives in bones and whose song is a wayfinder.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.”
―Parker J. Palmer


“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
―Emily Dickinson


“One of my favourite teachings by Martín Prechtel is that ‘violence is an inability with grief.’ In other words, it takes skillfulness to grieve well, to grieve wholeheartedly. It requires us to bravely, nakedly come to face all that is lost, keeping our hearts open to loving just as fully again.
“When we make war, lashing out in rage and revenge, it is because we are unwilling to make this full encounter with grief. It is easy to enact the same violence which has taken so much from us―including towards ourselves―but the greater work is to let that which is missing enlarge your life; to make beauty from your brokenness.
“Whatever you hold in the cauldron of your intention is your offering to the divine. The quality of assistance you can generate and receive from the Holy is governed by the quality of your inner offering. When you indulge in fear and doubt, you are flooding the arena where love is attempting to work.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth
in the present moment.”
―Thich Nhat Hanh


“An awake heart
is like a sky that pours light.” ―Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” ―Oscar Levant

Once Were Women

Not entirely sure how the strangeness of this poem came about. I found the trail and followed it, is all.

Once Were Women
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

There was a woman who lived in a very
small house. She had small rooms
and small chairs and her door was
small and her windows were small
and when she spoke, her words
came out small and her life was just so
small and no one was surprised
when she ran away from her small house
and went to live in the wilderness.

That other woman lived in a crooked place
and her paths were crooked and her
couch was crooked and the pictures
were crooked on her walls and crooked
was her way of walking and when she spoke
the words tumbled crooked from her mouth
and everyone understood when one day
she stood up straight and stretched her spine
and went to live with the small woman
out in the wilderness.

The very tall and thin woman with
a thin, thin smile, one day she smiled
wide and went to live with the women
who lived their wild lives in the wilderness.
And the woman who tried to be invisible:
she let herself be seen one day and she
ran out to join them, too, and the woman
who used to start every sentence with “Sorry.”
And the one who ate only leaves,
and the one who had headaches,
and the one who bought all the shoes,
and the one who painted everything grey,
and the one who swallowed her song,
and the one who was afraid of the rain.
Off they ran, and they became wild
as the animals, and some of them became
animals and some of them became
raindrops and some of them became
the red oak leaves quivering in the wind.
And they lived.
Happily.
Ever.
After.


Gratitudes:
1. I came downstairs this morning and Youngest (who is in a negative and defiant phase), said, “Ooooh! I like all those colors!”
2. We saw a fox on the way to school! I took a dirt connector road that I’ve been avoiding because the farm cats on that road don’t seem to have enough fear for cars, and trotting down the road ahead of us was Red Tod himself. He ducked into the underbrush before we passed.
3. There’s a Moms group at our school that gave each teacher a gift bag this week: yummy snacks, coffee, tea, mints, trail mix, a Post-it notepad, and a shiny silver pen. It was a big morale boost.
4. At least now that we’re definitely going virtual for a while, it will relive me of the sense of something impending. This feels like a really good call. I was just beginning to feel unsafe.
5. Having hard conversations–I feel like I am growing in my ability to engage conversations without getting defensive and without trying to appease, just sitting with the challenge of it, saying my part, and listening empathetically. (I hope I didn’t jinx myself by saying that.)

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning, for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy.” —Kate Braestrup


“Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.” —Neil Gaiman


“Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors, but today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.” —Kahlil Gibran


“To write is to ask questions. It doesn’t matter if the answers are true or puro cuento. After all and everything only the story is remembered, and the truth fades away like the pale blue ink on a cheap embroidery pattern.” —Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo


“With guns, you can kill terrorists.
With education, you can kill terrorism.” —Malala Yousufsai


“The [one] who moves a mountain
begins by carrying away small stones.”
—Confucius, The Analects


“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?” —Wendell Berry

Line From a Song

For the first line of this one, I stole a line I loved from Jindu’s poem from yesterday. I love how my own poetic voice is stronger and more on fire when I write with someone else.

A Line From a Song
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

There’s a line from a song I don’t remember,
something about the way November closes in,
how thin the space between breaths, how roses
still bloom in this bitter wind, but death stalks
the room I’m in, walks in winter’s shadow.

I know that somewhere in the middle of the song
was a line about longing for what I cannot have,
about the wrong door leading to the right room,
or the other way around. I’ve found I remember it
better when I hum it right before I go to sleep.

But sleep is the best drug I know, when
I can achieve it, when I can believe that I’m not
just escaping the rattle and whir of my days.
Sleep whirls the vortex that tosses the flotsam
of poetry into the day, and I’m remade.


Gratitudes:
1. One of my students asked my advice about her outfit yesterday because she said she thought I was “fashionable.” That’s not a word I think anyone has ever used or me before, and it was startlingly sweet.
2. Also yesterday, a student knocked on my door during a class and asked if he could borrow my skull. I have a plastic skull in my classroom–named Yorick, of course (alas! poor Yorick!)–and I sort of live for moments when I can participate in surreal shenanigans like that.
3. Giant burgundy leaves on a little oak tree.
4. Writing poetry with others.
5. Horchata.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“When Tolkien needed someone to place in the face of the great rising evil in his story, he chose the small ones. You and I are the small ones, friends. Let’s join hands and stand together. Let’s work together, speak together, sing and whisper and shout together.” —EWK


“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.” —Terence McKenna


“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” —Audre Lorde


“Don’t operate out of fear, operate out of hope. Because with hope, everything is possible.” —Winona LaDuke


Our deepest fears are like dragons
guarding our deepest treasure.
—Rainer Maria Rilke


Praise Song
by Barbara Crooker
Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there’s left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn’t cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it’s all we have, and it’s never enough.


“Look at everything
as though you were seeing it
either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
—Betty Smith

Portent

Shining Through

This moment actually happened last night as I was driving home. My mind made a meaning of it, where perhaps someone else might not have noticed the way the eagle flew, or watched the crow fly after. I think my point is that it’s not just that I am overly whimsical or that the spirits of the land had a specific message for me, but that we make the meaning we see, and that that does have portent and meaning because of the context we give it. And that perhaps not being ready to see, not paying attention, deprives us of inner connections we could be making.

Portent
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Last night as I crested Mt. Pisgah ridge
beneath a wispy crescent of a moon,
an eagle flew low across my vision
from west to east, across the moon
across the gold-splashed indigo dusk.

I’d caught my breath when
flying north to south, a solitary crow
crossed the eagle’s path
and disappeared into the growing dark.

I could say it was important. Potent.
A portent. Was I the only observer?
Was it a moment meant for me,
an implication for my mind to find?
Had I not been meandering homeward
at that very instant, would there have been
a meaning in that moment?

If a tree falls, and all that, right?
What I do know is
that within the world of me
there is now
a great X inscribed
by black wings
across an indigo sky,
saying, “Here, here, here.”


“You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.” —Fannie Lou Hamer*****”Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow*****“Silence is a frightening thing. Silence leaves us at the mercy of the noise within us. We hear the fears that need to be faced. We hear, then, the angers that need to be cooled. We hear the emptiness that needs to be filled. We hear the cries for humility and reconciliation and centeredness. We hear ambition and arrogance and attitudes of uncaring awash in the shallows of the soul. Silence demands answers. Silence invites us to depth. Silence heals what hoarding and running will not touch.” —Joan D. Chittister*****“The present moment is the intersection of eternity with time.” ―Beatrice Bruteau*****“Only the present moment contains life.” ―Thích Nhất Hạnh*****“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”―Ansel Adams*****“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” ―Hermann Hesse, Demian*****“I went inside my heartto see how it was.Something there makes me hearthe whole world weeping.”―Rumi (Barks)*****”Did you ever hear a tree pushing out of the ground or the snow falling? Great things happen in silence.” ―Mother Angelica*****”Everything belongs, even the “bad” and dark parts of yourself. Nothing need be rejected or denied. No one need be hated. No one need be excommunicated, shunned, or eliminated. You don’t have time for that anymore. You’ve entered into the soul of the serene disciple where, because the Holy One has become one in you, you are able to see that oneness everywhere else. Almost like magic!” ―Richard Rohr*****“Our work is to show we have been breathed upon—to show it, give it out, sing it out, to live it out in the topside world what we have received through our sudden knowledge, from body, from dreams, and journeys of all sorts.” ―Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes*****“We found ourselves in a realmwhere dreams are formed,destiny is chosenand magic is as realas a handprint in the snow.”―Libba Bray

Forest of Hours

Yes, I am obsessed with my mushroom friends.

Today, my friend Jindu wrote a poem of time and story and God, and I let that wave roll over me as I sat down to write my own poem. I think I let the poem tell me enough about myself to make me a little uncomfortable, maybe light a fire under me.

Forest of Hours
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The clock has berated me all day,
complaining about my betrayal of time,
scorning the way I keep getting lost
in the forest of hours,
claiming I should be familiar
with the pathway home by now.

I am not time’s fool, you know,
nor God’s familiar. I’m no black cat,
no ignorant—or innocent—
child in the fairy tale. I know what I’m doing.
I’m wasting not time, but self.

I’m listening for the sound God makes
as she sings through the branches
of these hours that surround me.
I know in my bones that the story
has a hole in it somewhere, know without asking
that the wolf is standing there
right behind my left shoulder, and also
that there is a well in a stone tower
within a grove of oak
that holds the secret,
if only I can find the key
to fit the door.

But who is telling this story?
I could have sworn it was God,
but maybe I’m just fooling myself, brother.
Maybe the wolf has been lying to me
all along. Maybe God rides a broomstick
through the waving branches.
Maybe the story is telling itself.

Perhaps the clock has a point.
I am, after all, a middle-aged poet
with nothing much to show for my life’s work
but these rags, this tarnished key,
and the sense that I’ll find the secret
of the story in the next bright clearing.


“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.” —Samwise Gamgee


“When you hit a wrong note, it’s the next note that you play that determines if it’s good or bad.” —Miles Davis


“At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.” —Frida Kahlo


A little story by Amrita Nadi:
At the end of a talk someone from the audience asked the Dalai Lama, “Why didn’t you fight back against the Chinese?”
The Dalai Lama looked down, swung his feet just a bit, then looked back up at us and said with a gentle smile, “Well, war is obsolete, you know.”
Then, after a few moments, his face grave, he added, “Of course the mind can rationalize fighting back. . .but the heart, the heart would never understand. Then you would be divided in yourself, the heart and the mind, and the war would be inside you.”


“There are moments when I feel like giving up or giving in, but I soon rally again and do my duty as I see it: to keep the spark of life inside me ablaze.” —Etty Hillesum, An Interrupted Life


“Always there is something worth saying
about glory, about gratitude.”
—Mary Oliver, What Do We Know


Do your little bit of good where you are;
its those little bits of good put together,
that overwhelm the world.
—Desmond Tutu


“You can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake.” —Jeannette Rankin


When we see the Beloved in each person,
it’s like walking through a garden,
watching flowers bloom all around us. —Ram Dass


“You came into this world as a radiant bundle of exuberant riddles. You slipped into this dimension as a shimmering burst of spiral hallelujahs. You blasted into this realm as a lush explosion of ecstatic gratitude. And it is your birthright to fulfill those promises.
I’m not pandering to your egotism by telling you these things. When I say, “Be yourself,” I don’t mean you should be the self that wants to win every game and use up every resource and stand alone at the end of time on top of a Mt. Everest-sized pile of pretty garbage.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the self that says “Thank you!” to the wild irises and the windy rain and the people who grow your food. I mean the rebel creator who’s longing to make the whole universe your home and sanctuary. I mean the dissident bodhisattva who’s joyfully struggling to germinate the seeds of divine love that are packed inside every moment.
When I say, “Be yourself,” I mean the spiritual freedom fighter who’s scrambling and finagling and conspiring to relieve your fellow messiahs from their suffering and shower them with rowdy blessings.” —Rob Brezsny


“The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” ―Brother David Steindl-Rast

(W)Rite of Revolution

My friend Jindu and I are going to write a poem a day for a month. I kind of petered out on the November prompt-a-day process, partly because I didn’t hook up with anyone else to keep me accountable, I think.

I am seeking my poetic edge right now. I think I have settled into a dreamy voice that feels truthful and real to me, but I also want to push myself to dance it more toward the edges, to use the knife of poetry to cut through the lies which have overtaken out communal political life. I want to do, as Toni Morrison suggests: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

I listened to the This Jungian Life podcast episode on QAnon yesterday. The analysts spoke of the mad shaman archetype, cult leaders like the Rajneesh or Jim Jones, and political cultists like Donald Trump. These mad shamans tap into and seem to control the prevailing group subconscious, so I put the political ones in my poem.

In shifting my voice a little, I lose the sense of what is incisive and rich versus what is schlocky and overdrawn. I think I really like this one, but I’m not sure whether it works or not. I am really good at taking constructive criticism, so if you have suggestions for making it better, or if you think it simply doesn’t work, I would value your thoughts.

(W)Rite of Revolution
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

It’s an insane season on the world stage
when the mad shamans have throttled reason,
caged the people’s psyche
to manipulate the narrative, to stir up
snakes’ nests of impotent and undirected rage
that has no urge for revolution.

When old men commit their treasons in broad daylight
with a populace too cowed to call it out,
and the well of civic sense is poisoned
and dissent is disallowed, then
we are ripe for revolution.

Can we write a revolution,
shake up a sleeping people
with glowing word-bombs and poetic lines of fire?
Can we rhyme our way to wakefulness?
Express defiance in the rhythms we lay down?

The ancient prophets called down fire from heaven
with poetic furor, and each stage of history
has its poets in the streets, calling out for justice,
eyes ablaze and wild hair whipped by Armageddon breeze.
The bodies of the tyrants’ victims line the empires’ alleys,
and naked truth has been outshone by sexy lies.

When all they know is violence, can we stand
within the golden pillars of our words, unweave
the strands of their intimidations with our poetry,
ignore the pomp and vain bravado of the ones
who make their final stand in halls of power,
reveal instead a vision of a just and equal future,
turn our backs on old men’s lies? Set Truth,
in all her naked glory, back in the center of our discourse?

Set the poets and the prophets loose in all the streets,
from Washington to Lagos, to Moscow, to Beijing.
From Caracas to Jerusalem, to London, to Riyadh.
Free the words on crumpled pages, creaking laptops,
throats constricted from the tyrants’ iron claws.
Create new incantations to freedom and democracy.
Unravel the curses of the mad shamans, unweave
their version of a twisted history.
Write a new page.
Stage the revolution
in the realm of dream and vision.


“We live in a world of theophanies. Holiness comes wrapped in the ordinary. There are burning bushes all around you. Every tree is full of angels. Hidden beauty is waiting in every crumb. Life wants to lead you from crumbs to angels, but this can only happen if you are willing to unwrap the ordinary by staying with it long enough to harvest its treasure.”
—Macrina Wiederkehr


“It was one of those days you sometimes get latish in the autumn when the sun beams, the birds toot, and there is a bracing tang in the air that sends the blood beetling briskly through the veins.” —P.G. Wodehouse


“You deserve a lover who takes away the lies and brings you hope, coffee, and poetry.” —Frida Kahlo


“I touch God in my song
as the hill touches the far-away sea
with its waterfall.
The butterfly counts not months but moments,
and has time enough.”
—Rabindranath Tagore


Clarissa Pinkola Estes:
“We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us and we will know them when they appear. Didn’t you say you were a believer? Didn’t you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn’t you ask for grace? Don’t you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?
“One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds beacons, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of of soul in shadowy times like these—to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.”


“Speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.” —Brooke Hampton


“Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things.
Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God.
Every creature is a word of God.
If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—
I would never have to prepare a sermon.
So full of God is every creature.”
—Meister Eckhart


Yes
It could happen any time, tornado,
earthquake, Armageddon. It could happen.
Or sunshine, love, salvation.
It could you know. That’s why we wake
and look out–no guarantees
in this life.
But some bonuses, like morning,
like right now, like noon,
like evening.
—William Stafford


“The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” ―J.R.R. Tolkien

The Vampire Poem

I’ve been a little obsessed with the vampire dream I had the other night, with the idea that I knew in the dream that I was watching the images appearing as I read a poem. I needed to have the poem. Because it has an old folk tale feeling, I kept getting caught up in archaic-sounding language. The rhythm and rhyme kind of happened naturally as I began, and even though it felt a little like a light-hearted cadence, I just plugged on. I’m sort of happy with it.

The moon was high on a cool fall night,
and my child walked home in its silver light.
Her clothes were ragged and her feet were bare
and the moon laid a crown on her raven hair.

Approaching the field called “Soldier’s Rest,”
she saw an old man in soldier’s dress.
He too was tattered, from head to toe,
and he sat on a stump, with his head bowed low.

With a deferential nod as she passed by,
my youngster caught the old man’s eye.
“Stop for a while,” he called from his seat.
“I’ve a tale for you I’ve ached to repeat.”

Long she listened in polite fascination
while the elder unspooled his bitter narration
of stabs in the back and egregious wronging,
of betrayals and rages, unrequited longing.

After his recital, she begged his kind pardon,
and turned toward home, our small cabin and garden.
As soon as I heard her open the gate,
I gathered her into my arms. It was late,

and I bolted and barred the front door for the night
as she told of her encounter with the angry old wight
and showed me through cracks in the shutters the spot
up the road in the moonlight where the elder still sat.

We’d hardly turned and were crossing the floor
than the old one materialized through the door.
I guessed in an instant his vampire constitution,
but how could he enter without invitation?

He’d twisted her natural child’s civility
into the requisite welcome for entry.
Icy fingers of fear grabbed my throat and my spine
and my child sank to the floor with an anguished cry.

Through the snail-stepping hours of that longest of nights
I tended my child as he drew out her life.
I tried every hex, incantation, and prayer
to make him release her from his vampiric stare

but all I could do was to keep her alive
with my own spirit-breath. I cannot describe
the exhaustion and horror of each minute that passed
as I waited for dawn when my power at last

could unmake him. But then at the moment I thought I was lost
the first rays of morning broke in, and crossed
the vampire’s shadow. I saw him whiten like death,
and my beloved daughter drew one long deep breath.

I built up the fire and opened the door,
and our tormentor groaned and rose from the floor,
floated upward and out, and faded like song
as we heard the first notes of the first bird of dawn.

Take care, my friends, of the boundaries you keep.
The old tales ask for kindness, but vampires will creep
through your civil demeanor with evil inventions,
so be canny and wise and make clear intentions.


Thursday’s Words:
“If the Rhine, the Yellow, the Mississippi rivers are changed to poison, so too are the rivers in the trees, in the birds, and in the humans changed to poison, almost simultaneously. There is only one river on the planet Earth and it has multiple tributaries, many of which flow through the veins of sentient creatures.”
—Thomas Berry


“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“For a Star to be born,
there is one thing that must happen;
a nebula must collapse.
So collapse.
Crumble.
This is not your Destruction.
This is your birth.” —attributed to Noor Tagouri


‪”So much of bird flight is really expert falling, slipping into that delicate space within the argument between gravity and air resistance. That natural alchemy transforms a plummet into a glide. Someday, I hope to learn to fail like birds fall.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


Gratitudes:
1. My order of Africafe came today. I opened it up and the smell took me home.
2. All these mushrooms! So many, and so many varieties!
3. So much gold, and red. So much shine when the sun slants in.
4. People who carry on and do what they know is right even when they get blocked at every turn.
5. The life of Lucille Bridges, who gave her first-grade daughter Ruby the support she needed to face hostile crowds every day on her way to school. Ms. Bridges died today at age 86.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!

Unsettled

The pholiota limonella at the center of the Wheel of the Year have gotten expansive. I have given them names, but they’re the names of some elven folx who appeared to me in a dream, and in the fairy tales it’s kind of rude to use the truenames of the fae, unless you’re trying to keep them at bay, so we’ll call them Meadow and Chief for now.

In last night’s dream:
I am reading a poem, by Whitman or Sandburg or someone like that. I see the lines on the page as the images of the dream unfold.

A small girl is walking a path home to her cabin in the full moon light. (Why are small children always out at night in these stories?!?)

As she is passing a field which was a battlefield in the Civil War, she comes upon an old man, dressed in the tattered remnants of a soldier’s uniform, sitting on a stump in the moonlight. She listens politely while he tells her his story of woe and bitterness.

After his telling, she makes her way home, where her mother bolts the cabin door behind her. She tells her mother (the narrator of the poem) about the old man, and they look out the window to see him sitting there, way in the distance, in the moonlight. As she finishes telling her mother the story, suddenly the old man is in the cabin with them.

The poem (dream) ends with the mother reflecting on how sitting in the bitterness of old battles can turn a person into a vampire.

I think it’s a dream about the danger we’re in right now, with a bitter old soldier who lost his battles, stewing in his rage. He’s always been an energy vampire, and now he’s been mostly ignored for days. He’ll be hungry. Telling his story to each other only feeds him.
In the dream, the girl did not invite him in, but he came in anyway, perhaps taking her polite listening as a tacit invitation. Let’s draw our boundaries tightly now, and refuse to let ourselves be drawn in to the old battles again, refuse to listen to his story. We’re in a new place now, a safer place than we were, but we need to be vigilant and aware in order to truly make it safe.

I think that part of what startles me about this dream is that in the fairy tales, you’re supposed to be polite, supposed to listen to the elders, supposed to offer assistance to the poor. This was so clearly not that. Her politeness was all the invitation he needed to enter her space. The time for passive politeness is past. White people, especially, have allowed such evil to blossom through passive politeness, through our lack of confidence in confronting lies and abuse.

My friend Anna reminds me to stand within my truth, leaning neither forward nor backward, to feel myself surrounded by a golden light. One of the many helpers who has appeared to me in a dream is an angelic being made of golden light, with great glowing golden wings, so I feel myself surrounded by my dream-friend’s light, like the golden glow of an autumn morning, when the mists are just rising off the fields and everything is awash with light. This standing in one’s truth, Anna reminds me, is like the essential core of nonresistant philosophy, to know what you believe, and to hold to that, not getting caught up in all the rages and distractions of those who oppose a vision of justice.

I am unsettled today. I feel like it’s time to stop celebrating and start looking around, keeping our noses to the wind, not losing our commitment to standing in the center of our own golden light of truth, but all senses alert to the dangers around us. It began with my dream, the sense that some attention paid to the tattered soldier has given him the “right” of entry. On one hand, I want to let the old ghost fade quietly away into the moonlight without giving it any more attention. On the other hand, I have a sense of impending doom settling on my shoulders this afternoon, a feeling of havoc about to be wreaked, chaos to be unleashed.

I know that is his pattern, to promise destruction and wreckage, and then watch in delight as all the worried citizenry gathers to put out the fires. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction. I think it’s time to let it go, to believe that someone is watching and ready to give warning out in the dark night, that everyone is positioned to do their very own job.

In the meantime, in the waiting, in the transition,
we give our attention to our work:
we continue to call for justice,
we keep rooting out white supremacy wherever we see it, especially in ourselves,
we dismantle the patriarchy,
we protect the vulnerable,
we care for the children,
we teach critical thinking and analysis,
we starve the vampire.


Gratitudes:
1. The golden light of autumn
2. The golden leaves of autumn
3. The golden pillar of energy that helps us to stand within our truth
4. The golden shine of the mushrooms in the Wheel of the Year mandala
5. The golden heart of you

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Beauty!

Time’s Layers

Original image by: Bria Goeller and good trubble (Black owned design shop out of California). The shadow is little Ruby Bridges from Norman Rockwell’s iconic 1963 painting “The Problem We All Live With.”

Some of the people I love are truly terrified of this moment, are feeling deep heaviness because of the apparent results of this election in the US. I don’t want to gloat, don’t want to add to their pain and worry. But I do want to celebrate. I do want to sigh with relief. And I wish I could assure you, if this is a frightening moment for you, that everything will be okay.

Can you watch Van Jones struggle to maintain composure, and then just give himself up to emotion, as he talked about the relief he feels, and not celebrate a little? Can you hear the relief of LGBTQ+ folx and not feel some relief yourself? Can you hear womxn who finally see themselves represented in the White House, BIPOC folx who see this strong womxn striding toward a seat at the table, and not be grateful for their joy?

And I look at this image of the shadow of Ruby Bridges cast by Kamala Harris, the gift and the burden of representation that Harris now carries, the fact that so many of my beloved young womxn--BIPOC especially, and white as well–will see their futures laid out before them with more possibility and clarity because of Ms. Harris. Today, I have been reading the words of some of these brilliant young womxn in my life as they express their great joy in this political moment, and celebrating with them.

I think of how Ms. Bridges has supported and continues to support young BIPOC people throughout her life, doing the thing that must be done, stepping into the moment as she did on that first day of first grade, no matter how lonely the prospects. And I also think of the layering of time, of Kamala Harris, this steady presence from the future, walking in that open space behind the young Ruby, and of all the BIPOC womxn who surround her.

And what shall the white womxn do? We middle-aged and elder ones? That crowd of rage-filled white supremacists still stands on the sidewalks, some jeering and insulting, and some quietly trying to make “peace” and look innocent. Our job, my white sisters, is–I think–to stand between the crowd and Ruby and the womxn who walk with her. To silence the crowd, to question the ones who want to make nice on the outside while holding the hatred inside. To question the haters within ourselves. To amplify and magnify the voices of Ruby and her sisters.

Tonight, I might get some Philly cheesesteaks and ice cream to celebrate the end of our “long national nightmare,” but then, I will roll up my sleeves and get to work.


Gratitudes and Prayers:
* Grateful that the person from whom I heard the first official word that this election was being called was my mother. That feels right and safe to me.
* Grateful for a womxn, a BIPOC womxn, is headed for the VP’s desk.
* Praying for the safety of the President Elect and Vice President Elect.
* Praying that we will see the work before us with clarity, and set to it with a will.
* Grateful for truth.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly. May it be done in Beauty.