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Synaesthesia

Last night, I had a bizarre synaesthesia dream in which I could see the colors and patterns of pain. My heel was throbbing, and with each pulse of pain, a different square square would appear in front of me, almost like a square of fabric, with colors and patterns. As the pain changed, the colors changed, and focusing on the images made the pain less intense.

When I woke up, my heel was actually aching. The pain that I live with is not intense or debilitating. It’s mostly just the aches and pains of aging. I go through cycles when I feel like everything is inflamed, and then long months of low-grade aches. I’m not spending a great deal of time thinking or worrying about the aches lately, so the dream is interesting, perhaps just a manifestation of the momentary sensations. But I’m really grateful for the crossing of senses that the dream offered me.


Gratitude List:

  • Shiny new semester with a clean slate.
  • Color
  • Chicken corn noodle soup for supper with crusty rolls, and Jon who made it
  • Three day week
  • Cats

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.

*****

Ursula LeGuin, in the Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness:

The artist deals with what cannot be said in words.

The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.

Words can be used thus paradoxically because they have, along with a semiotic usage, a symbolic or metaphoric usage. (They also have a sound—a fact the linguistic positivists take no interest in . A sentence or paragraph is like a chord or harmonic sequence in music: its meaning may be more clearly understood by the attentive ear, even though it is read in silence, than by the attentive intellect.) 

*****

“I think being motivated is naturally built-in to one’s vocation. When you walk a path you love, there is something deeper calling you forward on it, like a beautiful question that can never be answered. In the hard times you may turn away from it, but a part of you knows you’ll always turn back because you can’t give up on what you love, even if you try.

In the end, I think the real work is not finding inspiration, but attuning to it. So when I’m not feeling inspired, I know somewhere along the line I’ve been distancing myself from life. This feeling of being separate from ‘something greater’ is usually brought about by numbing habits; so I’ll take myself to the forest and let my senses be reawoken and warmed back to life. I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.” —Toko-pa Turner

*****

“Then one day I was walking along Tinker Creek and thinking of nothing at all and I saw the tree with the lights in it. I saw the backyard cedar where the mourning doves roost charged and transfigured, each cell buzzing with flame. . . . The flood of fire abated, but I’m still spending the power. Gradually the lights went out in the cedar, the colors died, the cells un-flamed and disappeared. I was still ringing. I had been my whole life a bell and never knew it until at that moment I was lifted and struck.” —Annie Dillard

Feeling the Feelings

I woke up at 5:30 this morning, as I tend to, but then I was able to fall right back to sleep. In the hour and a half that followed I had this dream.

In the dream, I am writing a short story:

Once there was a girl who wanted her writing to be real and alive with emotional impact. So every day before she sat down to write, she would stand at her open window and simply let herself feel. As she let the feelings wash through her, she would weep, great tears falling like rain from her window onto the plants below. Then she would turn from the window, sit down at her table, and write.

One day as she was looking from her window, she noticed that leaves and vines were growing in wild riot below her window. As her feelings began to rise and flow through her, and the tears began to fall, she noticed that where each tear fell, a small plant would begin to grow, whether it fell on brick or wood or other plants. At the point of each tear’s impact, a leaf or sprout would emerge and start to grow.

Her feelings enriched her stories, and they also greened and grew the world around her.

In the dream, I become the girl who is writing. I am trying to help my friends solve a problem, but for each thing I offer to do, they see another problem on the other side. I retreat into myself, and start to wear my hair down over my face like a veil. I stand in corners and alcoves so I can watch people without being seen.

I am burdened with the weight of emotion and pain that has no solution.


It was sort of a relief to wake up and put down the weight of feelings! But although the dream is heavy, and the ending is isolating, I am grateful for the essential message, that feelings have a green and growing reality in the world outside ourselves.

Now I am sitting at my own writing table, looking out to the snowy hill behind the house, and the red-gold glow of the sun is illuminating the trees in the woods, first the tops of the trunks further up the hill, and now the little oak at the edge of the wood is glowing, too. (And then, in a moment, the clouds must have come over the sun, and the wood has gone wintry grey.)


Gratitude List:
1. The way the morning sun sets the woods to glowing.
2. Feelings, even when they are big, especially when they are big.
3. Long sleep and dreams rich with messages.
4. Something got into my kids yesterday. Kid #2 is always re-arranging his room, but yesterday he went big and tried a wildly creative (and mostly successful) configuration. Suddenly Kid #1 was re-arranging his monster computer set-up. I think he may have stayed up most of the night, but this morning, it looks mostly tidy and organized in a way it has never been. Settling into spaces.
5. Yesterday’s crockpot stew–comfort food on a cold wintry day.
May we walk in Wisdom!


“Today I am grateful for truth, for narratives that center stories of people who have been cut from the narratives told by the powerful to skew the truth to their own agenda. I am grateful for the weavers and menders and spinners who pick up the torn and tangled threads and get to work to repair the tapestry of our story, holding the lie-mongers to account, and weaving in the threads of truth.” —Mockingbird


“A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.” —Amiri Baraka


“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” ―bell hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism


“Consider whether great changes have not happened deep inside your being in times when you were sad. The only sadnesses that are unhealthy and dangerous are those we carry around in public in order to drown them out. Like illnesses that are treated superficially, they only recede for a while and then break out more severely. Untreated they gather strength inside us and become the rejected, lost, and unlived life that we may die of. If only we could see a little farther than our knowledge reaches and a little beyond the borders of our intuition, we might perhaps bear our sorrows more trustingly than we do our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters us, something unknown. Our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, they take a step back, a stillness arises, and the new thing, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“After silence,
that which comes nearest to
expressing the inexpressible,
is music.” —Aldous Huxley


“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
—Shel Silverstein

Ghost in the Machine

“As If Someone Was Blowing on Feathers,” Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI

I’m experimenting with AI art and poetry these days. I like the surprises. I feel like I can call these things mine to some degree, because I offer the seed and the sense, but then the Ghost in the Machine plays her part and makes magic.

I began this poem with the somewhat bland first line, and then played with the line lengths, and changed a couple words:

The snow fell softly through the night
as if someone was blowing on feathers,
and the branches touched my face
in the coldest breeze I had ever felt.
I awoke with a start
and realized that it was not snow falling upon me,
but tears.

I am filled with wonder at the surprise of that last line. The Ghost in the Machine is delivering the pathos. I then put the first two lines (my own and the first of the Ghost’s) into Wombo Dream AI Art Generator, and received the illustration above.


Gratitude List:
1. A snowy day at home. Breathing Space.
2. The magic and surprise of collaborating with the Ghost in the Machine.
3. We put money down to hold a little green Prius with fewer than 30,000 miles. It’s an old model, but the lowest mileage of any car we’ve ever bought. And the instrument panel and console are almost identical to Pippi Prius, so it’s a seamless learning curve. And the gas mileage is better than Pippi’s. We’ll pick it up early next week, when we’ve got Pippi sold and the dealer fixes the green car’s headlight and hatch latch. I’m excited to drive a reliable car again. Pippi was getting iffy.
4. These cats
5. How the light shines in.
May we walk in Wisdom!


“We think we tell stories, but stories often tell us, tell us to love or hate, to see or be seen. Often, too often, stories saddle us, ride us, whip us onward, tell us what to do, and we do it without questioning. The task of learning to be free requires learning to hear them, to question them, to pause and hear silence, to name them, and then become a story-teller.” —Rebecca Solnit


“There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.”
—Zora Neale Hurston


I see her walking
on a path through a pathless forest
or a maze, a labyrinth.
As she walks, she spins
and the fine threads fall behind her
following her way,
telling
where she is going,
telling
where she has gone.
Telling the story.
The line, the thread of voice,
the sentences saying the way.
—Ursula K. Le Guin (from “The Writer On, and At, Her Work)


“I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.” —President Franklin Roosevelt


“A condition of complete simplicity costing not less than everything…” —T.S. Elliot

Epiphany: The Light Returns

Today is Epiphany, the day of the Holy Aha! The visit of the Wise Travelers to the Child of Light.

It’s the day my father-in-law died thirteen years ago, and so it has become a day when I remember his light.

And now, after last year, it’s become a day of political trauma in the US. I’ve felt a dread upon my shoulders in the past couple of days as this first anniversary of the insurrection at the capitol building approaches. Today, I will meditate on the image of Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman standing in a light-filled doorway, one man standing between the mob and the elected leaders of our country, making the courageous decision to put his own life on the line and lure the mob away from their target. There is light of deep courage that shines in the sea of ignorance and rage.

In the lore of Catholic Italy, the story goes that the wealthy magi passed through a town where an old woman, La Befana, was sweeping her house and her walks. The wise ones stopped to ask her if she knew where the Child of Light was to be found, but La Befana was too busy to answer or to bother herself. But as she heard the camels’ bells jingle as they turned the corner far away, she suddenly was filled with an aching desire to seek the Child of Light, but alas! By the time she reached the corner, they had disappeared. Since then, she flies on her broom through the skies, sweeping away the cobwebs, and puts candy into the shoes of good children on Epiphany as she seeks–all her life–for the Child of Light.

La Befana: Epiphany Witch
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

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–and I don’t
sweep and dust–
but 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 broom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitude List:
1. Democracy. The believe that all the people have a right to political agency in the right to vote.
2. The Story of La Befana and the longing for the Child of Light.
3. So many beautiful hearts in my life. So many lovely souls. Such tenderness. Such courage. Such compassion and winsomeness and good humor.”
4. The light shines in difficult places
5. The anticipation of having a new (to me) car. It might be something other than silver this time!
May we walk in Wisdom!


“Epiphany. The light floods in. The eyes open. And open again. See. See further. Aha!” —Moonbat, ‘14


“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” —William Wordsworth


“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


“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


“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” ―Joseph Heller, Catch 22

Still Standing in The Doorway

When the New Year has come and gone, and Epiphany is still to come, and the semester still has another eight days, the sense of standing in the doorway between worlds is lengthened. But now, instead of the silence and contemplation of the high holy days, there’s the hurry-scurry to prepare and complete the tasks of the previous cycle before the new one begins. I always find it difficult to make the shift. I fall deeply into the dreamtime of the Solstice season, but school is calling.

I’m grateful that we begin with a Professional Development Day. It’s like a gentle rev-up on the way to leap back in and the race to the finish.


Gratitude List:
1. I did get back to sleep for a little while after a bout of insomnia. I tried my normal trick of reciting the names of the countries of the world, and I did doze off for moments and lose my place, but never enough to get back to sleep. Still, I am feeling capable of functioning.
2. Stages of change. I don’t have to do it all at once. Step. And step.
3. My big warm green sweater. Somehow, on a first day back to work, with plummeting temperatures and very little sleep, I find a bulky sweater to be good medicine.
4. Communication. How the act of speech, and its attendant act of writing, can make the world inside me understandable to you. And vice versa.
5. Candy canes and chocolate.
May we walk in Wisdom!


“Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery. ” ―Wendell Berry


“There is liberation in not having to know everything and not having to impress everyone with that boundless knowledge … And many of us have found a renewed sense of possibility when we’ve realized how much of God’s beauty remains to be explored — and that the life of faith is also a life of holy curiosity.” —Rachel Held Evans


“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


“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

May There Be Dancing

May there be dancing in your days.
May there be smiles.
May there be feasting.

May there be softness in the eyes
of those who surround you.
May there be warmth.
May there be wisdom.

May you recall that the armor
you’ve been wearing
is not your true self,
but only a shell of protection.
May you have safety.
May you be brave.

And may you breathe Belonging
through the whole of your being
until every cell of you celebrates
your name: Beloved.


Gratitude List:
1. We did manage to carve some time and safe space with some of our beloved college friends. What a joy! Missing those who weren’t there, but feeling them present even in distance.
2. Learning from friends about the Friends (Quakers) makes me open myself to listening more attentively to the messages meant for me.
3. In the stillness is the dancing. Finding my way back to meditation and mindful breathing.
4. Learning and relearning, every year, every day, that it just takes one step. And then another. One by one. . .
5. Egg on English muffin for breakfast.
May we walk in Wisdom!


“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

A New Year Dawns

Here are two versions of the same photo, taken as the sky was beginning to show grey on this first morning of a new year. In the first, I played with filters and textures and color saturation in order to create a pensive mood. Looking at it here in this space, it feels anxious and wary and stark, especially next to the second version, which I ran through an AI Dream filter. This second one is still pensive, but cheerier, more hopeful.

While both are significantly changed from the original, both of them hold emotional truth that is deeper than the just-the-facts original. I AM going pensively into this new year. I am both rattled and happy, scratched and hopeful. The shadows are there, but they don’t scare me (not so much, anyway), and I am ready to explore them a little more deeply.

Usually I wait until Epiphany to declare my words to myself, but I am feeling settled now, ready to choose, ready to embark.

So, my word for this year is Embodiment. I have written about this idea before, the way I have always felt a deep sense of wrongness whenever religious and spiritual and self-help practices begin to talk about mind over matter, or about transcending the body, or about liberating the soul from its body trap. I understand at a base level the philosophical concept that this physical reality isn’t the Real Reality, but I don’t really accept it as a core principle. Or, as I understand it, I think I need to understand it through the physical body I live in.

I think it’s helpful to consider body, mind, and spirit, to see to all our various categories of health and wellbeing, but I always feel like the greatest health happens when I am working to integrate all the various aspects of myself rather than separating them out, dividing in order to conquer, particularly in the way the culture I live in seems to see the punishment of the body as a virtue, unless it fits some strange “idealized” vision of what a body should be.

I am soul embodied into matter. I think perhaps, yes, the soul part of me exists in a way that may transcend this physical plane. I get glimpses of that. But this collection of atoms that make up the physical part of me are no less ME than the sentient, thinking, yearning, indwelling part. And if my soul exists here in this present plane, then I believe it’s here for a purpose, to know what it feels like to touch and taste and see and hear and smell, to experience physical pain and pleasure, to be em-bodied.

Body imbued with soul, with spirit, with sentience. Soul enmattered. Mind ensouled. These different pieces of what we come to know of as Self are in this current configuration because they teach and inform each other. I think we hinder our evolution by trying to escape and transcend the magic of this intertwinement. Or, to take the positive twist, we further human evolution and our own personal destiny and purpose by becoming integrated selves, all the pieces braided together.

Two streams that I have been working with this year that relate to Embodiment are Creativity and Magick, so those are also words for my coming year. If I am categorizing the various parts of me, perhaps Creativity fits in the more mental realm, the ways in which the mind solves problems and develops new ideas. And Magick is the more spiritual, the prayerful, the awareness of deeper levels of reality, the level of the soul. So my quest for the year is how to braid my creative and spiritual selves more artfully into my physical reality.

Some implications:
* I will continue this journey to consciously stop beating up on my body for the way she looks or feels. I will offer her what she needs and tend to her aches and changes.
* I will live through this period of peri-menopause with as much consciousness and intention as possible.
* I will feed the creative and spiritual parts of mySelf as intentionally as I feed my physical Self. With care and with joy. For health and for satisfaction.

Last week, I posted a quote by bell hooks on Facebook, about how self-improvement when done as a simply inward-looking thing can become narcissistic, that we only become better in the context of community. A friend expanded this, pointing out the paradox that we cannot improve our communities unless we do our inner work. Both/And.

Perhaps that’s part of why I have this urge to keep this blog-journal public, to lay at least some of it bare so that I can place my own journey into the community context. It’s why, even while I recognize that aspects of my social media life have become addictive and need reigning in, the overall open and vulnerable quality of the community I have discovered on social media keeps me learning and growing from the inner journeys of so many circles of beloveds. We become better together.


Gratitude List:
1. Being a multi-faceted being: soul and mind and body and spirit and streams of energy braided into one Self.
2. Evolving, growing, changing, Becoming
3. Cats
4. Reflections: windows, mirrors, shadows. . .
5. Layers: in artwork, leaves, selves, reflections, clothing. . .
May we walk in Wisdom!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: The word for this last day of Kwanzaa is Imani, or Faith. Believe that your dreams have the power to create change in the world. May it be so for you and for me and for all who long for and work for justice in the coming year.


May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
—Traditional Irish Blessing


“A writer without readers is just a person alone in a room.” —Barbara Kingsolver


Someone Should Start Laughing
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!


“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“Courage, Dear Heart.” —the Albatross (Aslan) to Lucy, C. S. Lewis


“And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier.’” —Alfred Tennyson


“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” ―Joan Chittister


“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


“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
—William Blake


“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.”
―Mary Oliver

setting intentions

The Roman god Janus (January is named for him) looks backward and forward, into the past and the future.

Here we sit on the cusp, the rim, ready to tumble into a new year. Yes, time is only a construct, an abstract idea, and a moment like this, which may have once occurred on the Solstice, but is now unmoored from any cosmic significance, is purely arbitrary. Still, we give it meaning–collective meaning–and so it bears meaning. The world recognizes this as the moment; even if cultural and religious years end and begin elsewhere in the Wheel, anyone with a phone or computer will see the numbers change at midnight tonight.

Significance enough. And so, what do we do at beginnings? We review, we close up shop on the things of the past that no longer serve us, and we set goals and intentions for the coming season, something to pull us onward. For me, taking on the aspect of Janus, who looked both backward and forward, assessing past and future, enables me to live more joyfully into the present moment, with more abandon and satisfaction.

I know many people object to the setting of resolutions at this time of year. I know that resolutions can be hollow. They can be self-loathing. They can be shallow and lazy. I know. I know. But I like setting intentions. I NEED to review and reassess periodically, to look back at my life and say, “Yeah, actually, I feel pretty good about this. I want more of this. I want less of this.” I want to live less on autopilot, and more on the guiding of my intentions and intuition.

No, in all the years that I have set the intention of publishing another book, I haven’t yet completed that task. So this is the time to ask myself Why, and to check in about what keeps me from it. Is it procrastination? Laziness? Fear? Lack of self-confidence? Has it simply not been time for this project to be born?

I am happy to live my life somewhat haphazardly. It fits my nature. I’m a Leo, subject to the shifting fires of my creative ideas. I am an Enneagram Seven, enthusiastically picking up the next fun thing. A sanguine personality that flits like a butterfly between beautiful flowers. I need the freedom to pursue the passion of the moment in order to fuel my creative fires, but I can get lost (SO LOST) in the woods. So it helps to have a plan. And these moments in the turning of the Wheel, no matter how random or purposeful, offer me the chance to stop and breathe and look around before taking the next leap.

I do this with a look of deep compassion at the woman who has been holding on and swimming for survival for the past two years, and even finding some joy and hope in the midst of the angst and worry and rage. I HAVE been moving toward becoming my best self in the past two years, but I’ve been in survival mode, and I want to use the gravity of this moment to help gain momentum to move onward with intention and out of some of the ruts which I have fallen into.

So, here are some loose, but thoughtfully processed, intentions for 2022:
1. To breathe and stretch and move mindfully each day. Movement will mostly mean walking, and that will depend on how my feet feel. But I am going to keep the intention.
2. To continue shifting my morning habits to get back to more writing. (Oooh, that’s pretty loosely worded, but it’ll do to kick me out of the starting gate).
3. I’m still assessing my social media use. At this point, it’s a loose intention to be on the phone less. I’ve self-soothed a lot in recent months with daily puzzles (Sudoku and Blockdoku and a Scrabble-style Word game). Facebook and Instagram are also major self-soothers. I feel like the connections have been crucial mental health survival assistance during the pandemic, but now it is time establish new habits, to breathe into new changes.
4. To bring back writing and creative projects as my primary soothers.
5. To give myself grace, and grace, and more grace. To turn my compassionate eye toward myself with more intention.
6. To ask for help. This may be the year I actually find a therapist or life coach or spiritual director who can help me sort out some of the inner tangles.


Gratitude List:
1. Intentions
2. Purple hair. Weirdly, it has lifted my spirits.
3. The earnest goofiness of squirrels
4. A Clean Slate, A Fresh Page, Tabula Rasa
5. Creative Projects
May we walk 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

Seeking the Messages

This thing I do every year, during the high holy days between Solstice/Christmas and Epiphany, of listening for words and watching for repeated images and ideas in waking life and in dreamtime, helps me to focus on a theme for the year. In recent years, I’ve gotten pretty free with throwing everything into the mix. This exuberance has meant that I end up with such a collage of ideas and words that are somehow loosely tied together that I can’t seem to keep my focus as much throughout the year, and end up forgetting or dropping my theme by midyear.

This is not necessarily a bad thing. It serves me for a while, and then I move on to another idea. This year, in June, while I was on my silent retreat, I found three words that I have been gnawing on for the past six months: Embodiment, Creativity, Magick. As I sort through my dreams and images from the past few days, I keep returning to these words. And yesterday, one of my new Facebook friends wrote a powerful piece about how focusing on embodiment helps her through times of anxiety. That’s the sort of message I look for. This word has been flittering about inside my skull, and then someone brings it up, or I hear it across a room, or it comes in a dream. Those are the patterens I search for.

As for the dreams, I’m finding a lot of anxiety there, and weariness. Last night, I was trying to care for two children, a boy and a girl. We were assigned a room on the fifth floor of a run-down building. It was so cold we slept in cardboard boxes. I was terrified I was going to lose the children. Typical anxiety dream.

In a later dream, I was at a farming conference with a group of people. A couple of us went up near the front to try to get seats for the group. I really wanted to hear the speakers. But nothing ever really happened. People milled about, and speakers seemed to go up and get ready to speak, but then something else would happen, the speakers would switch out, and eventually a bunch of us fell asleep on a mattress at the back. When we woke up, most people had already left. The weirdest thing about that dream was that at one point I was talking to a couple of farmers we’d once worked with (in the dream, they were just generic men–not any specific people I know in waking life), and I was struck by how crusty and rough-talking these earnest and thoughtful men had become. They were both smoking cigars, but they looked like stage cigars, with a glowing bulb in the end and little bits of orange and red tulle fabric to look like glowing ash. But smoke was coming from the ends, and they were getting shorter.

I feel like my dreams reflect the anxiety of the times. How can I take care of the Beloveds in my circles, and still have enough energy left for my own inner and artistic life? How can I maintain my true self when social and community rules and conventions seem to keep shifting? How can we build and grow the new thing when rest itself has become work?

What dreams and messages are you receiving these days?


Gratitude List:
1. I’m still feeling the resonance in my chest of playing music with Val and Henry several days ago: violin, clarinet, and tenor recorder. I’ve always liked clarinet, but now I am in love with it. What a rich sound, and what a blend of instruments. I don’t know if it’s just with recorder, or whether other instrumentalists hear it, but when recorders play together, there’s often an overtone, a separate voice, that layers itself in the mix. Often it’s a clue that the instruments aren’t quite in tune with each other. But sometimes, it blends and supports the other instruments, like an angel humming along. This happened during that session. At first, I thought my father was humming a harmony along with us.
2. A misty morning.
3. Time out of time. This is healing and rejuvenating time for me.
4. This sturdy little oak up on the bluff. It’s probably thirty or more feet tall by now, but still young and skinny. I remember when it was a sapling, just my own height. Thank you, friend squirrel, for planting this beautiful guardian of the hilltop.
5. Bright red cardinal on a branch out in the mist and the grey.
May we walk in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s word is Nia, Purpose.


“The idea that the poor should have leisure has always been shocking to the rich. In the early nineteenth century, fifteen hours was the ordinary day’s work for a man; children sometimes did as much, and very commonly did twelve hours a day. When meddlesome busybodies suggested that perhaps these hours were rather long, they were told that work kept adults from drink and children from mischief.
When I was a child, shortly after urban working men had acquired the vote, certain public holidays were established by law, to the great indignation of the upper classes. I remember hearing an old Duchess say: ‘What do the poor want with holidays? They ought to work.’ People nowadays are less frank, but the sentiment persists, and is the source of much of our economic confusion.” —Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness and Other Essays (1935)


“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, whispering, ‘It will be happier. ‘” —Alfred Lord Tennyson


From An African Prayer Book
by Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Wonderful one, you live
among the sheltering rocks.
You give rain to us people.
We pray to you,
hear us, O Strong One!
When we beg you, show your mercy.
You are in the highest places
with the spirits of the great ones.
You raise the grass-covered hills
above the earth,
and you make the rivers.
Gracious one!
—Rozwi, South Africa


“We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Mercy
who was here when the land began to breathe,
when the first tribes began to roam,
and when the colonists came to settle.
We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Wisdom
who is dimly perceived in the stones,
the stories and the studies of all our peoples.
We arise today
in the Eternal Flow of Life
who seeps through land and limb and love.
Amen.”
—Ray Simpson


“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. #goodtrouble” —John Lewis tweet


“Being curious is the most important part of being a journalist. It might be the most important part of being anything.” —Lemony Snicket


“I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse, perhaps, to be locked in.” —Virginia Woolf


“And when I had asked the name of the river from the brakeman, and heard that it was called the Susquehanna, the beauty of the name seemed to be part and parcel of the beauty of the land. That was the name, as no other could be, for that shining river and desirable valley.” —Robert Louis Stevenson, 1879


The New Song
by W. S. Merwin
For some time I thought there was time
and that there would always be time
for what I had a mind to do
and what I could imagine
going back to and finding it
as I had found it the first time
but by this time I do not know
what I thought when I thought back then
there is no time yet it grows less
there is the sound of rain at night
arriving unknown in the leaves
once without before or after
then I hear the thrush waking
at daybreak singing the new song


“Know that the same spark of life that is within you, is within all of our animal friends; the desire to live is the same within all of us…” ―Rai Aren


Someone asked me what is your religion? I said, “All the paths that lead to the light.” —Anonymous

Disrespected

This was an odd night of dreams, and probably anxiety-related, about going back to school in less than a week, but my dreams were about students walking out of my class without telling me where they were going, or treating me rudely. On one hand, it’s an odd anxiety to have, because I don’t feel that anxiety too much in daily teaching anymore, but on the other hand, I do have a couple classes this semester in which I have felt a need for a more authoritarian attitude because of the squirreliness of several students in the class.

Either way, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether people are respecting me or not. Perhaps I should?


Gratitude List:
1. When you post something on Facebook about getting a hammer for the patriarchy, and your dad says, “Keep hammering!”
2. Being back home, even though the several days with family were marvelous. I am glad to be back in my own bed, and back with the catfolx.
3. Apple pie and ice cream for breakfast. Hey, it’s Time out of Time–I can do what I want!
4. We broke tradition and took down the tree before Epiphany because it was dropping a blizzard of needles, and it’s nice to have the library clean again, and my new crafting table in place below the window.
5. Fat little white-throated sparrow on the feeder.
May we walk in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Word is one of my favorite Swahili words: Ujamaa. Cooperative economics. How can we create local systems that develop economic justice for all? How can we share our finances in ways that build up the community?


“Don’t let the tamed ones tell you how to live.” —Jonny Ox


“The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it is possible.” —Gloria Steinem


Mark Twain: “I’ve been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”


Frederick Buechner:
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”


“A night finally came when I woke up sweaty and angry and afraid I’d never go back to sleep again. All those stories were rising up in my throat. Voices were echoing in my neck, laughter behind my ears, and I was terribly, terribly afraid that I was finally as crazy as my kind was supposed to be. But the desire to live was desperate in my belly, and the stories I had hidden all those years were the blood and bone of it. To get it down, to tell it again, to make something—by God, just once to be real in the world, without lies or evasions or sweet-talking nonsense. It was a rough beginning—my own shout of life against death, of shape and substance against silence and confusion. It was most of all my deepest, abiding desire to live fleshed and strengthened on the page, a way to tell the truth as a kind of magic not cheapened or distorted by a need to please any damn body at all. Without it, I cannot imagine my own life. Without it, I have no way to tell you who I am.” —Dorothy Allison, from “Deciding to Live”


Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov:
“Love all of God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand of it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”


“A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.” Jeremiah 31:15


XXIX
Traveler, there is no path.
The path is made by walking.
Traveller, the path is your tracks
And nothing more.
Traveller, there is no path
The path is made by walking.
By walking you make a path
And turning, you look back
At a way you will never tread again
Traveller, there is no road
Only wakes in the sea.
― Antonio Machado, Border of a Dream: Selected Poems