Poetry Prompt for Day Three of National Poetry Month–
Rhyme Play! Why do we assume that the rhyme has to happen at the ends of lines? Write a poem (maybe four lines, or eight, or twelve) in which the first words of the lines rhyme, instead of the last. Or make the middle word in each line rhyme. Make ALL the words rhyme? Make the first word of each line rhyme with the last word of the previous line—essentially, you’re sticking your two rhyming words together, separated only by the line break. Give yourself an extra challenge and make the first word and last word of the poem rhyme, and you’ll make it a complete circle.
What does that do to the poem when you switch up the rhyme? How does it affect the tone and the energy and the way the line moves from beginning to end?
Here’s an attempt at the last one: When I think of how you’ve loved me, see the thread of your tender care, there in my self-absorbed cocoon, crooning myself a lullaby, I wish I had a poem to give you to tell you how you’ve saved my heart again.
Gratitude List: 1. The fine distinctions of flavor, and the joy of concentrating on scent and flavor 2. Brown creeper sidling up the little oak 3. Delicious supper last night: Thank you, Val! I can now distinguish mocha 4. Succulents. I repotted some of my classroom succulents yesterday. I think they grew happily because I was gone for so long and didn’t overwater them 5. Spring birdsong
May we walk in Beauty!
“Sound or vibration is the most powerful force in the universe. Music is a divine art, to be used not only for pleasure but as a path to Awakening.” —Yogananda
“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul.” —Hermes Trismegistus
“The greatest danger to our future is apathy.” —Jane Goodall
“Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone’s face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.” —Henri Nouwen
“In the end, we’ll all become stories.” —Margaret Atwood
“Privilege is when you think something’s not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” —attributed to many authors
“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” —Shirley Chisholm
(NPM=National Poetry Month) Write an Acrostic Poem Choose a word—your name, your favorite word, your password (just kidding!), the name of your town, April—and begin each line of your poem with the letters of the word.
For example: Please understand: Once upon a time, Everything hurt My feelings.
Write one word per line, or make long and rambling prosy lines. Make it rhyme or eschew rhyme. Acrostics can be addictive. You probably can’t stop with just one.
This one’s more prosey, perhaps, than poetic, but it’s part of my ongoing chronicle:
Obviously, you can Live without this one, Fairly easily. When they Ask, “Which sense Could you not bear To lose?” no one speaks Of smell. But every day, I Rest my face in roses, hoping. Yes, today, the tiniest whiff.
Gratitude List: 1. Succulents. It’s not true that you can’t kill them–I have–but they make such pleasant companions 2. The red leaf-buds on the trees against that blue true dream of sky (eec) 3. My sense of smell is beginning–slowly–to return 4. For all its flaws, The Lord of the Rings. We watched The Fellowship again last night, and it is such a marvelous story to drop into. 5. A long weekend. I’ll say it again: A long weekend!
May we walk in Beauty!
“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.” —Alain de Botton
“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.” —Joanna Macy
“We should have respect for animals because it makes better human beings of us all.” —Jane Goodall
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you love. It will not lead you astray.” —Rumi
“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.” —Harriet Tubman
“The little grassroots people can change this world.” —Wangari Maathai
“Some form of the prayer of quiet is necessary to touch me at the unconscious level, the level where deep and lasting transformation occurs. From my place of prayer, I am able to understand more clearly what is mine to do and have the courage to do it. Unitive consciousness—the awareness that we are all one in Love—lays a solid foundation for social critique and acts of justice.” —Richard Rohr
“You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” —Anonymous
The Fool, of course! Today is about shapeshifting, foolery, jesting.
Write a three-line poem (call it haiku, if you need to) that seems like one thing in the first two lines, but shifts to something else in the third line. Bring in a surprise.
Maybe March goes out like a lamb, and the third line brings the lion roaring in. Maybe you step in the door of the first lines only to step out the door in the third. Maybe you show your masked self in the first two lines and take off the mask (metaphorically, of course) in the third.
You don’t have to go for a big surprise. It can be a dawning, a quiet wave of change, a whisper, the unfurling of a leaf in the wasteland.
Here’s one I wrote a couple weeks ago:
feathers by the trail cardinal takes flight in the belly of the hawk
Gratitude List: 1. Blue carpet of Speedwell 2. Purple carpet of Deadnettle 3. Green carpets of Chickweed and other spring friends 4. Feeling better every day 5. A long weekend to recover in
May we walk in Beauty!
“The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.” —Julian of Norwich
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” —Carl Jung
“The historical Jesus probably looked like an average Syrian refugee. You know…the ones we turn away.” —Rebecca James Hecking
“Poems are maps to the place where you already are.” —Jane Hirshfield
“Be still, and the world is bound to turn herself inside out to entertain you. Everywhere you look, joyful noise is clanging to drown out quiet desperation. The choice is to draw the blinds and shut it all out, or believe.” —Barbara Kingsolver, High Tide in Tucson
“When you do not know you need mercy and forgiveness yourself, you invariably become stingy in sharing it with others. So make sure you are always waiting with hands widely cupped under the waterfall of mercy.” —Richard Rohr
“All four gospels insist that when all the other disciples are fleeing, Mary Magdalene does not run. She stands firm. She does not betray or lie about her commitment to Jesus—she witnesses. Hers is clearly a demonstration of either the deepest human love or the highest spiritual understanding of what Jesus was teaching—perhaps both. But why—one wonders–do Holy Week liturgies tell and re-tell the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus, while the steady and unwavering witness of Magdalene is passed over—not even noticed? How would our understanding of the paschal story change if instead of reflecting upon Jesus dying alone and rejected if we were to reinforce the fact that one person stood by him and did not leave? For this story of Mary Magdalene is as firmly stated in scripture as the denial story. How would this change the emotional timbre of the day? How would it affect our feeling of ourselves? How would it reflect upon how we have viewed, and still view, women in the church? About the nature of redemptive love?” —Cynthia Bourgeault, Episcopal Priest
“When I feel this fog rolling in on me, I light fires of affection in the hearts of others. I tell them in tangible ways how the life they live makes me live mine differently, how precious and important they are to the rest of us. That fire then becomes like a beacon which burns through the grey and which I can sail towards.” –Toko-pa Turner
It’s good to leave each day behind, like flowing water, free of sadness. Yesterday is gone and its tale told. Today new seeds are growing. —Rumi
Well, I’m back to life and living. I think. It’s been a challenging ten days. I would feel fine for a short while, and then I would just crash, my energy ebbing, leaving me stranded, stuck. Hmm. Sort of like a certain ship the world’s been watching for the past week. I’d lie there, thinking about how lazy I was, not getting anything done, not grading, just scrolling through Facebook and re-watching The Great British Baking Show. But my brain was foggy, too, and energy to think and process was also at a minimum.
I did manage some knitting and some mending while I was stuck in the Covid Canal, things that took only quiet movements, and little thought. That helped me to feel like I wasn’t completely out of commission. Isolation was hard, and I was feeling depressed and weepy by the last day. I had the erroneous idea that somehow walking out of isolation would mean I was suddenly well, as if it was the bedroom itself which was stealing my vim. Sunday was a hard hit with reality, realizing that getting out of isolation and getting well are two different things.
My doctor says I am one of those mysterious cases in which fatigue and exhaustion linger. No one knows quite why, but they do say that it tends to abate in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I am going to school, keeping the teaching parts light, getting them writing and researching and reading. I’m back to school today with a really light schedule, trying to conserve energy, to rest as I am able. It does me good to see my students again. They’ve managed extremely well without me, of course.
My doctor says I’ll need to sort of recondition my body to maintain energy for longer periods, to listen to it when it says REST. I’ll also need to recondition my breathing and sense of smell, she says, to train my lungs to remember that they can take in enough air for a full breath, to train my olfactory sense to pick up various scents and aromas again.
I tried to go back into the world with the double mask again, but I am so short of breath that I am just wearing one surgical mask for now, and breathing is definitely easier than with two. I suppose I really don’t need to double mask since I have both vaccine and active antibodies. I’ve been doing it because I am an example to my students, and I want them to see it as normal.
Gratitude List: 1. Cat love 2. Being back at school. Monitoring my flagging energy, but energized by my students. 3. So much care from my circles of Beloveds. 4. Spring. The riot of trees breaking into bloom. Forsythia setting fire to everything. 5. Some hints of smell returning.
May we walk in Beauty!
“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. . .the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” —Charles de Lint
“My invitation to each of you—student, faculty, community member—is to find a story of someone who has made a change, small or large, whether the consequence was their life or their comfort, and I want you to share that story with at least one other person, something that inspires you to step beyond the boundaries of your courage into a new world beyond the measure you ever thought you could make.” —Kevin Ressler, in 2017 memorial for M. J. Sharp
“What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss.” ―Miguel Ruiz
“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” ―Alice Hoffman
“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” —Jonathan Safran Foer
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES by Mary Oliver from Thirst (Beacon Press) When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness, I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”
(Oooh. It’s been over a month since I have posted. This business of trying to juggle all the balls means something tends to get set upon the back burner. Sorry, dear blog-space–you got the back burner this time.)
Irony, according to Mx. Google: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
Example: When Covid cases in your area have been going down, but you’ve continued to double mask, to keep your distance, to wash hands, and also, you just got your J&J one-shot special anti-Covid vaccine, and five days later, feeling a distinct malaise, you go get a rapid antigen test at your local urgent care, and come home with instructions to isolate yourself from your family and the world for ten days because you have contracted Covid. Somehow.
I have contracted a case of Covid, along with a distinct case of Irony.
Things could be so much worse. Really. It’s a pain to be out of commission in the final week of a quarter, but also, I can write my lesson plans for my most excellent substitute, and then catch up on the overdue grading that was weighing me down.
I’m not afraid I’m going to die. There’s that really weird thing I’ve read about the vaccines: that they don’t entirely eliminate your chance of getting sick, but they 100% reduce your chance of dying.
Three days in, and an acetaminophen for the headache, and I am feeling pretty good. I’ve got grading to do, and a huge pile of mending, books to read, a blog post to write, and poetry floating through my brain. The birds are singing their springtime arias outside (it IS spring today!), and the sun is flooding in my window.
The cats keep knocking at the door to be let in. And then let out again. And then let in again. The CDC papers they gave me at Urgent Care say pets pose minimal risk of spread, so we’re going with that. It would be impossible to keep them out.
I’m allowed to go outside and walk around and take springtime pictures, as much as my energy allows, and if I stay away from people. I mask up when I go out, even though we live in the country.
I miss my family, even though they’re here in the house. So much of our togetherness is just togetherness, not necessarily talking, so yelling “How’s everybody doing?!?!” through my closed door doesn’t quite cut it. Still, I can hear them out there, creaking floorboards, talking to their friends on the Discord server, and Jon brings me food and coffee.
Once upon a time there was a woman named Rapunzel. Her hair, unlike that of the fairy tale princess, was short and grey. She lived, for a time, in a tower in a little wooded hollow surrounded by rolling hills. Although witches get a bad rap in all the stories, and most of them really aren’t as evil as they seem (in fact, many of them are wise women), there is an evil witch in this story, named Covid. Every day three princes would bring Rapunzel food and coffee. Cats would come and go as they pleased.
I think Rapunzel will live happily ever after.
Also, and most importantly: A Joyful Spring to you! Blessed Ostara! The shining wheel of the year turns, and we stand poised, balanced, equal day and equal night. Breathe in the balance, the sun, the birdsong. Breather out hope, compassion, dedication to making the world a better place.
A poem from 2006, to celebrate the turning of the year-wheel into Spring.
The way maple swings its wings spiraling down shafts of dawn wind, The way chickadee whistles on bitter March mornings, The way lichen spreads grey-green lace upon the patient rocks, The way the egg falls from jay’s beak to lie silent, cold, and whole upon the moss, The way the wren defends her nest, The way rabbit hints at her home and scratches the packed earth, The way squirrel scolds her wayward cousin’s child. The way heron stands more still than thought, The way the pond reflects the orange air at sunset, The way snake stalks the field mouse through gathering dusk, The way the fields are washed in the milk of the moon, The way dark midnight covers the farm like a blanket.
Also this, from 2014: “We come to that place, one of the quarter points we notice in Terra’s dance with Sol. Equinox. My head today is full of these complicated E-words: Equinox, Equator, Equilibrium, in-Evitable. At these equal points of spring and fall, we are ever so much slightly closer to our star than we are on the outward fling of the Solstices. Do-si-do, Sun. Swing your partner. Welcome, Spring, oh welcome, Spring.” (I’m not sure that bit about being closer to the sun at Equinox is quite accurate.)
And, from 2018: Today, snow or no snow, our planet whirls into another season. Here in the western hemisphere, in the northern temperate climates, the early flowers have been up and blooming, calling to the bees. I have yet to see the early foragers this year, and it makes me anxious.
Someone must awaken the bees! The crocus have opened their golden throats. The windflowers have blown awake out on the lawn. Where are the Queen’s daughters? Where are the melissas? Someone awaken the bees!
On this first day of Ostara, the ancient holiday to celebrate the awakening spring, on the day when night and day are equal in duration, I like to ask myself questions to awaken my spirit:
What are the instincts and drives within me that must awaken, like the bees, to get my work done, to find the food I need to carry me through the season? What new things are stirring within? What is awakening? What is hatching? How do the forces of balance and imbalance work in my life? What can I do to bring more elegant balance into my daily rhythms? In what ways can I disrupt the balances which keep me caught in a rut? This year, I keep coming back to the question of what calls me awake? When I fear that the bees will not awaken, I think about the sleepy spirit within me that likes to settle into sameness. It takes some effort to wake up, and then to wake up again, and to keep waking up, shedding the outer layers, like an opening flower.
Today, I will watch for the bees. Today, I will keep my eyes open for the People of Feathers, who wing their way across the sky. Today, I will feel the breezes on my face. Today, I will keep listening for the voices of the bees, and for the voices of the young people.
Blessed Ostara to you! Happy Equinox! A Joyful spring. Walk in Beauty.
I failed 7th Grade Home Economics. I would like to say that it is because I was protesting. I was angry, after all, that in 7th grade, we were divided into two classes: girls to Home Ec, and boys to Mechanical Drawing. Really. It was assumed that girls needed this class in the “womanly” arts, and boys needed the heady realm of architecture and design. Sabotaging one’s own grade, however, in order to make a protest, is rather ineffective, not to mention that it never entered my mind. Perhaps it’s because I hated Home Ec so much? No, actually, I loved the crafts and the cooking then as much as I do now. Nor did I dislike the teacher. She was a gem, kind enough and firm enough. I failed Home Ec because I didn’t turn in my assignments. I procrastinated on the paperwork for the meals I prepared at home. I did most of the projects, but never followed through to hand in the necessary paperwork.
Here I am, forty-five years later, trying to function as an adult, and still stuck in the procrastination rut, still avoiding the paperwork, resenting the details that take me out of my butterfly brain. The little thing becomes a big thing, and the big thing gets spun together with strands of shame to become a BIG thing, and I just can’t even begin.
Is it an executive function issue? Belligerence? Depression? A poor self-concept? Laziness? Being in the wrong job for my temperament? Simply being human? The thing is, I never feel like I am out of the norm, or that I have a problem, until I’m out of it and back into functioning at a more-than-mere-survival rate. Then I look back and realize that I was in a bad space. I’ve not been diagnosed with depression or an executive functioning disorder. I tend to name it laziness more than anything, which is a bad tape to play on repeat.
I wonder if I need a therapist. Or a life coach? Or a spiritual advisor? When I’m so overwhelmed by The Big Thing, the thought of adding an appointment to my schedule and expense to our tight budget feels like an Impossible Thing. But here I am now, on the other side of the most recent Impossible Task, and it’s a roof-don’t-leak-when-the-rain-don’t-come moment. And so I dither and pass it off. As difficult as it is, I feel like I need to keep telling myself the story of how bad it was so I don’t settle in to another new normal without getting myself the help that I need to keep from getting into that sort of hole again.
This past week, I did a little art therapy to keep me processing and pushing toward making a change, toward getting help. I recently opened a box in the attic and discovered the little embroidery project that I finished in that 7th grade Home Ec class, probably the only assignment I handed in for the class. A mouse had discovered it before me, and had eaten through the musical notes that Snoopy is playing. Had it been whole, I might have thrown it out, jettisoning things that no longer serve me. But something in me said, “Mend it!” And so I did, weaving embroidery thread through the mouse-chewed hole, and re-embroidering Snoopy’s pawprint eighth notes. It’s not perfect, and neither am I. The mend is visible, as are my own torn and shredded pieces, and mended pieces.
As I wove and mended, I wondered whether that was when it began, when I started playing the tapes in my head that I am inadequate to the task, that I am too flaky, too inattentive, too lazy to follow through? Perhaps.
Snoopy needed a little help to be restored, and now I will stitch the piece onto a bag or a blanket or a pillow. Or I will fold it carefully and keep it in a drawer, to draw it out when I need to remind myself that I, too, need help to get through a rough patch, to shift my process so that I can keep from falling into holes I create.
Gratitudes: 1. This morning’s sunrise: A dragon opening a heavy cloud-indigo eyelid over a tangerine iris, shooting burning rays upward, a sundog to the southeast. 2. Mending 3. Making plans, making progress 4. Seeking help 5. Such wise and merry people in my life
May we walk in Beauty!
“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” —Brené Brown
“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” —Georgia O’Keeffe
“Nothing good comes of forgetting; remember, so that my past doesn’t become your future…” —Elie Wiesel
“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” —Mitch McConnell, February 7, 2017
“They can shut me up, but they can’t change the truth.” —Elizabeth Warren, February 7, 2017
“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” —Harriet Beecher Stowe
“You have to impose, in fact—this may sound very strange—you have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.” —James Baldwin
“There’s still a lot worth fighting for.” —Dr.Jane Goodall
“You’ve heard it said there’s a window that opens from one mind to another, but if there’s no wall, there’s no need for fitting the window, or a latch.” —Rumi
“Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Whether through prayer, ritual, poetry, or song, gratitude solidifies our relationship with the living mystery. It rejoins us to the intangible wholeness from which we feel disconnected. As we remember ourselves to the holy in nature, we are forging our own belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner
“Stories surround us like air; we breathe them in, we breathe them out. The art of being fully conscious in personal life means seeing the stories and becoming their teller, rather than letting them be the unseen forces that tell you what to do. Being a public storyteller requires the same skills with larger consequences and responsibilities, because your story becomes part of that water, undermining or reinforcing the existing stories. Your job is to report on the story on the surface, the contained story, the one that happened yesterday. It’s also to see and sometimes to break open or break apart the ambient stories, the stories that are already written, and to understand the relationship between the two.” —Rebecca Solnit
“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. . . . “We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom.” —Ursula K. Le Guin
Happy Groundhog’s Day, Bright Ones! For today, I offer a collage of writings from past Imbolc days:
What do you bring up into the light today? What has been developing within you during your Winter Sleep? What does the dawning light tell you about your shadows? How does the coming sun define the shape of you? Groundhog’s Day is a modern version of the ancient celebration of the Goddess Brigid, who became syncretized with the Catholic Saint Brigid, whose feast day is February 1 or 2, depending on whom you ask. Brigid asks: What path will you commit yourself to in the coming season?
SONG FOR POETS: A POEM FOR BRIGHID’S DAY by Beth Weaver-Kreider, Feb 2013
(Today we look for that jolly rodent, and also we commemorate Brighid, triple goddess and patroness of Ireland, Saint of Kildare. Smithcraft, poetry, and healing arts are her realms.)
Sacred wells, undying flame.
We forge our words on your anvil, listening for the sweet ping of hammer on metal, watching the sparks fly outward, shaping and crafting.
We seek them like wild herbs found only on the side of a mountain for a short season each year.
We search under bracken, through briar and thorn, stepping through bogs, listening for the birdsong that tells us we have arrived at the proper place.
We give ourselves to words, not waiting for inspiration, but chasing it like skuthers of fog over the misty hills. Seeking the solace and healing that words offer, and turning our minds to do that healing work. Crafting our words into tools and enticements.
A year and a day the old ones would pledge to your service. So may it be. One year of poetry, making it, reading it.
Oh Lady, give us poetry.
Questions to Contemplate in the Season of Brigid: This is the season of sunlight and shadow: What is the shape of my shadow? How does it hamper me? How does it hold me? How does it tell me the shape of my soul?
Brigid is the Smith, she who works the forges: What within me is being tempered this season? What is being shaped and shifted? What sacred patterns are being traced along my edges? What useful tool am I being forged to become?
Brigid is the Healer. The waters of her well bring wholeness. What spaces within me need the touch of her waters? What dis-ease drains my vitality? How can I offer the waters of healing to others?
Brigid is Patroness of Poets. How do words shape my reality, like iron is shaped in the forge? How do my words bring healing, like water from the well? How can I speak poetry into the cold and the shadows of the season which is upon us? Can I offer my daily words with the care and the artfulness of the poet?
Gratitudes: 1. My neighbor and his snow blower. We got some good exercise shoveling about a third of the driveway, for about an hour. Then Ron brought his snow blower over and finished up the rest in five minutes. 2. We might be covered in a foot of snow, but the birds are singing spring songs. 3. Breathing out. Starting afresh. My new semester is feeling like a field of unbroken snow, waiting for us to cover it with our little birdy tracks. 4. Two snow days right when I need them. 5. Professional development. I learned a new thing–sort of by accident–about how to design Google Slides this morning. And I’ve listened to Sonya Renee Taylor talking about Accountability vs. Cancel Culture. Take a deep, deep breath. Yes, Call people out, when the situation warrants. Call people in when you can. But, she says, let’s call on each other. Don’t be “bound to the binary” of calling out or calling in. “Your amygdala is your business.”
Walk in Beauty, Beloveds!
“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” —Albert Einstein
“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” —Cornel West
“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox. “T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled. “The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.” —Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”
“Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.” —Borges
“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” —Neil Gaiman
You know how a little task, left to smolder, grows and builds until it’s a raging, impossible fire? I let that happen this past semester with some of the grading that needed to get done. It just got out of hand. I can make all the excuses: the distraction of election and insurrection, winter depression, the frustration of trying to work with assignment submissions online and students who simply cannot seem to figure out how to submit so they email you or leave the documents in their shared folder. Still, it was me not getting it done.
My friend Gloria says she’s read that incorrigible procrastination (my adjective) is related to low self esteem. I think I must have work to do there, and of course that feeds into the sense of depression and the further procrastination.
Last night, at about three, I finally put the first semester to rest. It’s a relief, but the chronic nature of my procrastination has now created a lingering sense of inadequacy that dogs me, makes it hard to celebrate joyfully.
But here is a breathing space: Today is Brigid’s Day. Brigid was a goddess of the British Isles, who became conflated with Saint Brigid. Notice her in whatever guise she calls to you–she is the Teacher I need for this moment. She calls for commitment to your purpose, calls for responsibility and accountability. Not a heavy and forced and angry accountability, but a joyful and purposeful walk into your destiny.
Like our friend the groundhog takes stock of shadows and light, of what will be needful for the next six weeks as we walk out of winter and into spring, today (this season) is for taking stock, for considering what inner and mental health resources we may have on hand, what we will need to search out in the coming weeks, in order to make it through.
So, on the night when so many of my friends were tending their hearthfires in honor of Brigid, and meditating on her healing and inspiration, on how she stirs the Earth and Her creatures to waken, I was finishing a task, slipping in just under the wire to be accountable to my work, celebrating this seasonal shift toward awakening with my own wakeful process, my commitment to my task, late and haphazard as it felt.
The wakefulness of this moment, when the Earth begins to stir beneath her blanket of snow, requires acknowledgement and tallying of the past, and striving and moving into the future. Commitment to make a change. I have been telling myself at the beginning of every semester that I will be on top of things THIS time. And still, I fall and I fail. Perhaps I need to get some help in this coming season. Our school, in conjunction with a local mental health organization, offers at least one free session with a trained counselor in a year. Perhaps my commitment on this Brigid’s day should be different than my usual bombastic “I can do this myself!” Perhaps it should be to seek help, find resources that will support me to meet my goals.
Gratitudes: 1. Resolve 2. Awakening 3. Wisdom of the Grandmothers 4. Snow Day 5. This cat Sachs, who is trying to rest in the circle of my arms as I type. He keeps putting his paw on my hand. He is purring. He likes snow days as much as I do.
May we walk in wisdom and Beauty!
Song for Brigid’s Day by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Do you feel how the world comes alive? How even underneath its coat of snow, inside the bright crystals of the ice, something in the Earth is stirring?
Within your own eyes I see it rising– in this breath, and now this one– the Dreamer is awakening.
The dawn has come, spreading its golden road before you, asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”
As you move out onto the road, Brigid’s sun upon your face will trace your outline full behind you, defining you in the Shadow which will be your soul’s companion into spring.
“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” —Terry Tempest Williams
We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time. And it is an adaptive response.” —Joanna Macy
“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolf
“Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” —St. Teresa of Avila
“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear. I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” ―Lauren Oliver, Delirium
“You can never leave footprints that last when you are walking on tiptoes.” ―Leymah Gbowee
This is the dawn of a new semester. Here on the second day of our new classes, I am trying to get a baseline writing sample from all my students, and trying to make sure that everyone knows how to submit their assignments electronically from the get-go. I’m playing Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem today as the poem of the day, and then asking them to write about what they want America (or their own country) to be.
Here are some of my reflections from yesterday: The relief was almost as hard to breathe through as the grief has been. I felt like I do when I get off the bike and don’t walk it off–light-headed and wobbly. Even though I was extra careful with my daily grounding and breathing, it was hard to keep that energy anchored. It’s been a heavy task to carry the weight of constant destruction in these past four years, and laying down the better part of that burden was a shock to the system, especially as the anxiety of further domestic terrorism still hung over the day. Are we safe now? I kept asking myself. Maybe now? Maybe we can say we’re safe now?
We have made it from there to here. Now it is time to take ourselves from here to the next where. We are safe, but not rebuilt. I celebrate with great joy all the successes of yesterday, all the diversity of cabinet members, all the voices being called in and called on and amplified. Now we hold the leaders to the vision they offered us, and to the dream of a just and equal society, of justicia para todos.
It would have been nice to have had some indigenous representation in the ceremony, some Muslim voices. I admit that I cringed at the overtly Christian tone it set. Our new president is Catholic, and so I think it is perfectly apt and acceptable to have priests and ministers give Christian blessing to the ceremony, but I did come away with a sense that there was an assumption of Christianity. I think someone even used the words “people of faith” as though it belonged to us all. This does not destroy the beauty of so much of the ceremony, even in the prayers and speeches–but it mars it a little for me, makes me wince. I want our leaders to commit to separation of church and state, a separation that can bless the religious perspectives of a Catholic president, as well as the Muslims and Buddhists and pagans and atheists and seekers among us all.
Yesterday, after four years of a constant barrage of vicious and violent and belittling rhetoric, a young Black woman taught us how to speak to each other again. Kindly and firmly, honest about the brokenness we have walked through. She showed us how the language of poetry can craft a vision of a desired world in ways that rhetorical speeches cannot. The wildly joyful response to her words show how starved we have been for poetry, how we have longed for the uniquely disruptive vision of the Poet. I kept wanting to tell people, “I loved Amanda Gorman before Amanda Gorman was cool,” but that would have been a buzz kill–I remember how entranced I was the first time I heard her voice. “Tyrants,” she said, in the poem she spoke at her own inauguration as National Youth Poet Laureate, “fear the poet.” Yup. There has been no poetry in this past administration.
The mockingjay is not necessarily a call for violent revolution, ya’ll. As I understand the books, the mockingjay was about the networks of people committed to changing an oppressive system that privileged the wealthy, about resisting an authoritarian regime that brutalized children and families in order to control the population (sound like a familiar border-control plan?), that centered the vicious and horrific as entertainment. I don’t know if Lady Gaga and her stylists intended the association between her peace dove and The Hunger Games mockingjay, but I hope they did. It was brilliant. To me, it means that the people are still holding the powers that be accountable, no matter who holds the titles. As it should be in a democracy.
I do not pledge my allegiance to any flag or nation. I belong to the world, and pledge my allegiance to the planet and her peoples and her plant and animal life, to her networks of energy. I do like the liberty and justice for all part of our pledge, however. I do hope we can start living up to that. Especially the ALL part. Yesterday was the first time I ever got teary-eyed during the pledge. A Black woman, signing the pledge. White gloves. Eloquent hands. Her strong, clear voice. Her distinct signs that made even non-ASL speakers understand the meanings. (And then later, Amanda Gorman’s eloquent hands that seemed to be speaking along with her voice. Eloquent hands.)
Speaking of hands, I am a fan of Bernie’s Mittens, made for him by an elementary schoolteacher, by recycling wool sweaters, using fleece made of recycled plastic bottles for the lining. I hope he understands that the meme-making of the image of him sitting there in his mittens is more about how he also represents something about us rather than making fun of him. I, too, am sitting in the cold in my mittens, legs and arms crossed, watching to see what we will make of our chances. Dear practical Senator Sanders, how we need your vision to help guide us now. Be as curmudgeonly as you need to be. (And also, I think I might start swearing by Bernie’s Mittens. Seems like an emblem of power somehow. Eloquent mittens.)
I don’t really like our warlike national anthem. Never have. I prefer to think of “America The Beautiful” as our anthem. Why isn’t it? And I loved the sweetness of J-Lo’s rendition of that one, and the gorgeous intensity of her breaking in with the Spanish version of the pledge. My Spanish isn’t good, but I understood what she was saying by the time she got to “justicia para todos.” Yes, please!
Despite my dislike of the anthem, I found myself moved again, at the moment that Lady Gaga turned and gestured (eloquent hands again) to the flag, as she sang that it was still there, and suddenly it wasn’t just about war but about the fact that we had just weathered an insurrection, and no longer just the flag, but Democracy, was still there. Suddenly it all stood for so much more than war and colonialism and imperialism, but for the basic principles of democracy that we keep trying to get right, that were under attack just two weeks before in that exact same spot. I still don’t like the anthem, but Lady Gaga transformed it momentarily for me yesterday.
Keep singing, Mockingjay. We’re listening. We’re gathering. We’re working as hard as we can to make justicia para todos a reality. We’re ready to be that light you spoke of, Sweet Fierce Poet.
May we be worthy of our dreams.
Gratitudes: 1. Safety 2. Rest 3. Poets 4. Breath 5. Tabula Rasa
May we create justicia para todos.
“For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us This is the era of just redemption We feared at its inception We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour but within it we found the power to author a new chapter To offer hope and laughter to ourselves.” –Amanda Gorman, excerpt from The Hill We Climb
THE LUTE WILL BEG by Hafiz
You need to become a pen In the Sun´s hand. We need for the earth to sing Through our pores and eyes. The body will again become restless Until your soul paints all its beauty Upon the sky. Don´t tell me, dear ones, That what Hafiz says is not true, For when the heart tastes its glorious destiny And you awake to our constant need for your love God´s lute will beg For your hands.
“Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain. And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy; And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields. And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” —From “On Pain” by Khalil Gibran
In last night’s dream, I am talking with a friend who has become a successful writer and artist. She is making a living doing what she loves to do. I ask her to tell me how she got from point A to point B, and she tells me it was the book. She just published the book, and that was it. Suddenly she could afford to do what she wanted. I start to explain how hard it is for me to figure out how to get published, how I can’t figure out the process, how I can’t seem to pull the right stuff together. . . Then I stop. I say, “You know what. Anything I say right now is going to sound like I’m whining.”
And I was whining. I was so jealous, so eaten with envy.
But maybe I need to just stop telling myself I am being a whiner. Maybe I need to find a coach or mentor who can help me think through the ways that I block myself. I get started on a project, or I work with great intention on a project, but then the work of my paying job intrudes, or another shiny project comes along, or I get depressed and weary. Perhaps jealousy of my dream-friend can spur me to focus.
Gratitude: 1. My bicycle is a red Mt. Fury Roadmaster that my friend Vince fixed up and sold to me a few years ago. I call her Lady Fury. Last fall, our neighbors gave us their Saris trainer, and I was really excited about riding Lady Fury through the winter. Trying to switch to the Saris quick release skewer on the rear tire, I got myself into a fix, so I took her down to Cycle Works in Wrightsville. They didn’t shame me for having messed up my rear axle, and very professionally took care of it. Now I have Lady Fury all set up on the trainer and I can ride my bike through winter. I am so excited. 2. Watching Barb’s horses running in the field on the hill. She took one of them out on a trail ride the other day, and the one who stayed behind whinnied the whole time the other was gone. She said the one she was riding did the same. They do not like to be separate from each other. 3. Zoom church. What a delight to see people’s faces in real time. After the insurrection, I have been feeling the need to be with this community of faith-based, justice-oriented beloveds. 4. Oatcakes. Oat scones. Quick and easy baking. 5. Mockingbird has been coming to the feeders lately. I am such a fan of Mockingbird.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly together. In Beauty may we walk.
“Things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” —Pema Chödrön
“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.)” —Ursula LeGuin
“A common woman is as common as a common loaf of bread, and will rise.” —Judy Grahn
“The plan, a memory of the future, tries on reality to see if it fits.” —Laurence Gonzalez
“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.” —Toko-pa Turner
“A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.” ―Lisa Kleypas, A Wallflower Christmas
“Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to. Don’t try to see through the distances. That’s not for human beings. Move within, but don’t move the way fear Makes you move.” —by Rumi (Barks)
“I think pleasure is really the gateway to feeling connected and inspired.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Courage is an inner resolution to go forward despite obstacles. Cowardice is submissive surrender to circumstances. Courage breeds creativity; Cowardice represses fear and is mastered by it. Cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when we must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because it is right.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” ―Mary Oliver