Pick Yourself up and do better

Photo from the LGBTQ Christian Network

I posted this on my Facebook page last year. Reading it again this morning, it feels like something I want to put out there again. It’s dated, with its references to the 2020 election, but 2024 is looming, and the same forces are pushing for attention again. I know it’s kind of intense, but so is the soul-rejection so many people experience because of terrible theology:


I know I post this and sentiments like it quite often. I have received third-hand feedback that some well-meaning Christian folks get deeply offended by some of the things that I post. You must know that it is because I follow the way of Jesus that I post these things, because I was raised to believe in his essential messages of Love and Welcome for ALL.

Speaking to the well-meaning Christians who might be thinking of voting for the president because of a pro-life stance alone, I say to you that to welcome everyone to the table is a deeply pro-life stance. To exclude and shame any member of the human community is anti-life, is death-dealing. The number of LGBTQ+ people who die or nearly die by suicide each year is staggering, and it is, in many (most?) cases, a DIRECT result of religious people who marginalize and exclude and shame LGBTQ+ folks, a direct result of a theology that labels people sinners because of who they are. I need you to hear this. I need you to understand theological consequences.

Insisting that LGBTQ+ people are sinful by nature is anti-life. If you want a deeper conversation about the very few Biblical passages that your church refers to in order to shame and exclude (yes, “love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin” is shameful and exclusionary) God’s own children, I can find you articles and dialogue with you. I only ask that you come to the table willing to listen.

{Note: If you feel hurt that you may be part of a group that has driven people to suicide, please try to imagine the hurt and despair of those who’ve been cast out and excluded. Pick yourself up and do better. If deep down you agree that this is a death-dealing theology, but it feels really risky to to to speak up in support of LGBTQ+ folks, imagine the intense feelings of risk felt by someone who comes out of the closet. Pick yourself up and do better. I’ve got your back.}


Gratitude List:
1. Last Weekend: swans, storytelling, deepening friendships, swallows, fox, windy beaches, delicious shared food. What DOES the fox say?
2. Tenderness and connection amidst shared grief. I’m not grateful for this terrible grief (one of the young ones in our school/church/family circles has died), but grateful for the way the circles flow together and interconnect.
3. The foresight of my school’s administration: We reached a threshold of active cases and students quarantining because of exposures, and so we went virtual for the week. I feel like the administration cares about my health and the health of my family and my students and their families.
4. This little break. I can assign reading and analysis tasks for the week, do some Zooms, and catch up on grading. Yesterday was a crash day for me. I think the aggregate burden of work overwhelm and grief and not enough time for the introverted self and light insomnia all came to a head for me, but I had the freedom to take a long and deep nap, and I came out the other side refreshed and ready to attack the tasks ahead of me.
5. The kitchen floor. It’s been a LONG time since we sanded and stained, and Jon did that this week, and I am obsessed with it. Pine takes a real beating, but it cleans up so beautifully.

May we do justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty! So much love to you.


“Although the post-industrial period may well be remembered as one of the most irresponsible in history, nonetheless there is reason to hope that humanity at the dawn of the twenty-first century will be remembered for having generously shouldered its grave responsibilities.The warming of the planet is a symptom of a greater problem: the developed world’s indifference to the destruction of the planet as they pursue short-term economic gains. This has resulted in a “throwaway culture” in which unwanted items and unwanted people, such as the unborn, the elderly, and the poor, are discarded as waste.” –Pope Francis
*
Praise, my dear one.
Let us disappear into praising.
Nothing belongs to us.
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“Listen: Are you breathing just a little and calling it a life?” –Mary Oliver
*
“This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.” –Marie Howe, poet

School Begins

Yesterday was a long day, beginning with Faculty Meetings, continuing on to the last minute work sessions of the afternoon, and into an evening of New Student Orientation. The energy in the building last night was zizzly. The students who came into my room, both the student tour leaders and the new students, were sweetly earnest and polite. So many were clearly excited. I couldn’t help but ride onto that wave of lovely energy, despite the fact that I don’t quite feel ready.

I am ready, of course. My plans are in place–I just haven’t dithered over them as I often do. Today is a day for leaping into it, trusting the process, believing that my plans are sufficient to carry me. And I have the delightful energy of last night’s eager students to help me fly.


Gratitudes:
This work, exhausting and overwhelming as it has often been. Spending time with colleagues and teenagers. Hopeful smiles. New things to learn together

May we do Justice, love Mercy, and walk Humbly! In Beauty!


“Every word you utter to another human being has an effect, but you don’t know it. If people began to understand that change comes about as a result of millions of tiny acts that seem totally insignificant, well then, they wouldn’t hesitate to take those tiny acts.”
– Howard Zinn


“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” –Leonard Bernstein


“Fear is the cheapest room in the house.
I would like to see you living
In better conditions.” ~ Hafiz


“When your world moves too fast and you lose yourself in the chaos, introduce yourself to each color of the sunset. Reacquaint yourself with the earth beneath your feet. Thank the air that surrounds you with every breath you take. Find yourself in the appreciation of life.”
~ Christy Ann Martine


“Let us stand in the moment
shoulder to shoulder
like the deer on the verge
we caught in our headlights,
and listen for the distant unrolling of words.”
–Beth Weaver-Kreider

Time Enough

Saturday’s Stories:
‘When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves.
Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power.
We shall stamp our feet with new power and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like burnt paper.’
―D.H.Lawrence


“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.”
―Rabindranath Tagore


“Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem, listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


“Abba Lot came to Abba Joseph and said: Father, according as I am able, I keep my little rule, and my little fast, my prayer, meditation and contemplative silence; and, according as I am able, I strive to cleanse my heart of thoughts: now what more should I do? The elder rose up in reply and stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire. He said: Why not become fire?” ―Christine Valters Paintner


“Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the waves and gravity, we shall harness for God energies of love. Then for the second time in the history of the world we will have discovered fire.” ―Teilhard de Chardin


“We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interpreted world is not a home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


“Dare to declare who you are. It is not far from the shores of silence to the boundaries of speech. The path is not long, but the way is deep. You must not only walk there, you must be prepared to leap.” ―Hildegard of Bingen

Of Course, the August Rains

Was it only two days ago I wrote about how The Stump has become dormant except for little flowerings of two or three types of shy mushrooms around the faerie door? But I forgot about the August rains. Yesterday, I went out and a new stage of frilly white oysters have burst from the northern arc. Something else, shy and yellow, was already melting toward a golden ooze on the southern exposure. Life returns in The Stump’s own season. The first photo is the entire group of oysters, and the others are individual portraits, and the golden ooze from the southern side.

And I too, observe my seasons, shifting and changing, sometimes going dormant for long periods in one or another of my realms of existence. Lately, I have been working with great intention at healing and feeding my solar plexus chakra. You can tell me (as one of my beloved scientific-minded children does) that it is all in my mind, and I will respond, “Of course it is!” That’s where so much of magick resides, in the changing of consciousness at will. I have needed to change my consciousness regarding my ability to get things done. Slowly and steadily, I am seeing changes, more will and energy to do the things that must be done. Step by slow step, I realize that when I want to call up energy to do something, I find a reserve there, small and patient, waiting for me to call it forth.

Like the energy of the stump, my own energies have been, for a long time, hidden beneath the surface, seemingly unavailable. But now, with careful tending, and a little August sun and rain, I feel the bloom.

May your day be bright with sparks of new-found energy in places where you least expect it.


Gratitude List:
1. Reminders to Be in the Body.
2. Things that wake me up.
3. This school. This classroom. These colleagues. The sense of students soon to populate this space.
4. Augusts rains. September sun.
5. Seasons.

May we walk in Beauty! In mercy, justly, humbly.


“There is another world, but it is in this one.”
—W.B. Yeats


“There is a deeper world than this
That you don’t understand
There is a deeper world that this
Tugging at your hand. . .
There is a deeper wave than this
Rising in the land
There is a deeper wave than this
Nothing will withstand
I say love is the seventh wave.”
—Sting (I think I am going to listen carefully to this song in the coming days as I make last minute preps for school)


“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and your laughter ’til they bloom, ’til you yourself burst into bloom.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Why did you do all this for me?” he asked. “I don’t deserve it. I’ve never done anything for you.”
“You have been my friend,” replied Charlotte. “That in itself is a tremendous thing. I wove my webs for you because I liked you. After all, what’s a life, anyway? We’re born, we live a little while, we die… By helping you, perhaps I was trying to lift up my life a trifle. Heavens knows anyone’s life can stand a little of that.” —Charlotte the spider


“Whatever you’re meant to do, do it now. The conditions are always impossible.” —Doris Lessing


“A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” —Irish proverb


“We can’t know where we’re going if we don’t know from what we originate. The loss of purpose that so many of us feel is greater than the trajectory of our careers and personal lives, it is a cultural ailment which arises out of forgetting. Our lives are like the fruit of a heritage seed: Each of the generations that has preceded us has contributed to our life’s survival. There is an ancestral momentum to which we are beholden, and which carries us forward when we are in step with it. To hear this momentum, we must turn towards the soul. There, in our dreams, are the clues to what we love and what our lives long for.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“To teach is to create a space in which obedience to truth is practiced.” —Parker Palmer, from Abba Felix tradition


“As technological civilization diminishes the biotic diversity of the earth, language itself is diminished. As there are fewer and fewer songbirds in the air, due to the destruction of their forests and wetlands, human speech loses more and more of its evocative power. For when we no longer hear the voices of warbler and wren, our own speaking can no longer be nourished by their cadences. As the splashing speech of the rivers is silenced by more and more dams, as we drive more and more of the land’s wild voices into the oblivion of extinction, our own languages become increasingly impoverished and weightless, progressively emptied of their earthly resonance.” —David Abram


“Establish the sacred space of the classroom so that the inner and outer spaces of the students are respected.” (I don’t know the source. Tell me if you know.)


Be ready for truth to find you. —gleaned from Parker J. Palmer

Seasons of The Stump

Mushrooms surround the faerie door.

Time and seasons flow differently in the realm of Faerie.

You might be walking in the woods on a warm summer day, and find yourself suddenly in a clearing with autumn leaves drifting around you, or patches of snow in the blue shadows. You may find a ripe red apple, or full round rose hips, during a winter walk. This is how you know you’ve crossed their boundaries.

So it is with The Stump. Last fall, when everything around us was dying, the stump began to put forth fruit. The wood ear mushrooms on the top surface expanded their territory. The bark on the sides was gradually obscured by shelves and racks of pearly oysters. Around the base, every few days it seemed, was a new bloom of one of at least three or four other varieties of mushroom. And in the very center of The Stump’s table were the glorious pair of caramel-colored mushrooms I called Meadow and The Chief.

Yes, mushrooms do tend to come out in the fall, when the damp and rot are conducive to their growth. The strange thing was the way they lived into the winter, how even in the snow, the oysters looked as plump and luscious as ever, new shelves appearing even in dark January. It was only as February’s cold turned brutal that the oysters began to show the frost-bite along their edges, turning brown and hardening. In spring, as the crocus and windflowers began popping up into the greening lawn, the stump went quiet. The oysters, heavy with their hardening, pulled off the outer layer of bark as they began to fall away. Even in the spring rains, the wood ears stayed still and grey as lichen, and Meadow and The Chief, the first to shrivel in the early winter, went to black hard nubs.

Eventually, by late spring I helped the process, pulling away the dead and hardened pieces and tossing them in the woods, leaving The Stump naked and stark, sere and wintry, as the world around it grew to summer’s ripeness and fullness. Gill on the grass grew up around, then died back, and arms of Virginia creeper have begun to reach around the sides.

Here and there, on occasion, a group of those gray faerie mushrooms–thin discs atop impossibly thread-like stalks–would rise for a morning around the base, and dry to powder by afternoon, like manna.

The piece of bark I had set up at the base to delineate a faerie door at the beginning of this magickal cycle has begun to look the worse for wear, and I have been searching for the perfect thing to replace it. But yesterday when I looked, the door and little dooryard were covered by a suddenly-appearing crowd of the little brown mushrooms with downward-curving caps. The Faerie realm of The Stump seems to be preparing for its next season of growth. I doubt the oysters will come back, now that the outer bark is gone. One small living patch of wood ear remains on the northern side, next to the faerie door. Perhaps it will thrive again along the surfaces. I have been seeing rings of the large white horse mushrooms popping up in other people’s lawns, and am putting out my own silent welcome that some might again show up in our grassy patches. Mostly, although I know that it was perhaps a once in a lifetime experience for a singular stump, I long for some caramel-colored stalks to emerge from the center of the table. I think it was late September or early October last year when they appeared, so I will be patient, just in case they come again.

You may say there is no such thing as a Faerie realm.
You can tell me that the season of fungi is out of sync with the seasons of green things.
You may say it’s dangerous to welcome the fae ones to live in close proximity to my home.
You can tell me I’m strange or playing with fire for talking to the fae folk I meet in my dreams, for speaking their names.

What I know is that during the deadest, most anxious winter of my life, something lived and thrived in my yard, something offered me daily visions of what can grow in harsh conditions. And I will welcome whatever magick appears again as summer turns once more to fall, and we cover our faces, and the shadows spread.

Perhaps within the shadows, something hopeful, something holy, something wildly alive, will appear.


Gratitude List:
1. How life continues, even in harsh conditions.
2. Rainy summer mornings. Breathe in. Breathe out.
3. Looking forward to being in the classroom again. Tomorrow and Monday are Professional Development Days, and students come back on Tuesday. I’m not ready, but I’m ready, if you know what I mean.
4. Fungi, especially those white mushrooms popping up in faerie rings all over the place.
5. Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Let my teaching fall like rain and my words descend like dew, like showers on new grass, like abundant rain on tender plants.” —Deuteronomy 32:2


“There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” —Thomas Merton (Oh, but I am going to try, Thomas Merton. I am going to try.)


Deep breath.
Straighten the spine.
Scan the wide vista before you.
Feel the morning breeze
as the sun rises
over the far horizon.
Another deep breath.
Spread your wings.
Leap.
—Beth Weaver-Kreider


“It is better to err on the side of daring than the side of caution.”
—Alvin Toffler


“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
—Rumi


“Though my soul may set in darkness
it will rise in perfect light.
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”
—Sarah Williams, about Galileo


“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


“An artist is a dreamer consenting to dream of the actual world.”
—George Santayana

In the Doorway of Another Year

My year has turned again to my starting day. Here I am, marking the end of year 54 and the beginning of year 55.

I always like to do the numerology assessment of my birthday. Like my dreamwork at the turning of the year from December to January, looking at the meanings in my numbers gives me something to contemplate and focus on in my inner work for the coming season.

One way to look at the numbers is to take the current date and reduce it numerologically: 8+10+2021 = 14 = 5. It’s a pretty straightforward reduction: You add the digits in each number together, and then add them all together. This is a 14 year for me. In the tarot major arcana, the 14 is Temperance. I can get behind that as a contemplation for the coming year.
How can I create balance in my life?
How can I keep one foot on land (practical) and one in the water (emotional/spiritual)?
How can I create and maintain healthy flow in my life?

The 14 reduces further to 5, which is my Life Number. This is the number of the Hierophant, the keeper/teacher of the mysteries. The hierophant passes on wisdom and knowledge. This feels doubly significant to me this year as I enter my 55th year.
How am I passing on the knowledge and wisdom I have gained from my mentors and teachers?
How can I be more deliberate about when to speak and when to keep silent?
What is the body of wisdom that I have to share?

Affinity Numerology dot com tells me that “54 tends to follow whim. It has an urge to be adventurous, yet is pragmatic and tries to focus and be reliable. . .The essence of the number 54 is continually focused on making life better for people. It isn’t always effective, as it also has an inner urge to express its sense of personal freedom.”

It also tells me that “54 has little, if any, judgement of lifestyles, societal expectations, religious beliefs, and political practices — in fact, it revels in the first-hand experience of a wide variety of cultures.” Unfortunately I have failed in that realm this year. Ugh. I have become the judgiest version ever of myself. I blame Covid and its attendant rage. Sigh. Maybe I can incorporate some of that into year 55.

55, according to the same site, suggests I might extend the adventuresomeness of the 54, to deepen the adventures, to claim my independence. I like that vision. So I sit in the space between reliability and independence, with adventure as the thread that ties them together.

Whatever meaning I choose to take from my numbers, the fact is that I have reached the milestone of another year. My hair is definitely grayer. My aches and pains are cycling through with more intensity. I made it through a bout of Covid, through Jon’s job change, through masked teaching and Zoom/hybrid classes, through the long languish of the pandemic. A year ago, I was pretty certain that this birthday would see us out the other side of the pandemic, yet here we are. I’ll be masked again this fall to teach. The numbers in both my counties (Lancaster and York) continue to rise.
I am, by turns: angry, tired, despairing, eye-rollingly-weary.
I have a low tolerance for people who will neither get the vaccine nor mask up.
I am experiencing a dearth of empathy for people who don’t see this the way I do–I consider this to be a moral failing on my part, but I don’t know if it’s something I can control.
I am really anxious about the rising cases in children.

Still, it’s a new year for me, a chance for a reset, with a chance to be better at balance, at flow, and at choosing how to pass along what wisdom I have gained. It’s a season for adventure, in whatever way I can grasp hold of that.

And there’s this:

While I was gazing at this perfect double rainbow, a branching flash of lightning snaked across half the sky. Moments later, a hummingbird flitted out of the willow tree to the left, and began dancing between raindrops right in front of the rainbow.

Gratitude List:
1. Last night, we had friends over for a farewell party for some of our beloveds who are returning to East Africa after several weeks in the US. We sat at picnic tables in the lawn with a cool breeze blowing through the hollow, and walnut leaves like fairy leaves flashing golden as they drifted down around us. Bittersweet, to say goodbye and to be among people I treasure so deeply.
2. The house is pretty clean. I’m not going to go down the shame-vortex in order to get to this, but needless to say, things had not been very clean for some time. Now they are, and I feel my spirits lifted. We should have company once a month.
3. Also bittersweet, today was my last day at Radiance for the summer. It’s sad to leave, but I can’t be sad when I reflect on the gift of being able to work there, surrounded by good and shiny souls, good smells, and so much to learn. Grateful for the connection to Sarah and Laura, to Chris (and Natasha, although our paths didn’t cross this summer). Grateful for herbs and textures and scents and magic, for all that reconnects me to the Divine Feminine.
4. Sensible shoes. Comfortable, sensible shoes. When my feet feel good, my body feels good.
5. Rain. We just got a thunder-boomer in the holler. The air sparkles.

May we walk in Beauty!


Tuesday’s Quotes (long, but hey, it’s my birthday):
“There is one masterpiece, the hexagonal cell, that touches perfection. No living creature, not even human, has achieved, in the centre of one’s sphere, what the bee has achieved on her own: and if intelligence from another world were to descend and ask of the earth the most perfect creation, I would offer the humble comb of honey.” —Maurice Maeterlinck, The Life Of The Bee, 1924


“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to you to merit the face you have at fifty.” —Coco Chanel


“If it is bread that you seek, you will have bread. If it is the soul you seek, you will find the soul. If you understand this secret, you know you are that which you seek.” —Rumi


“By virtue of the Creation and, still more, of the Incarnation, nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see. On the contrary, everything is sacred.” —Teilhard de Chardin


Even
after
all this time
the sun never says to the earth,
“You owe me.”
Look
what happens
with a love like that —
It lights the whole
world.
—Hafiz


“The Seven of Pentacles”
by Marge Piercy
Under a sky the color of pea soup
she is looking at her work growing away there
actively, thickly like grapevines or pole beans
as things grow in the real world, slowly enough.
If you tend them properly, if you mulch, if you water,
if you provide birds that eat insects a home and winter food,
if the sun shines and you pick off caterpillars,
if the praying mantis comes and the lady bugs and the bees,
then the plants flourish, but at their own internal clock.
Connections are made slowly, sometimes they grow underground.
You cannot tell always by looking what is happening.
More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet.
Penetrate quietly as the earthworm that blows no trumpet.
Fight persistently as the creeper that brings down the tree.
Spread like the squash plant that overruns the garden.
Gnaw in the dark and use the sun to make sugar.
Weave real connections, create real nodes, build real houses.
Live a life you can endure: make love that is loving.
Keep tangling and interweaving and taking more in,
a thicket and bramble wilderness to the outside but to us
interconnected with rabbit runs and burrows and lairs.
Live as if you liked yourself, and it may happen:
reach out, keep reaching out, keep bringing in.
This is how we are going to live for a long time: not always,
for every gardener knows that after the digging, after the planting,
after the long season of tending and growth, the harvest comes.


“In these cataclysmic times, living in what Michael Meade calls the ‘slow apocalypse,’ despair can be dangerously seductive. Our lives may feel inadequate to the terrible momentum of our times, but it is in those moments that we must remember the difference between despair and grief.
“While despair traps us in the bog of despondency, grief carries us into life. Grief calls us into a deeper engagement with those things that we love. And even as we are losing them, grief wants to exalt their beauty.
“If we let grief move us into expression, it will sing the blood into our songs, colour the vividness into our paintings, and slip the poetry between our words.
“Rumi says, “All medicine wants is pain to cure.” And so we must cry out in our weakness, our ineptitude, our beautiful inadequacy and make of it an invitation that medicine might reach through and towards us.” —Toko-pa Turner

Animal Messengers

Sometimes when I am in a contemplative mood, perhaps doing yoga or cooking or sitting on the porch, I’ll get random images that flash into my mind’s eye. Yesterday morning as I was settling into Mountain Pose, I lifted my arms above my head as I was aligning my shoulders and spine, fingertips together. It flashed into my head that I was making the shape of an arched doorway, and I saw in my mind’s eye just such an archway in a green wood with golden light shining in through the opening, and two fawns looking at me. Deer represent unconditional love, particularly gentleness towards oneself, so I will take that as a message.

Perhaps my brain was remembering this portal archway that I painted a couple years ago. My younger son has been teaching me to use Pixlr to create digital art, so I superimposed an image of fawns I found (Creative Commons).


Sometimes we who grow up in a religious context accept the signs and symbols of religion as immutable and unchanging. Take Mary with her foot on the serpent, for instance. I have been noticing how often the snake appears in paintings and sculptures, open-mouthed, fangs bared, and writhing beneath the serene Mother’s foot.

Because I have grown up with a pretty well-rounded knowledge of scripture, I know that this is a reference to the verse in Genesis where God tells the serpent that the serpent’s descendants and Eve’s descendants would be enemies, that her offspring would crush his head, and he in turn would strike the heel of the humans. So when Mary steps on the head of the serpent, she is understood to be crushing evil (which the snake symbolizes in this story) by giving birth to the Christ.

And so, in my search for feminine images of the divine, I have begun exploring iconography and sculptures and paintings of Mary, looking for the ways in which Mary herself represents the Goddess. And also, I have been exploring the symbol of the serpent as woman-wisdom, woman-energy, kundalini. The snake represents the inherent power in the feminine.

So I can’t help but feel as though in those images where Mary is stepping on the head of the serpent that she is being forced by patriarchal religious structures to crush and destroy her own power. I think this is a truth, however unsavory, that comes through in the image–women have been forced to crush our own power because the prevailing religious structures perceive that power to be evil and dangerous. I’ve tried working with the re-interpretations of the image that some offer, that she has reached full understanding of her power and so she stands upon the source of her wisdom. She has integrated it. That’s a much more palatable overlay.

Still, because the original artworks were most certainly created with the idea that the snake is evil, and she is vanquishing it, it’s a challenge you get past the echoes of “Her children shall crush your head.”

Perhaps I need to try to create my own artwork, Our Lady of the Serpent, with a more truly Middle Eastern Mary and an integrated relationship with the power and wisdom of the serpent.


Gratitude List:
1. Relief from the aches and pains. I had let it get pretty bad. I don’t know if it’s a natural progression of arthritis, or residual effects of Covid, or results of being too sedentary. Since spring, my body has just begun to hurt more and more. I had begun to dread going walking with the family. I hurt so much. My co-pay at the doctor’s office is $80, so I kept putting off checking in with the doctor, and I didn’t really want to start a regimen of allopathic medicine for whatever has been causing my muscles and back and feet to hurt. I had considered elimination diets to see if that would work, but instead Sarah suggested adding anti-inflammatory foods to my diet. I’m eating fresh pineapple for the bromelain, and drinking tart cherry juice and eating berries for the anti-oxidants. When the pain flares, I take Aspirea Compound, from H&A (you can order some here). And I am being much more intentional about regular yoga practice. It’s taken a couple weeks to get to this place, and I’m not pain-free, but I feel like a normal 50-something now. Grateful, so grateful, for Sarah’s wisdom and knowledge.
2. Making progress, however slow, in the de-hoarding. I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in the summer, but the flow is better now. The energy is less clogged and brackish now that I have organized and released “stuff.”
3. Stimulating intellectual discussions. Some people make you feel like you’re back in a grad school classroom, with all the richness of shared ideas and the co-creation of ideas.
4. Caring communities. Empathy is still around, although it can sometimes seem in short supply. Never hesitate to show it. It builds and grows. That’s the magic of it. The more you give, the more it grows. It’s that magic penny, baby.
5. TOMATOES!

May we walk in wisdom, kindness, and Beauty!


“Some say you’re lucky
If nothing shatters it.
But then you wouldn’t
Understand poems or songs.
You’d never know
Beauty comes from loss.
It’s deep inside every person:
A tear tinier
Than a pearl or thorn.
It’s one of the places
Where the beloved is born.”
―Gregory Orr


“And the wood is tired, and the wood is old, and we’ll make it fine, if the weather holds. But if the weather holds, then we’ll have missed the point. And that’s where I need to go.” ―The Indigo Girls


“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” ―Joseph Campbell


“Friendship … is born at the moment when one says to another “What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .”
― C.S. Lewis


“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
―Thomas Merton


“To say ‘I don’t know’ is an unparalleled source of power, a declaration of independence from the pressure to have an opinion about every single subject.
It’s fun to say. Try it: ‘I don’t know.’
Let go of the drive to have it all figured out: ‘I don’t know.’
Proclaim the only truth you can be totally sure of: ‘I don’t know.’
Empty your mind and lift your heart: ‘I don’t know.’
Use it as a battle cry, a joyous affirmation of your oneness with the Great Mystery: ‘I don’t know.’
(To revel in this reverie can be a respite, a vacation. Any time you feel ready, you can return to the more familiar state of ‘I know! I know! I know!’)” ―Rob Brezsny


“Declare amnesty for the part of you that you don’t love very well. Forgive that poor sucker. Hold its hand and take it out to dinner and a movie. Tactfully offer it a chance to make amends for the dumb things it has done.
And then do a dramatic reading of this proclamation by the playwright Theodore Rubin: ‘I must learn to love the fool in me—the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries. It alone protects me against that utterly self-controlled, masterful tyrant whom I also harbor and who would rob me of human aliveness, humility, and dignity but for my fool.’” ―Rob Brezsny


“We all receive water from her, we receive food from her, we receive air from her, anything that is received as a gift from the Earth and from nature has to be a commons, it cannot be privatised, that is why privatisation of life forms through patents or water through privatisation schemes driven by the World Bank, or the privatisation of the atmosphere and the air through carbon trading and emissions trading are all illegal and illegitimate in a legal framework based on the Earth’s rights.” ―Vandana Shiva


“The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them.” ―Emily Bronte


“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences.” ―Susan B. Anthony


“To truly know the world, look deeply within your own being; to truly know yourself, take real interest in the world.” ―Rudolf Steiner

The Tattered Pelt

This dream reveals itself and ravels like a fairy tale or myth.

It’s been two weeks since I listened to Martin Shaw telling the story of Fox Woman Dreaming, but something in my Dreambrain has reached back to that for images to tell myself this story.

Part One:
I am sitting on a concrete ledge, like a loading dock, of the garage of my house, looking out over the meadow and the woods beyond.

I hear a cry of frustration and rage: “Aaarrrnnnngh!”

At the edge of the woods, where the neighbors have logs for splitting, a large wolf is dancing around in extreme agitation. It has thrown an ax across the snowy field. Its fur is striped and brindled, mottled. It flips back and forth in its frustration. I know at once that the wolf is a shapeshifter.

I can feel its frustration deep within myself, and I am frightened as it runs up the field toward me.

I search around for something to offer it to help it, to distract it from attacking me.

I find that I am holding an old and tattered pelt of some animal fur. As the wolf paces around the side of the garage and the base of the ledge where I am sitting, I tear a piece of the pelt I am holding and toss it into the snow. It distracts and calms the wolf for a moment. It sniffs the piece of pelt but does not eat it.

Part Two:
I am walking down a brick pathway in a park, trying to feel the different rhythmic vibrations of the various bricks. I can sort of sense the patterns of a couple of them. I am trying to remember the poems/incantations for a ceremony to awaken and celebrate the awakening of the powers of a girl child. I am trying to help her to notice the vibrations in the bricks, trying to tell her the bits of incantations that I remember.

I am aware that the child is coming into her power and I am feeling the dissipation of my own.

As I am working with the bricks and incantations, I notice that the girl has found a stump with a large and tangled root system. A woman and a child, their faces painted with stripes of brown and yellow in many different shades, look out at me from the stump. The girl knows they are there and has been listening to them.

Unpacking:
I have so many questions.
Am I both the Wolf and the One Who Watches?
If I am the Watcher, have I given away my own shapeshifting power, my own Wild, in order to protect myself and appease the frustration–ease the loss–of another?
What have I done?! I have thoughtlessly torn my pelt. Is it possible to repair?
I feel acutely both the loss of my own Wild (the Watcher) and the sense that it’s unbridled and out of control (the Wolf).

And am I both the Child and the Teacher?
Again, I feel acutely the loss of my own powers even as I am able to recover a little of my awareness of vibration, my memory of the words of ceremony.
I feel a need to prepare the Child, to mentor and teach, but the work has moved beyond me, and she has found her teachers in nature.
But I am also the Child. She has met the spirit beings who inhabit the stump and they are teaching her.

Both pieces of my dream seem to be about internal rifts/separations that help me to see the ways I am disconnected from my Wild, from my own personal sense of my power.

Maybe it wasn’t a bad idea to offer part of my pelt to the shapeshifter. Maybe that’s what I need to do, to offer my own inner Wolf the key to her transformation. But I need to tend to my “skin.”

And maybe I don’t need to focus so much on remembering the words and patterns of the ceremony for the Child, but just settle into a space where I can hear the living voices of the beings who surround me. I feel like this is a message to rely less on head knowledge, but to focus on simply perceiving what is around me.

Two nights ago, I dreamed again, as I often do at times of inner change and transformation, that I needed to push my way through a tight and claustrophobic portal in order to enter a new space. In these dreams, I sometimes refuse, or the dream ends as I am trying to find the courage to enter the constricting passage, but in my recent dream, I actually made it through the portal.

I think these dreams are connected. First, the portal, then the reckoning with the state of my own inner awareness.


Gratitude:
1. The way shifting and de-hoarding and organizing makes space for energy to flow more freely and serenely. Clogged energy is either stagnant or frenetic. Unclogged energy flows.
2. I’m getting really eager to dive into the planning process for the coming school year. I relish the shift of this energy from the overwhelm of last spring (of the past three semesters, really) to the excitement of setting the table for the coming academic feast.
3. Mending. Like de-hoarding, mending makes the energy flow. And physical mending causes the heart to turn toward the inner mending as well.
4. A different type of energy, but not unconnected: Feeling my own physical energy returning. It’s been a circuitous journey. But it feels so good when we go walking and I feel the surge of energy and strength in the stride rather than feeling like I am fighting against gravity.
5. Thresholds. Liminal spaces. Betweens.

May we walk in Beauty!


“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf


“Every person is a living treasure box. Listening holds the key.” —Mollie Marti


“The work of the eyes is done. Go now and do the heart-work on the images imprisoned within you.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“I take care of my own.” —Hushpuppy (Beasts of the Southern Wild)


“You are my own, and I am yours–I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.” —Anne Lamott


“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.” ―Leymah Gbowee


“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to
remember that the planet is carrying you.” ―Vandana Shiva


“To be brave is to behave bravely
when your heart is faint.
So you can be really brave
only when you really ain’t.”
—Piet Hein


“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair


“You can never go down the drain.” —Mr. Rogers


“Good People,
most royal greening verdancy,
rooted in the sun,
you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen


“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson


“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” ―Dalai Lama

A Calming Retreat

In June, right after school was over, and before I had even completed my grading, I went on silent retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, probably my last time there, as the Jesuits are selling the building and grounds. I needed that healing time.

In the weeks since, I have been taking stock, clearing out my hoard (fabric, mostly, but more will come), and working on getting healthy.

Here is a little photo essay of my time on retreat:

On the way, I stopped and walked the labyrinth at St. Thomas’ Episcopal Church near Lititz. On the way out of the labyrinth, the word embodiment came to me. That became the focus of my retreat. When I got home, I listened to sonia renee taylor’s The Body is Not an Apology. I liked it so much that I bought my own copy so I can underline bits and read sections to my classes.
My room. First time I have had air conditioning. It was very hot, so I actually spent more time in my room than usual.

I took along a white cloth and some red thread. I have been inspired by several instagrammer embroiderers to begin to create a story cloth, something that’s not specifically functional, but is more of a journal, a dialogue with my inner self. On one of the first days there, I was meditating on something I’d read, a Buddhist idea about the base of the spine being where the three rivers meet. I began to consider what my three rivers are. Along with embodiment, I received creativity, and magic/mysticism. So I began embroidering the flowering hand image I found framed on the wall–for creativity. Then I embroidered a full body–my body–with wings and a crown, to represent embodiment, being alive within this body. And later, I embroidered my stump, the center of my current magical work, representing the inner work and the spiritual connection to the Source of All Life. All three are connected to a center cauldron, which is the place where the three rivers meet. Other images above include some collages I made while meditating, a painting (“You can become all flame,” said the ancient desert abba), and the back of my #alonetogether sweater, which I completed during retreat.

Every year when I am at the monastery, I greet Jesus in the stairwell when I go up and down the stairs. This year, he and the painting of Mary with the sacred heart were especially meaningful as I held my anxieties about my father’s upcoming open-heart surgery (all has gone exceedingly well, and he is now recovering and regaining his strength).

More than almost anything, perhaps, I will miss this grand cathedral beech.

Cherish the Body You’re In

Start a revolution today: Decide to love your body just the way it is.

Instead of dieting or restricting, offer your body delicious and nourishing food.

Instead of exercising to change your weight or your shape, move your body because moving in a body is a wonderful and wholesome thing to do and your body loves to move.

Don’t get in shape. Be the shape you are. Love the shape you are.

Embody yourownself.
Eat and move and feel sensations.
Sniff the air. Learn to identify smells and aromas.
Name new colors. Differentiate hues and shades.
Listen for birdsong and crickets and the murmur of voices.
Taste your food. Really taste it. Experience crunch and flavor and texture.
Feel the wind in your skin, the pop of humidity, the softness of cat fur.

Stop obsessing about your weight and shape, please.
There is so much more to experience about being in a body than whether you fit some socially-constructed idea about an “ideal” body.

Be in your body. Love your body. Offer it care.


Gratitude List:

1. So many circles of care. Holy, holy, holy.

2. Book discussions. I joined a book group! I love my book group!

3. All the Big Birds catching today’s thermals. And I think that was an osprey fishing in the River this morning. At first I thought maybe peregrine, but I think that was a fish in its talons.

4. Being in a body. There’s so much to experience in these bodies we live in.

5. Will. Determination. I’m working on opening and focusing on the solar plexus right now. Much has been left undone. I’m going to do.

May we walk (in our bodies) in Beauty!