Good Words to Begin the Year

One of my beloveds nearly died this past summer. I’m not being over-dramatic about that. It was touch and go with his first treatment for his lymphoma, whether his failing liver and kidney function could support the clean-up work of the immunotherapy and chemo. I felt Death hovering in the corners of the room, thought I could see the shadowy and bright forms of his escorts from realm to realm.

Today, the oncologist gave us some glorious words: “complete remission” and “probably a cure.” I still don’t know how to articulate the joy of this. It’s a moment to pause in the glorious rays of morning sun and whisper hallelujah.


Gratitude List:
1. Those miracle words of such great relief: “complete remission,” “probably a cure”
2. Trusting that excellent substitutes can take my classes for two days while I finish my Covid isolation
3. A warm house
4. Patty Griffin’s song, “Mary”
5. Words! So many words!
May we walk in Beauty!


“Brew me a cup for a winter’s night.
For the wind howls loud and the furies fight;
Spice it with love and stir it with care,
And I’ll toast our bright eyes,
my sweetheart fair.” —Minna Thomas Antrim


“How do we go on living, when every day our hearts break anew? Whether your beloved are red-legged frogs, coho salmon, black terns, Sumatran tigers, or fat Guam partulas, or entire forests, mountains, rivers, lakes, or oceans, or the entire planet, the story is the same, the story of the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved, the murder of one’s beloved.” —Derrick Jensen


“The Work. I am learning, slowly and in tiny little ways, to stop asking myself what I can get from each moment, but instead what my Work is here in the moment. And realizing, ever so dimly, that when I am really doing my Work (really doing my Work), I am also receiving what I need.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” —Peter Drucker


“There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it will be a butterfly.” —Margaret Fuller


“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language. And next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T.S. Eliot


“So my mind keeps coming back to the question: what is wrong with us? What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.”
― Naomi Klein

WORDHOARD

I said I wasn’t going to choose a specific word or theme for this year because I had so many words I wanted to work with, and that in itself became a word and a process. Of course. So my word for 2023 will be WORDHOARD. In the past week, I’ve been foraging for words (and hoarding them) to make into little cards to represent lots of ideas and themes that have lingered in my inner rooms.

I’ve been painting the insides of cereal and food boxes with gesso, then cutting them into 4×5 cards, then painting and collaging and drawing on them, and pasting a word from my wordhoard–these are the words that I have already foraged and printed from a document. I really like the Courier New font for a project like this. I already have several dozen words in my hoard. I have lots of little cards to make!

After all the recent years of metaphors and symbols and inspirations that I have chosen for my Word of The Year, it feels a little strange to move to something so nearly concrete. It’s my hoard of words. But it has also been–already–a really energizing creative process, both linguistically and visually. I’m including the animal symbols that have been meaningful to me, and words that have been previous Word of The Year words. I’m studying Swahili, so instead of Bridge, I will make a Daraja Card. And Spider will be Buibui.

It’s going to be a chance for me to do some experimental work with artistic processes. I find myself thinking about different ideas I want to try for laying on paint or embellishing.

We usually tend to celebrate New Years Eve at home, and with three of the four of us down with Covid this year, we aren’t going anywhere. Some of us will probably be going to bed in a couple of hours.


Gratitude List:
1. The challenges. I don’t want to do this year again. But I am grateful for the things I have learned through the challenging times.
2. The sighs of relief. I know that good news does not always follow bad, but this year’s run of bad news was frequently followed by sighs of relief.
3. Making things, coming up with ideas and then making them happen.
4. Moments in time when we look backward and forward, like the god Janus, who sees both past and future, and integrates them into the work of the now. New years, new months, new eras in our lives. How the future reflects the past.
5. You. All my Beloveds. I can’t imagine how I would have moved forward this year without the amazing community of people who surround me. I am grateful. Sometimes it’s just a nod or a little word of encouragement or commiseration that makes the difference.
May we walk ever in Beauty!


Honoring Kwanzaa with those who celebrate it: Today’s Principle in the Kwanzaa celebration is Kuumba: Creativity.


“I think it’s one of the most useless questions an adult can ask a child—What do you want to be when you grow up? As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.” —Michelle Obama, Becoming


“The great affair, the love affair with life, is to live as variously as possible, to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred, climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day. Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding, and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours, life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length. It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery, but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman


A string of beads has a thread running through all the beads, keeping them together. What we need is a thread too—of sanity and stability. Because when you have a thread, even though each bead is separate, they hang together.” —Sogyal Rinpoche


“Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.” (From the Talmud)


“The earth has music for those who listen.” —George Santayana


“By our love and our need for love we become for one another midwives of the true self.” —James Finley


“Civility will not overturn the patriarchy.” —Mona Eltahawy


“The opposite of poverty is not wealth. The opposite of poverty is justice.” —Bryan Stevenson


“Aging is an extraordinary process whereby you become the person you always should have been.” ―David Bowie


“In a political culture of managed spectacles and passive spectators, poetry appears as a rift, a peculiar lapse, in the prevailing mode. The reading of a poem, a poetry reading, is not a spectacle, nor can it be passively received. It’s an exchange of electrical currents through language.” ―Adrienne Rich, 1993


“A revolutionary poem will not tell you who or when to kill, what and when to burn, or even how to theorize. It reminds you… where and when and how you are living and might live, it is a wick of desire.” ―Adrienne Rich


“More firebrand women. More dragon spirited women. More loud women. More angry women. More hard women. More intimidating women. More history-making women. More rebel women. More rebel women. More rebel women.” ―Nikita Gill


“In the teaching of history, there should be no undue emphasis upon one’s own country. The history of wars should be a small part of what is taught. Much the more important part should be concerned with progress in the arts of civilisation. War should be treated as murder is treated. It should be regarded with equal horror and with equal aversion. It will be said that boys under such a regimen will be soft and effeminate. It will be said that they will lose the manly virtues and will be destitute of courage. And all this will be said by Christians in spite of Christ’s teaching.

But, dreadful as it may appear, boys brought up in the old way will grow into quarrelsome men who will find a world without war unbearably tame. Only a new kind of education, inculcating a new set of moral values, will make it possible to keep a peaceful world in existence. In the future there will, after all, be plenty of opportunity for adventure, even dangerous adventure. Boys can go to the Antarctic for their holidays, and young men can go to the moon. There are many ways of showing courage without having to kill other people, and it is such ways that should be encouraged.” ―Bertrand Russell,


“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part.” ―John Lewis


“The web of life both cradles us and calls us to weave it further.” —Joanna Macy


New Year Poem
by May Sarton

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.
We are dying away from things.
It is a necessity—we have to do it
Or we shall be buried under the magazines,
The too many clothes, the too much food.
We have dragged it all around
Like dung beetles
Who drag piles of dung
Behind them on which to feed,
In which to lay their eggs.
Let us step outside for a moment
Among ocean, clouds, a white field,
Islands floating in the distance.
They have always been there.
But we have not been there.
We are going to drive slowly
And see the small poor farms,
The lovely shapes of leafless trees
Their shadows blue on the snow.
We are going to learn the sharp edge
Of perception after a day’s fast.
There is nothing to fear.
About this revolution…
Though it will change our minds.
Aggression, violence, machismo
Are fading from us
Like old photographs
Faintly ridiculous
(Did a man actually step like a goose
To instill fear?
Does a boy have to kill
To become a man?)
Already there are signs.
Young people plant gardens.
Fathers change their babies’ diapers
And are learning to cook.
Let us step outside for a moment.
It is all there
Only we have been slow to arrive
At a way of seeing it.
Unless the gentle inherit the earth
There will be no earth.


Someone Should Start Laughing
A Poem by Hafiz (Ladinsky)

I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
How are you?
I have a thousand brilliant lies
For the question:
What is God?
If you think that the Truth can be known
From words,
If you think that the Sun and the Ocean
Can pass through that tiny opening
Called the mouth,
O someone should start laughing!
Someone should start wildly Laughing—Now!


Mary Oliver:

The poem is not the world.
It isn’t even the first page of the world.
But the poem wants to flower, like a flower.
It knows that much.
It wants to open itself,
like the door of a little temple,
so that you might step inside and be cooled and refreshed,
and less yourself than part of everything.

Harvesting from the Dreamtime

The Dreamtime this year has been. . .dreamy. We have Covid in the house, so we cancelled all our plans to attend family holiday gatherings this year. It was definitely sad, and yet we’re all homebodies, so we’re fine, other than feeling like we missed out, and missing our families.

And although it has been dreamy, we have been getting stuff done. I’ve been knitting and crocheting, painting, organizing, learning a lot of Swahili. Jon’s been spackling and painting and fixing stuff. Josiah has been getting his room ready to repaint.

Yesterday, I finished going through files from my previous job: I let that be a ritual of release. Whoosh! It’s out the door, into the trash, out of my life. I kept a few things–poems, articles, notes of encouragement. So, of course last night in the dreamtime, I was finding space for myself in buildings, and trying to negotiate what my feelings should be in the context of other people.

Here’s the dream: I am going to a funeral with a friend. I think that she was probably closer to the one who died than I was, so when she decides to wait in the hall before our group goes in to sing, I wait out there with her. But she looks bored, like she doesn’t really care about what is happening. I long to be in the service, so I leave her with some others in the hall and go in. When we get up to sing our special music, the man who is holding the hymnal for a couple of us in the singing group keeps shifting it away so I can’t see it. I keep shuffling to get a better view and he shifts it away again. I think we must look ridiculous to the people in the audience, so I just shift into the back row and ignore hymnal-guy. He’s left standing awkwardly alone in the front row.

In the second half of the dream, I am finding office/living space in the basement of the church where the funeral was. There’s a lovely big heavy curtain walling off my personal area from the rest of the basement, giving me privacy. Someone is concerned about the smell of shrimp. We discover five or six large (lobster-sized) peeled shrimp lying around my space. They smell strongly–not rotten, just shrimpy. The dog has been chewing on them, but doesn’t really like them. I think maybe we can clean this stuff up, and hope the odor doesn’t last.

Perhaps I am hoping that the “odor” of the really negative energy that still remains will not mar my new experiences. I not only have to rid myself of the old files and things, I still need to deal with the lingering bad energy. In the early morning, I found myself dreaming–again–of explaining carefully to someone why I was forced to resign my job.

I’m glad that I made decisions during the funeral part of the dream to do what I needed to do instead of being led by others’ notions, to let myself be emotionally involved in letting go instead of sitting outside, to step out of the dance of someone else’s manipulations.

This year, I am not feeling the desire to choose a single word or theme for the year. Usually I end up with layers of themes anyway. A week ago, I had a moment with a friend when the words Curious / Cure / Curator came into focus together. I’ve been playing also with the connection between Curative and Creative. And there’s another one to add: Connective.

So maybe this year does have an overarching theme after all: Harvesting and Foraging for words and ideas that suit. It’s a free association process, following the bright trail of words and images, expanding the dreamtime from the high holy days of late December and early January to the whole year. I’ve started painting cards with some of the words. Perhaps I’ll stop after ten or fifteen. Perhaps I’ll do a word a day for the whole year. Maybe I’ll end up with my own personal oracle deck.

Curious curiosity cure curator curative creative creator envision vision embolden bold badass connective secret spaces wonder welcome belonging wildness winsome wisdom widen spiral. . .


Gratitude List:

  1. Holding a little house finch in my hand as it came back to awareness and life after hitting the window. How its heart beat against my fingers. How its eye shifted around to find me. How it settled into the warmth of my hand. How it suddenly lifted and flew off. Such perfect feathers. Such lightness of being.
  2. Rumination time
  3. How prayer and magic connect us
  4. Zoom. Even though Covid kept us from family, we could still participate in some important conversation
  5. Dreaming myself into the cure
    May we walk in Beauty!

“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“Your suffering needs to be respected. Don’t try to ignore the hurt, because it is real. Just let the hurt soften you instead of hardening you. Let the hurt open you instead of closing you. Let the hurt send you looking for those who will accept you instead of hiding from those who reject you.” —Bryant McGill


“Contrary to what we may have been taught to think, unnecessary and unchosen suffering wounds us but need not scar us for life. It does mark us. What we allow the mark of our suffering to become is in our own hands.” —bell hooks


“I came from a family of repairers. The spider is a repairer. If you bash into the web of a spider, she doesn’t get mad. She weaves and repairs it.” —Louise Bourgeois


“When you have an ancient heart and childlike spirit you must feel deeply, but go lightly. To trace and learn the language of waves. How all the seas carry secrets, yet still move freely. I am still learning how to be water.” —Victoria Erickson


“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor E. Frankl


“We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets, to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew… Human beings are actually created for the transcendent, for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful… and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world a little more hospitable to these beautiful things.” —Desmond Tutu
*:
“I’m restless. Things are calling me away. My hair is being pulled by the stars again.” ―Anaïs Nin


Leave your windows and go out, people of the world,
go into the streets, go into the fields, go into the woods
and along the streams. Go together, go alone.
Say no to the Lords of War which is Money
which is Fire. Say no by saying yes
to the air, to the earth, to the trees,
yes to the grasses, to the rivers, to the birds
and the animals and every living thing, yes
to the small houses, yes to the children. Yes.
―Wendell Berry


“If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.

Instead we entangle ourselves
in knots of our own making
and struggle, lonely and confused.

So like children, we begin again…

to fall,
patiently to trust our heaviness.
Even a bird has to do that
before he can fly.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke


Martha Beck: “The important thing is to tell yourself a life story in which you, the hero, are primarily a problem solver rather than a helpless victim. This is well within your power, whatever fate might have dealt you.”


“We do not think ourselves into new ways of living. We live ourselves into new ways of thinking.

It seems that we Christians have been worshiping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey. The worshiping feels very religious; the latter just feels human and ordinary. We are not human beings on a journey toward Spirit, we are already spiritual beings on a journey toward becoming fully human, which for some reason seems harder precisely because it is so ordinary.” ―Richard Rohr


“What if nostalgia is not a fruitless dwelling on those irretrievable moments of the past, as we are taught, but an attempt by sweetness to reach you again?

What if nostalgia is really located in the present, like a scent or ambience which is gathering around you should you avail yourself to it.

As anyone who has been heartbroken knows, there comes a time when, long after loss has been well-lived with, a small melody of love always returns. And to your surprise, you may recognise the tone of that love as the very same love you believed you lost.

It’s then that you know that your love was always your love. And if you let yourself be unguarded to it, nostalgia may find its way back into the generosity of your presence.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“We often cause ourselves suffering by wanting only to live in a world of valleys, a world without struggle and difficulty, a world that is flat, plain, consistent.” —bell hooks

Following the Dream-Keeper

The Dreamkeeper, doll by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Every year at Solstice, I begin to watch my dreams very closely for images and ideas that might coalesce around a word or image that might become my theme for the coming year. This year’s theme was Embodiment, Magic, and Creativity, focusing on the word Embodiment. This year of Embodiment has been a doozy. I was attacked by parents at my school and ended up losing my job. My parents were both diagnosed with cancer and we nearly lost my dad. I got a new and incredibly satisfying job. I’ve learned to speak up for myself. My parents survived, my father almost miraculously. I’ve begun a new daily prayer practice which is fulfilling and connecting.

Part of me wants to kick 2022 out the door while yelling obscenities. Part of me wants to thank it for being a great teacher. Here I am on the first full day of a generous winter break with a little time to settle into the beginning of the process of year-end self-reflection, and looking forward to the future.

I am heading out soon for an over-due eye exam, perhaps my first word to put into the basket of consideration for the coming year should be Vision. Suddenly I have remembered that in last night’s dream, someone hands me a sheet of paper covered with exquisite drawings of eyes. I’m particularly caught by one eye with dark eye shadow and little white moons and stars along the upper lid.

In so many dreams throughout my life, I find hidden rooms in a house. I’ve always felt like it’s my Deep Self telling me that I am developing new inner capacity, or that I have inner resources that are not visible to everyone.

In Saturday night’s dream, I have been desperately trying to escape from people from a former job. A kind friend has been driving me all around the island, and we have managed to stay several minutes ahead of them, but they keep almost catching me.

Finally, I tell my friend to drop me off at my grandmother’s house. I grab my handful of special rings and quartz crystals and head through the first secret door. It’s in plain sight, but nobody ever seems to notice or go in there. Door after door, and stair after stair. Some moments when I’m almost discovered, but even then, there are more secret ways.

At one point, I accidentally come out of the secret part of the house into a library. I check out a book and tell the librarian to look out the window. When my pursuers ask where I went, he can honestly say he didn’t see where I went. I slip through a secret panel and back to safety.

I was so incredibly bothered when I woke up with how derelict the hidden rooms were. Sometimes when I dream secret rooms, they’re richly colored, with beds and couches and pillows, curtains and sparkling sun coming in the windows. The rooms in this dream were unfinished, filled with abandoned construction materials: wood and nails and broken things. Piled up by many of the doors were piles of filthy rags which people had dumped in there. There was a time this spring when I felt that someone had breached my spiritual spaces and dumped their garbage there. I have been expanding the safe zones inside myself since then, but perhaps this dream suggests that I need to get rid of the garbage that was dumped on me, create livable internal spaces, not just safe zones.

So I add Safe Space, Self-Preservation, and Moving In To My Self to the basket.


Gratitude List:
1. A generous break
2. Walking with a friend
3. Making all the appointments–catching up with the self-care
4. Moving In To My Self
5. Vision
May we walk in Beauty!


“Never miss an opportunity of noticing anything of beauty …” —Ralph Waldo Emerson


“The incredible gift of the ordinary! Glory comes streaming from the table of daily life.” —Macrina Wiederkehr


Never Broken

I am my own Home, now.
Wherever I move
the Light –
It moves with me.
I open all of the windows and the doors
so that God can come and go easily.
I don’t know why God takes such delight
in this House I call “Me.”
This place
where hearts come to be broken.
At the end of the Long Day I always ask.
“God? Why, hearts to be broken?”
And God always replies,
“Never broken, dear Lover—
only Opened.”
—Em Claire


“Find the antidote in the venom.” —Rumi


“Only two more days of the walk into the darkness. I am so grateful for the way the light kept finding me today. I’m not really on the edge, and I am not losing it, but I feel the edges of the panic, the sense of claustrophobia. I like the darkness. I love the inward-turn of winter, but always, at the edge, there’s the. . .well, the edge. So. There’s the Sun. And Stars and a growing Moon. And Mother Darkness. Comfort me. Disturb me.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (from several years ago)


“I wonder what Piglet is doing,“ thought Pooh.
“I wish I were there to be doing it, too.” ―A.A. Milne


“People make meaning like bees make honey. Gathering experiences and images like bits of nectar and synthesizing it into something new, rich, and uniquely ours. Respect the meaning you make. The family you choose. The wisdom you craft, sweet and golden on your tongue.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

The Marker

At the T, where Indian Marker Road meets River Road, is a Plaque that commemorates the site of Conestoga Indian Town, where the last of the Conestogas lived–the Conestogas, who were the last of the Susquehannocks, a large and prosperous people at the time of the European invasion, tall of stature, who fished and farmed and traded and hunted and built large settlement-towns along the Susquehanna River. By 1763, their numbers were so greatly reduced by war, illness, attacks by colonists, and forced repatriation, that only this small village remained.

Yesterday I visited the marker again, on the 259th year since the genocidal ride of the Paxtang Boys murdered six of the remaining inhabitants of the tiny town. Someone had been there before me. A bundle of dried sage hung from the marker on a red string, new feathers were tucked into the crevices, and fresh roses were laid at the base of the marker. I added my stone, and turned to the east, where Chief’s Hill rises into the winter-grey sky.

Sheehays
Wa-a-shen,
Tee-kau-ley
Ess-canesh
Tea-wonsha-i-ong
Kannenquas

Several years ago, I memorized their names, feeling the new combinations of vowel and consonant slide up my throat and across my tongue, clicking my throat closed at those interruptive hyphens, wondering how close I was getting to the sounds they used for themselves. Then, a year or more after I had memorized their names, I woke up one morning, aware that I had been chanting them in a dream.

Today, in a pouch I often wear around my neck, I carry the list of their names, and of the final fourteen who were murdered on December 27th of that year, when the Paxtang Boys rode again.

I have no doubt that people were shocked and aggrieved and outraged at the murderous acts of the Paxtang Boys. Still, none of them were brought to justice. The murders of the Conestogas, the final act of genocide, went unavenged. Though Benjamin Franklin himself called out for justice upon them, justice was never done.

And today? What does justice look like, for the Conestogas? For other First Nations people here?

And who are the Paxtang Boys of today? Are we stopping them? Are we putting ourselves between them and the vulnerable people they would destroy? Who will speak out and stand up for the ones who stand in the path of the riders?

For more detailed information about the Susquehannocks, their origins, and this story, please buy a copy of Ghost River, a graphic novel with extensive interpretive text. From the web page: “Written by Lee Francis 4 (Sixkiller, Tales of the Mighty Code Talkers), illustrated by the incomparable Weshoyot Alvitre (Deer Woman: An Anthology, Sixkiller) and edited by Will Fenton (The Library Company of Philadelphia), this new graphic novel from Red Planet Books and Comics chronicles the last days of the Conestoga People and brings their story to light; a story of despair and hope, loss and love, ancestors and the ghosts of history that are always with us.”


Gratitude List:
1. Snow Day! (Ice Day, actually) My school does not do Remote learning during snow days, so I am resting and writing and folding clothes and reading. . .
2. The people who work for justice, who truly care about restoration, who believe that people are more important than institutions and structures
3. Boundaries. Good, strong, solid, clear boundaries
4. That one scarlet leaf up there in that bush
5. Fairy ice along every twig of the tiny Japanese maple on the hill.
May we walk in Beauty and Justice!


“We are the nurturers, the encouragers of all the dreams, all the seeds deep in all the hearts where the future of a redeemed and rescued land now dwells. So we hold fast and see beneath the snow, always calling others to recognize their own magnificent possibilities, to see and plant and join our hope with theirs.” —Vincent Harding, Hope and History


“How does a woman know? She listens. She listens in. Like light on waves.” —Margaret Atwood


“Every moment is a gift of life.” —Thich Nhat Hanh


“Only a fool knows everything.” —African proverb


“Note to self: If you want to have loving feelings, do loving things.” —Anne Lamott


“If you are not in the arena getting your ass kicked on occasion, I am not interested in or open to your feedback. There are a million cheap seats in the world today filled with people who will never be brave with their own lives, but will spend every ounce of energy they have hurling advice and judgement at those of us trying to dare greatly. Their only contributions are criticism, cynicism, and fear-mongering. If you’re criticizing from a place where you’re not also putting yourself on the line, I’m not interested in your feedback.” —Brené Brown


“God made mud. God got lonesome. So God said to some of the mud, “Sit up. See all I’ve made….the hills, the sea, the blue sky, the stars.” And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around. Lucky me. Lucky mud.” —Kurt Vonnegut


“‪The fact that feathers are naturally occurring objects is beyond awe inspiring.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist


“‪The best poems are owls. A reflection of the landscape, but singular and strange. Smooth and effortless as smoke. A trick of the eye that scatters bones in the underbrush, hard and real.‬” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist

Definition

I’m trying to get at the idea that women and others who refer to themselves as witches very often do so because in the first place they have been marginalized because they cannot be pinned down in the rigid categories of the religious establishment. The label or identity of witch does not necessarily mean that one situates herself outside the bounds of church or religion, but that her spiritual practices or ways of seeing the world and the holy are threatening to the religious status quo. Witch may be a chosen identity marker, but it may also be an identity conferred by religious dogmatists. Although I have been revising and re-revising, it still feels to me as though this is a poem in process.

Witch (noun) wich,
SEE ALSO HERETIC,
a word used by the spiritual gatekeepers
within religious and social establishments
(no matter how nominal their own piety)
to denote those who cross the hedge
between the status quo and the wildlands
of spiritual inquiry.

the witch is an excuse
the witch is a scapegoat
the witch cannot be catalogued
the witch will not denounce her truth
the witch disrupts the proceedings
the witch does not offer herself up
to be easily understood

What they do not understand,
they call the Devil,
and banish and punish and shun.

When difference is disciplined,
how do the tamed ones
manage their sameness?

What they do not understand
is that they will snare themselves
in their own rules of order.

For when one question is proscribed,
who knows which questions
will lead to the mine field?
Better to eliminate questions altogether.

the witch is feral and free
the witch is both/and
the witch is a shapeshifter
the witch will ask a thousand questions
and expect more questions in response
the witch has already given herself a name


Gratitude List:
1. A winter-bare tree filled with crows in a drizzling mist
2. People who trust my essential goodness and don’t require me to prove my piety
3. Lunch and good conversations with beloveds
4. The joy of the last week of school before vacation
5. Clean windows. (It’s been a while. Don’t judge.)
May we walk in Beauty!


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to all.” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The insects and birds and animals are singing themselves into being; this autumn land is dreaming and I am part of that dreaming.” -Sharon Blackie


“I am out with lanterns, looking for myself.” —Emily Dickinson

Finding Family

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about family. I am blessed in family. I do not know how I would have managed the past eight months without my family: my family of birth, my cozy little family of four, my chosen circles of friendfamily. Those feelings have been riding so intense in me for so many months now, that I don’t know how to distill it into the language of poetry. Perhaps because it is so deep right now, I fear that I could only write shallowly about it. And so, instead, I chose to create a found poem about family, to make it a game, an intellectual exercise.

I chose five quotations about family, printed them out and physically cut them up, which was a different experience in my brain than cutting and pasting on the computer, then arranged them into a poem. Here are the quotations:

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”
― Maya Angelou

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
― Frederick Buechner

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
—Mary Oliver

“My mother used to tell me that when push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct.”
― Jodi Picoult

And here is the poem:

I.
the family skeleton
used to tell me:
over and over
you can kiss your mind goodbye
your stomach isn’t a social construct
but at the same time
if you cannot get rid of time
make it dance
and put miles between you but because you do not
you may as well
just live in a world
announcing your place
with the love of family the world offers itself
and instinct
harsh and exciting

II.
my mother
calls to you:
a world lives in you
like the wild geese
your family and friends that you carry them
being a family
to your imagination
no matter how lonely I sustain myself
in the family of things
with you in your heart but that when push
comes to shove
whoever you are
you always know
who to turn to


Gratitude List:
1. Re-membering, recalibrating, renewing, re-viewing, rewilding
2. Finding poetry
3. Making things
4. How the prayers shift and transform themselves–and me
5. The fox who paused this morning underneath the treehouse, to sniff the wind and feel the first rays of morning sun.
May we walk in Beauty!


“The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you
like the leaves of Autumn.”
—John Muir


“Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to go unbuild walls. ” —Ursula Le Guin


“The mother tongue is language not as mere communication but as relation, relationship. It connects. It goes two ways, many ways, an exchange, a network. Its power is not in dividing but in binding, not in distancing but in uniting.

It is written, but not by scribes and secretaries for posterity: it flies from the mouth on the breath that is our life and is gone, like the outbreath, utterly gone and yet returning, repeated, the breath the same again always, everywhere, and we all know it by heart.” —Ursula K. Le Guin


“Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women?” —Jessica Valenti


“The heart is right to cry
even when the smallest drop of light, of love, is taken away
Perhaps you may kick, moan, scream—in a dignified silence,
but you are right to do so in any fashion…until God returns to you.”
―Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“All water is holy water.”
―Rajiv Joseph


“The mullahs of the Islamic world and the mullahs of the Hindu world and the mullahs of the Christian world are all on the same side. And we are against them all.”
―Arundhati Roy


“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
―Scott Adams


“You know what breaks me, when someone is visibly excited about a feeling or an idea or a hope or a risk taken, and they tell you about it but preface it with: “Sorry, this is dumb but—.” Don’t do that. I don’t know who came here before me, or who conditioned you to think you had to apologize or feel obtuse. But not here. Dream so big it’s silly. Laugh so hard it’s obnoxious. Love so much it’s impossible. And don’t you ever feel unintelligent. And don’t you ever apologize. And don’t you ever shrink so you can squeeze yourself into small places and small minds. Grow. It’s a big world. You fit. I promise.”
―Owen Lindley


“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than our fears and prejudices.” ―Jimmy Carter


“The reality is we have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for.” ―Russell Brand


“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ”
―Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire

Panels

Brewer’s Prompt today is to write a panel poem. I don’t think he was thinking about the panels of comics and graphic stories, but I can’t get that out of my head. One of my colleagues is really articulate about the role of graphic novels in developing literacy, especially for reluctant readers and readers with learning challenges. I was reading one of the graphic novels in our library the other day, about creating your own comics, and the author wrote about the way an artist must design the panels on the page so that the reader’s eye flows across the page, from left to right, and top to bottom, making the direction of the story obvious in the flow of the page. This, too, is a basic literacy concept, that we read left to right and top to bottom as we decode the story.

I’ve written today’s poem as an ekphrastic poem based on the six panels of a piece of AI generated artwork, trying to create a sense of story in the seemingly random images.

1.
Cloud-dragons scatter,
fleeing the pursuing wind
in the sky of memory,
and scarlet-tipped grasses
bow their heads in the chill morning.
The story beckons. Go!

2.
On the rim of a canyon,
a massive boulder, exquisitely balanced
stands witness to centuries
of changelessness and change.
You are the canyon, the wind,
and the sentinel stone.

3.
In the valley ahead,
the storm clouds are lifting.
Mist rises above the lake
as dusk falls, and you
have many miles to go
before you can rest.

4.
Do you fear to enter
the woods at dusk,
or do you long
for that adventure?

5.
When you have crossed the sea,
you will meet an old woman
between two trees on a low hill.
She will ask you three questions,
and you must answer truthfully.

6.
Listen to me, bright spirit!
The journey you make will not be
the journey you embarked upon.
But it will be the one you need.


Gratitude List:
1. Maple cookies
2. Vanilla moonshine
3. The moon in all her phases
4. Story-weaving
5. How the journey you make becomes the one you need.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Expressing our vulnerability can help resolve conflicts.” —Marshall B. Rosenberg


“Our original instructions are to listen to the cloud floating by and the wind blowing by. That’s poetry and prose in English, but it is wakahan in the Lakotan language. It means to consciously apply mystery to everything. Everything is alive and has its own consciousness.” —Lakota elder Tiokasin Ghosthorse


James Baldwin: “To be sensual is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the breaking of bread.”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Our Lady of the Road

Robert Lee Brewer (at Writers Digest) likes to offer fill in the blank poem title prompts. I like to try them. Today’s was to write a poem titled _______ of the ________. I’ve been working lately on re-writing some of the traditional prayers of the rosary to suit my own particular mytho-poetic-spiritual vision. I’ve also been memorizing some old and new poem/prayers. So today’s poem is a prayer of my own:

Our Lady of the Road

Oh gracious Lady of the road,
beckon me, and draw me forth upon the way.
Keep me from walking in the complacent paths
that lead to destruction,
but set my feet upon the road that will teach me,
upon the Damascus Road, upon the Emmaus Road,
where I will hear the voice of warning,
where I will hear the voice of wisdom,
where my eyes will be blinded,
where my eyes will be opened.
Place me in roads that will turn me from evil.
Send me guides and guardians to block my path
when I have lost my way, and lead me
in all of the holy directions
that I may come into your presence
with joy.
With joy.


Gratitude List:
1. On the way to school this morning, I noticed, among the hard frost all around, glorious rose and late roses blooming
2. Gen Z. I think they helped us to avert disaster
3. The folx who stand in the gap
4. Prayers. Poems. Prayers.
5. Coaches. Tonight was the XCountry banquet at EYSD. I’m so grateful for the coaches who train and encourage the kids.
May we walk in Beauty!


“For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” —Carl Sagan


“But this moment, you’re alive. So you can just dial up the magic of that at any time.” —Joanna Macy


“I tell you the more I think, the more I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people.” —Vincent van Gogh


“The most vital right is the right to love and be loved.” —Emma Goldman


“Love imperfectly. Be a love idiot. Let yourself forget any love ideal.” —Sark


“Everything I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything exists, only because I love.” —Leo Tolstoy


“Love is a great beautifier.” —Louisa May Alcott


“Love is everything it’s cracked up to be. It really is worth fighting for, being brave for, risking everything for. And the trouble is, if you don’t risk everything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong


“Fall in love over and over again every day. Love your family, your neighbors, your enemies, and yourself. And don’t stop with humans. Love animals, plants, stones, even galaxies.” —Frederic and Mary Ann Brussa

Take a Breath

On November Tuesdays on the Poetry page of Writers Digest, Editor Robert Lee Brewer offers dual prompts. He always suggests that you can choose to one or the other or both. I am an Enneagram Seven, and so I am always tempted to do both. Today’s prompt is to write a form poem and/or an anti-form poem.

I have spent entirely too much fluttery energy today trying to create a form poem. I wanted to do a prosey run-on stanza without line breaks, and then suddenly shift into a Rondolet, and back to a prose stanza, but my Rondolets all come out sounding hackneyed and stilted, and my brain is beginning to turn fuzzy, and I still haven’t gotten my lesson plans finished for tomorrow. (You can see how that whole free-association, running sentence thing began to influence my writing.) Plus, I have been feeling tremendous pressure today to create a poem that somehow speaks truth to power on Election Day. In desperation, I just began to type, and tried to settle on something that had a little more form than simply free verse, but that gave me room to breathe a bit.

I am not prepared to sing
at the funeral of democracy,
not ready to recite the ode
that hails her tragic death.

I will not open the door
to the reign of hate and cruelty,
will not welcome the travelers
who enter with bared teeth.

Circle ’round, and let’s tell stories
of the world we hope to see.
Let’s sing songs, and weave spells
of a hopeful future.

Take a breath.
Take a breath.
Take a breath.


Gratitude List:
1. The morning’s cocoon of a moon
2. Golden time in the woods with joyful children
3. Shifting. Perhaps tomorrow morning I’ll feel differently, but right now, I feel a shifting that feels hopeful
4. Carpet otters
5. Stones that speak
May we walk in Beauty!


“Tyrants fear the poet.” —Amanda Gorman


“Don’t be ashamed to weep; ’tis right to grieve. Tears are only water, and flowers, trees, and fruit cannot grow without water. But there must be sunlight also. A wounded heart will heal in time, and when it does, the memory and love of our lost ones is sealed inside to comfort us.” ―Brian Jacques


“Those who contemplate the beauty of the Earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.” ―Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder


“Love is the bridge between you and everything.” ―Rumi


“Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.”
―Bob Dylan