Musings, Poems

Applying Compassion

In 2005, my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage. I recognize that all miscarriages are traumatic; this one, however, did not take care of itself. After the initial days of a slow bleed, I experienced a day of what I learned later (during the labor for my first live birth) was essentially hard labor. At thirteen weeks, my body went into full contraction mode to expel this pregnancy. I began to recover. I grieved. I went back to work, only to experience massive bleeding which began while I was teaching a class. I rushed to the ER at Women’s and Babies Hospital, where I was given surgical help to complete the miscarriage.

This was one of the most difficult times of my life. In the hospital, I received immediate and compassionate care from everyone involved. There was no questioning, no second-guessing. Of course my records confirmed that I had had a sonogram the previous week that showed a nonviable fetus. Still, I experience horror when I think of the stories I have read of women in my same situation who were forced to wait and bleed for hours or days because a rigorously anti-abortion hospital would not give surgical assistance without establishing the lack of a heartbeat. In some cases, women have developed infections or lost grave amounts of blood or even died for lack of essential medical care during miscarriage.

Will these merciless anti-abortion laws increase the risks for miscarrying women? I have absolutely no doubt that they will. On top of that, women who are experiencing the tragedy of pregnancy loss, of the self-doubt and shame we carry about how our bodies have let us down, will be placed in the position of being interrogated about whether they did anything to cause their miscarriages, with the risk of being charged as felons if they are not believed.

If some of us are particularly twitchy and quick to rage and grieving these days, it might have something to do with this, with having to re-open the trauma of our pregnancy losses–for whatever their reason or cause–finding ourselves imagining what the world will be like for women of the future who may have to endure what we experienced, only without compassionate care or empathetic understanding.

It’s time to trust women to understand what is happening to our bodies.

Musings, Poems

Whatever the Day Means to You

First of all: If this day when everyone speaks of mothers is a day unbearable to you, I wish you the spiraling green of a damp spring day, cool breezes which bring your skin alive, and birdsong which calls your spirit to adventure. If you just cannot do this day, I hope that you can make it your own. Call it the Day of the Lost and Venturesome Soul. Go forth and ride the winds with the joy of your own being in this place.

And also, I must mark this day for myself: First, for the mother who mothered me, who has shown me so much of beauty and goodness in the world, who reminds me to put on the brakes when I start sliding downhill into emotional pits. She taught me to look outside, and to look inside, to marvel, to wonder, to look at the crunchy emotions with as much curiosity as the soaring ones. She reminds me to trust my voice.

I know that not all of us have such women who raised us. In that case, I wish you nurturers in other guises, way-show-ers, path-markers, wise wells and founts of deep inner knowledge, who will mother and mentor you, no matter their gender or parental status. In my life, I have had many mothers who have been guides on this pathway, Hecates to my Persephone. Great gratitude to all of you, beloveds.

And my own mothering space is complicated, as yours might be, too. I began to lose my first pregnancy on Mother’s Day, and birthed my second in this season. I treasure these young souls in my care, and I love being their mother. And, befitting one of the besetting troubles of my own psyche, I feel inadequate to the task. I beat myself up for the many unmotherly things I have done. Still, I am grateful for this chance to grow more fully into myself with them.

On this day, I commit myself to finding my own mothering/mentoring role in the world, to point out the beauty, to encourage the inward look, to nurture, to guide, to mentor, to engage, to See.

No matter your relationship to this day, I wish you a sense of yourself as belonging in this world. Much love.

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Welcome, Spring!

We are two days in to the season of Awakening, of Hatching, of Breaking Open. Two days in, through wind and sunshowers, through gusting rain and rushing cloud. Last year, on the second day of spring, a foot of snow fell in the hollow. This year, a seemingly endless drench of rain.

In the season of Brigid, back in February, we felt the Earth stirring, noticed the sap rising, watched pull toward birth and sprouting. Now we feel the promise, watch the winter aconite drop seeds for next years golden cups, and Persephone’s footprints–all shades of crocus–springing up across the lawns, uncontainable by flower beds.

What, in you, is hatching now? What thing, which has lain long and silently within you like a seed in the darkness, now seeks the sun and breezes? Hold that thing within you, like a seed. See the rough, hard casing which has protected it in its dreamstate. Breathe in the sun of spring, the chill air biting as it enters, and feel your lungs, your belly, your capacity, expand. Watch the casing of your dreamseed break open, and feel the roots push downward within you. Feel the sprout nosing upwards to the light and warmth of spring. What is being born within you? What new capacity? What new heartspace? What plan and purpose? Blessed be your seeds. Crack open. Seek the sun. Feel the rains of spring caress your growing roots.

Gratitude List:
1. The groundhog who is nosing around on the hillside behind the house
2. A day off, to ponder and paint, and catch up on the work
3. The fog of winter is lifting
4. Watching the children grow and become so gallantly themselves
5. The seeds which are sprouting

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

What the Holy One Can Do with Dust (Jan Richardson)

How day dawns in Skunk Holler

That title is a quote from Jan Richardson’s Poem “Blessing the Dust.” You probably want to read it today.

Today I am home from school with a sick child. It’s a nice chance for some slow, quiet time in between checking his temperature and beating him mercilessly at a game of Monopoly.

It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of that 40-day journey before Easter, a moon-bound season between the season of Brigid and the season of Ostara. As spokes on the eight-pointed solar wheel, Brigid and Ostara occur on the same days every solar year: Groundhog’s Day and Spring Equinox, ancient celebrations of the quickening of life in the earth, and the time of hatching and birth that is spring. But Lent is fluid, floating along the surface of the solar year, woven into the cycles of the moon and its dance with that Equinox sun. On Brigid’s February morning, we look to our shadows and consider whether the light we have within us will serve us until the spring. We take stock of our inner reserves and resources. In Lent, we take that question further, considering the question of enough.

During Lent, we look inward and wonder at the holes and spaces within. We see our lack, and instead of shrinking away in fear and despair, we say, “Yes,” and “Yes” again. Here is who I am. I know that I can be one who betrays the Holy One, one with the potential to deny my beloved. I know how I can cringe in fear, hide in shadow, whimper and whine in dread and shame. And I know, too, that I can walk toward those shadows within myself, because only in walking through those shadows will I encounter the shining lights that sparkle on the other side–also within me.

Last night, I gathered with a group of colleagues and students from my school to participate in the first of five Racial Justice Trainings (workshops? seminars? mentoring sessions?) that will happen throughout the spring. During the evening, our facilitator, Dr. Amanda Kemp, challenged us to keep a journal during these weeks of trainings, to ground and center ourselves so that we can hold space for transformation, to walk toward our fear, to challenge our assumptions and implicit biases. It feels to me like just the discipline to take up on this moon-clad journey toward Easter, to consider this time of training as my Lenten Work.

So often we get Lent wrong. We think we have to do penance for our evil ways, to enshroud ourselves in shame, to bewail our miserable selves. But when we simply throw it all off as just an exercise in self-flagellation, I think we get it wrong, too. This is a time to look realistically at who we are inside, what our strengths and our failings are. Lent is a time of discipline–not beatings and beratings, but careful training and thoughtful self-education. Amanda inspires me to take hold of this coming season as a time to consider my accountability, to look at the ways in which I participate in the unjust systems of today, just as the religious elite at the turn of the millennium participated in the destructive systems of their day. In this season, I commit myself to assess my inner world, to take stock of my role in the breaches and breaks, to walk toward my fears, to become a mender and repairer of the web.


Gratitude List:
1. Rest
2. Re-assessment
3. Seasons
4. Sunshine
5. Story

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Abide. Trust. Surrender to the Flow.

This morning on the way to school, a long, rangy V of geese flew over the highway. It took me a moment to realize that they were snow geese rather than the Canada geese we see almost every day. A few miles later another V slid through the low clouds, this one in perfect formation, only a dozen or so birds, and again, I needed to re-arrange my sense of what I was seeing. This was no flock of geese, but a small flock of swans, their long necks a clear sign of who they were.

A week or so ago, my friend Suzy and I were talking about what swans mean: grace, flow, surrender to what is, trust in the process. I needed that conversation. I have been feeling like I haven’t been trying hard enough to figure out how to make more time in my life to write. I feel guilty because I can’t keep up with the work of teaching, and then guiltier still because I am pushing the writer’s life aside while I try to make peace with the grading. Surrender to the flow, said Suzy. Abide. Trust. Stop trying to push the river. Flow with it instead. I don’t know quite where that leads me toward making peace with my teacher/writer divide, but it eases the pressure.

And today the swans, following the geese, trailing behind them those words: “You do not have to be good.” Because that’s always what the geese say, since Mary. And today in class, a student did a presentation on a poet. His poet was Mary Oliver. And his featured poem? “The Wild Geese.” So it’s message upon message upon message.

There are words racing across the sky, in birds, in snowflakes, in cloud formations. And flowing in the rivers and streams, across lakes and oceans. And scattered in pebbles and plant-life all around us on the earth. So much to learn from. So much to listen to. So many texts to be read and understood.


Gratitude List:
1. Swans and snow geese, and the Canadas too.
2. The talented teamwork of the cast of our school’s musical. They were amazing!
3. Leaning in to the hard questions
4. Reconciliations
5. Tea

May we walk in Beauty!


Monday’s Messages:
“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, revelling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”
―bell hooks, Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope


“Especially now, when views are becoming more polarized, we must work to understand each other across political, religious and national boundaries.” ―Jane Goodall


“When the people were great stones
we silently watched the dawn
we listened to the wind rushing over the mountains
we spoke the language of mist and dreams
and we could feel the pulsing rhythm
of the living heartbeat of the Earth.”
―Beth Weaver-Kreider


“A woman cannot make the culture more aware by saying ‘Change.’ But she can change her own attitude toward herself, thereby causing devaluing projections to glance off. She does this by taking back her body. By not forsaking the joy of her natural body, by not purchasing the popular illusion that happiness is only bestowed on those of a certain configuration or age, by not waiting or holding back to do anything, and by taking back her real life, and living it full bore, all stops out. This dynamic self-acceptance and self-esteem are what begins to change attitudes in the culture.”
―Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes


“Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”
―Pema Chödrön


“Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once,
but of stretching out to mend the part of the world
that is within our reach.”
—Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Musings

Skimming the Surface

It’s a little like flying, but it’s more like falling without touching the ground. When I was a child, I did it frequently enough in my dreams that I was convinced I could do it in waking life, too. Perhaps I could.

I’m trying to get somewhere fast in a dream, usually down a hillside. Instead of the frustrating and dreaded molasses-feet dreams, in which my feet won’t move, no matter how hard I will them, in a skimming dream I am so intent on getting where I am going that I stop actually putting my feet on the ground. Momentum carries me down the mountainside and I just keep my feet off the surface, sort of like skiing on air. Last night’s mountainside was really muddy, and I knew I’d get stuck, so I just coasted downhill through the air. It was a little hairy at moments, getting through the trees, and worrying that I might run into a bear.

It was exhilarating, feeling it happen, remembering how to do it with a body-memory similar to riding a bike. This morning, I feel it like I did when I was seven, that inner knowing that I can ski the air. Perhaps it’s a message from my Deep Self that I can slip the leaden bonds of winter, and move through the world again with more grace and ease.

Gratitudes, Musings

Loosening Winter’s Grip

Has it been worse this year? I think it’s been worse. The dullness, the bone-weariness, the loss of zip and vim. The sleepiness compounded by insomnia, anxiety-ridden, with sudden nighttime joltings-awake. The Wintertime nightbird sitting on the chest, crying, “Shame! Loss! Devastation! Rage! Woe!” The burden. The Burden.

Winter is an enormous, lumpy, grey gunny sack full of dirty laundry that I must carry around on my back. It gets heavier and heavier by the day. Some years, it’s an act of sheer, daily endurance to make it through. There’s no extra energy to look around and see just how grey it’s all become. I just have to plod forward into the mist.

There are momentary compensations—shining blue days when sun sparkles on ice and snow, sky-heavy days when snowflakes whirl and dance through the air. Yes, momentary compensations. Breaks in the clouded heaviness. Few and far between. Just enough to keep me trudging in the direction of that pinprick of light in the far distance ahead.

And then the light begins to creep back in. The momentary compensations begin to string themselves together like shining beads. People like me, the ones who’ve been caught in Winter’s steely grey net—we lift our heads like small creatures catching a new scent on the breeze. We feel the wind in our whiskers, smell the freshness of the air, and catch a flashing glimpse of yellow aconite or blue-violet crocus.

We’ve still got a bit of a trudge until we can lay down the burden of Winter and roll in the warm grass of Spring, but knowing that the end is in sight makes the Burden lighter. It’s one of those things, for me, where I don’t know quite how bad it is until I’m coming through the other side. When you’re focused on the endurance, you don’t stop to wonder if this time around is worse than the last one. You just put the next foot forward.

And now, I have those shiny beads: earlier sun in the mornings, the aconite slipping out of the mud of the garden, the birds of morning singing their Springtime songs, the geese, the swans, the caress of warmth in the afternoon air.


Gratitude List:
1. Morning birdsong and the Hope of Spring
2. The fun of the Youth Group Auction, a night when we all come together to support the young people.
3. This kid here at the table next to me, carefully and deliberately putting together his new Ertl tractor model, which he got at the auction. He gets frustrated and stops, saying he can’t do it. Then his curiosity and will overcome his frustration, and he gets back to it, solving the problems that seemed insurmountable. (Hmm. I think I am telling myself a story to live by.)
4. Magical conversations. Not simply deep and thoughtful, but full of synchronicities that fill the air of the room like a humming web. Like it’s the two of you talking, and then maybe fairies or angels joining in, the Great Mystery guiding the stories and images.
5. Watching these children grow. Sometimes, I am sad that the babies are gone, gone, gone. But they are Becoming so delightfully themselves. Yesterday, the dentist removed a baby molar from Child 1, to make room for the big tooth coming in. It was his last baby tooth. Another step toward adulthood.

May we walk in Beauty!


Words for Sunday Meditation:

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world—everything is hidden in you.” —Hildegard of Bingen


“Because that’s what Hermione does,’ said Ron, shrugging. ‘When in doubt, go to the library.” ―J.K. Rowling


“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation.” —Nikola Tesla


“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for she was born in another time.”
― Rabindranath Tagore


“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” —Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee


“The real damage is done by those millions who want to ‘survive.’ The honest men who just want to be left in peace. Those who don’t want their little lives disturbed by anything bigger than themselves. Those with no sides and no causes. Those who won’t take measure of their own strength, for fear of antagonizing their own weakness. Those who don’t like to make waves—or enemies. Those for whom freedom, honour, truth, and principles are only literature. Those who live small, mate small, die small. It’s the reductionist approach to life: if you keep it small, you’ll keep it under control. If you don’t make any noise, the bogeyman won’t find you. But it’s all an illusion, because they die too, those people who roll up their spirits into tiny little balls so as to be safe. Safe?! From what? Life is always on the edge of death; narrow streets lead to the same place as wide avenues, and a little candle burns itself out just like a flaming torch does. I choose my own way to burn.” ―Sophie Scholl


“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.” ―Gilda Radner


“You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” —Anne Lamott


“And these children that you spit on
as they try to change their worlds
are immune to your consultations.
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.” ―David Bowie


“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


“Justice is what love looks like in public.” —Dr. Cornel West


“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” ―Gandalf, J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring


“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
―Elie Wiesel


“As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation―either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course.” ―Martin Luther King Jr.


“It helps to think of our swamps of despair as the necessary muddle before clarity. Actually, swamps are incredibly fertile places full of life. In mythology the heroine must cross such a place in her darkest hour, where she comes to face her unlived life―meeting each of the divine allies disguised as regret, doubt, and insufficiency which swell up from the mud of her despondency. If she is willing to consummate the full encounter, they will reveal themselves in service to the vitality of her true being.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa



Musings

What Shall Our Resistance Be?

“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear.

I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” 
― Lauren Oliver, Delirium

Emergency! We’re in a state of Emergency! Apparently we are still in a state of emergency over the 1979 Iran hostage crisis. Still in a state of emergency over 9/11. According to yesterday’s NPR’s The Indicator on the Planet Money show, we’re currently in 32 national States of Emergency that just keep getting renewed year after year after year. They’ve become routine. It seems to be about how a president gets the money to go where she (yeah, yeah–or he, in this case and every previous case) wants it to go. So what to do about this Border Wall Emergency?

I don’t know what to think. It seems that perhaps the comparisons to Hitler’s declaration of a State of Emergency in Germany after the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 are pretty alarmist, but that comparing it to President Obama’s declaration of a State of Emergency regarding entry of citizens from Venezuela in 2015 is a little too mild. It seems to foretell, as the man said in his speech yesterday, a lot of bureaucracy, a lot of wrangling in Congress and the courts. Who knows where it will end?

It’s another step. Another petulant grab for attention and air time by a narcissist reality television president who creates drama in order to up his ratings. Another manipulation to get his way for a petulant leader whose unfounded scare tactics have failed to secure him his xenophobic legacy wall.

I’ll be the first to admit that it ramped up my anxiety to a higher level of shrill, that I jumped on the train to Anxietyville without looking at the other possible destinations. I posted a White Rose as my Facebook profile picture, a signal to myself to stay awake and ready to resist.

Still, I think it is perhaps wise to take this moment to consider our resistance, to consider what preparations we need to make and continue to make in order to create and maintain just systems and structures.

1. Clearly, this is part of the ongoing demonization of Mexican and Central American asylum seekers. When the anti-immigrant groups speak in strident tones about our problem with illegal immigration, it would behoove us to keep in mind that the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States has been steadily declining since 2007, not rising catastrophically as the president and his associates would have us believe. See this Pew Research poll for more information. Resistance Point One: Keep the facts in mind.

2. This current leader announced his candidacy for president by characterizing Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers, and his calls for a wall have consistently characterized the people who are coming to our borders seeking asylum as drug traffickers and gang members. While some people do no doubt cross our borders for nefarious purposes, the president has used this stereotype to call upon racial anxieties. Resistance Point Two: Call out racism whenever and wherever you see it. It is not enough to be disgusted by someone’s racist public speech. If we do not speak out against it, we are complicit.

3. In response to this administration’s border obsessions, ICE appears to be overstepping its boundaries. Resistance Point Three: Be prepared to protect and harbor people targeted by ICE. Speak up for due process. Stand in the gap. Offer sanctuary.

4. Resistance Point Four: Use language which breaks barriers and tears down walls. Collaborative conversation opens people’s minds much more readily than shaming does. (Still, don’t be afraid to call out malice–see point 2.)

5. Resistance is also about building the just structures and systems that we want to see. We don’t have to wait until this fiasco of an administration is out of power. Resistance Point Five: Work for justice and equality in everything you do.

What are your ideas for Persistent Resistance?

Gratitudes, Musings

Paths Crossing

Last Sunday morning, two rabbits hopped companionably from northeast to southwest, and someone else trotted sort of purposefully from north to south. Probably this happened at significantly different times. Cat or fox seems to have been unaware of its potential prey-folk going the other direction.

This morning, a week later, most of the snow is gone. The sun is bright in the blue sky, and a murder has just passed through the hollow, a massive flock of crows, barking and yapping, making the very air tingle with their passing. I stood in the yard and watched them. I could swear one of them vocalized “Hello” from the lower limbs of the dying chestnut. In four or five of the trees in the lower part of the hollow, sentries had placed themselves, repeating five or six short quick yaps in a row, in succession: walnut tree sentry, then maple tree sentry, then locust tree, and so on. Changes are on the wing. Fly brightly, Wildfolk.


Gratitude List:
1. Thoughtful conversations with young people on topics of social media and race and personal accountability.
2. My school’s Lunar New Year celebrations.
3. Hundreds of crows flying through the hollow.
4. This sore throat doesn’t seem to be more than a little part of a cold (knock on wood). When I take a cough drop or drink tea, it feels so much better.
5. All the people working for a better world.

May we walk in Beauty!


“Whether through prayer, ritual, poetry, or song, gratitude solidifies our relationship with the living mystery. It rejoins us to the intangible wholeness from which we feel disconnected. As we remember ourselves to the holy in nature, we are forging our own belonging.” —Toko-pa Turner


“If you want to do the work of God, pay attention to people. Notice them. . .especially the people nobody else notices.” —John Ortberg


“There is no reality but Oneness. Open into that.” —Bahauddin


“Take a deep breath. Find the place inside you that remembers how truth feels; remember that there are kinds of anger that are more effective than blind outrage.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (to remind myself)


Martin Luther King Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Remember: truth and justice ultimately always win.


“The goal of any true resistance is to affect outcomes, not just to vent. And the only way to affect outcomes and thrive in our lives, is to find the eye in the hurricane, and act from that place of inner strength.” —Arianna Huffington


“She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.” —All of us, now, continuing to take the words away from that senator