Inviting Your Enemies

I’m not Catholic, but I pray the rosary. I had been intending to learn the prayers and explore the process (very intellectualized, I know), and then my father got very sick. On the weekend that he was receiving a risky treatment simply to try to save his life, I picked up the rosary and my little booklet into which I had scribbled my versions of the rosary prayers, and I learned. In desperation and need of grounding and comfort, I began to say the Aves and the Love Prayer (the Our Father), holding desperately to the beads. When I had no words for the mix of terrible anxiety and holy presence I was feeling, I walked the path of the beads.

Perdita Finn and Clark Strand, in their book The Way of the Rose, speak about holding the beads as holding the hand of The Mother. Comfort and peace and tenderness upwelling in the midst of whatever life is bringing: crisis or joy, or the quotidian rhythms of the day.

Here is my version of the Our Father. It changes every once in a while, as praying it brings me new insights into what I mean when I say the words. I’ve gotten a little wordy on the sign-off, but that’s my own flourish. It feels right to me:

Oh Love, which imbues the cosmos, Holy is thy name.
May thy realm come. May thy will be done,
here on earth as it is in the heavens, and within the sacred circle.
Grant unto us this day what we need to survive,
and lead us ever into right relationship with you and with others and with the all.
Keep us from walking in paths of destruction, and deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Wisdom and the Vision and the Virtue,
the Promise and the Presence and the Peace,
the Glory and the Story and the Song,
both now and forever. Amen.

Lately, when I say the line, “Draw us ever closer into right relationship,” I see in my mind’s eye several of the people who have hurt me. Of course, I mean them when I pray that line–still, they intrude upon my peaceful prayers. Today, when it began to happen, I invited them in. I had also been thinking about how this is the day of the Archangels, the Feast of Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. And so, instead of simply holding the idea of being drawn into right relationship with them, I asked the archangels to invite their angels to witness my prayers.

It feels really weird to write that, but it felt so right in the moment, and continues to feel right. My rosary prayers also became more lively, more awake, more focused. I felt safe (who doesn’t feel safe when surrounded by angels and Mother Mary?). It feels like the line in the Psalm: “Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies.” I’ll admit, when I got to “Keep us from walking the paths of destruction,” I found myself talking very directly to their angels, and “Deliver us from evil” has a new sort of ring when you say it in presence of the angels of people who have harmed you.

I don’t know whether there will ever be reconciliations and restorations on this plane. I’ve walked away from that door. I won’t wait around for that to happen, and making it happen will take a great deal of work on someone else’s part at this point. But I might continue to invite their angels to the table of my prayers.


Gratitude List:
1. Angels
2. Art
3. The rosary
4. Always something new to learn, some new way to deepen
5. Celebrating thirty-two years with my soul-mate. Such a good, good man.
May we be draw ever into right relationships.


“My wish for you is that you continue. Continue to be who you are and how you are, to astonish a mean world with your acts of kindness.” —Maya Angelou


“Sometimes it seems as though the Wildest One (you might call her God, or the Universe, or Love) is actively meddling in the affairs of mortals, like I am given a thing to learn, and then immediately after am handed the situations necessary for practice and integration.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider


“You don’t need to attend every argument you are invited to.” —anonymous (possibly Zig Ziglar


“It’s hard to be mad at someone who misses you while you’re asleep.” —Calvin, of Hobbes (Bill Watterson)


i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings;and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any– lifted from the no
of all nothing–human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
―e. e. cummings, read by Anne Marie at our wedding on this day in 1990


“To live a creative life,
we must lose our fear of being wrong.”
―Joseph Chilton Pearce


“If music be the food of love, play on.” ―William Shakespeare


“At the still point, there the dance is.” ―T.S. Eliot


“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan and not quite enough time.” ―Leonard Bernstein


“To speak about that location from which work emerges, I choose familiar politicized language, old codes, words like ‘struggle, marginality, resistance.’ I choose these words knowing that they are no longer popular or ‘cool’ – hold onto them and the political legacies they evoke and affirm, even as I work to change what they say, to give them renewed and different meaning.
I am located in the margin. I make a definite distinction between that marginality which is imposed by oppressive structures and that marginality one chooses as site of resistance – as location of radical openness and possibility. This site of resistance is continually formed in that segregated culture of opposition that is our critical response to domination. We come to this space through suffering and pain, through struggle. We know struggle to be that which pleasures, delights, and fulfills desire. We are transformed, individually, collectively, as we make radical creative space which affirms and sustains our subjectivity, which gives us a new location from which to articulate our sense of the world.”
From the essay: ‘Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness;’ From the Book: “Yearnings: Race, Gender and Cultural Politics” (1989 ) by bell hooks

New Poems

Inquisition
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

We require that you speak into your
misalignment with our doctrine.
Also, do you float when ducked, or drown?
Do you truck with Satan?
Or run naked in the moonlight?
Do you own a speckled hen?

Please tell us which of the following are true:
You commune with fairies.
You read people’s fortunes in the cards.
You talk to trees.
You have a one-eyed cat named Old Scratch.

Tell us about that wart on your chin.
Do you have a roving eye?
Do you claim to sweep the cobwebs
from the sky upon your broom?
Do you own a cauldron?

Your neighbor says you threatened him,
you killed his cow and fouled his well.
He says you are a danger to his children.

How combustible are you?
For instance,
how long will it take, we wonder,
for your life to go up in flames?

Will you renounce the path of inner knowledge?
Denounce your friends,
your unmentionable activities?
Will you use our chosen names for God?

Sign this confession,
this creed, this code,
this doctrine of belief.
Explain your heresies
and offer us an actionable plan
for self-correction.

This is an ambush.
The story is rigged.
We’ve seen you in our visions
when we kneel to pray,
flying free and far from here,
no longer troubling our status quo.

Again, we ask:
When we duck you,
will you float or drown?


What I Want to Tell the Bullies
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

You’ve made your god too small,
clothed him in your own cast-off suits,
put him in a little box
and now you claim to worship
the poor little thing.

But the one whose name you wear
had a thing or two to say
about your kind of sanctimony:
Brood of vipers.
White-washed sepulchres,
the hypocritical teeth of your Sunday smiles
hiding the mouldering flesh of your lies,
and the dust and dry bones of a faith
that should be lush and living,
but which you killed so you
could set yourself up as god-kings.

What you worship
is simply a reflection
of your own self-righteousness
and power.

You’ve taken the word of Love
and turned it into a purity prison,
a death cult, an excuse
for your own violence and greed.

Jesus never burned a witch,
refused aid to the ailing,
or excommunicated someone
for loving who they loved.

The Holy One will not be caged.
The god-bird you thought
you’d caught flies free,
inviting all who Love to follow.

You did not cage or break me.
I followed the Bird.


Gratitude List:

  • Cool weather
  • Tomorrow begins in-service for my new job!
  • All my beloveds
  • Hidden patterns
  • The Holy realm of the senses

May we walk in Beauty!


“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“I used to say, ‘There is a God-shaped hole in me.’ For a long time I stressed the absence, the hole. Now I find it is the shape which has become more important.” —Salman Rushdie
*****
“Run my dear,
From anything
That may not strengthen
Your precious budding wings.”
—Hafez
*****
“The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.” —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.” —St. Hildegard of Bingen
*****
“The power of a bold idea uttered publicly in defiance of dominant opinion cannot be easily measured. Those special people who speak out in such a way as to shake up not only the self-assurance of their enemies, but the complacency of their friends, are precious catalysts for change.” —Howard Zinn
*****
“Dominance. Control. These things the unjust seek most of all. And so it is the duty of the just to defy dominance and to challenge control.” —Robert Fanney
*****
“No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I think us here to wonder, myself. To wonder. To ask. And that in wondering bout the big things and asking bout the big things, you learn about the little ones, almost by accident. But you never know nothing more about the big things than you start out with. The more I wonder, the more I love.” —Alice Walker
*****
“I am an expression of the divine, just like a peach is, just like a fish is. I have a right to be this way…I can’t apologize for that, nor can I change it, nor do I want to… We will never have to be other than who we are in order to be successful…We realize that we are as ourselves unlimited and our experiences valid. It is for the rest of the world to recognize this, if they choose.” —Alice Walker

Fifty-Five

Today is my birthday. I’ve been here 55 years now (<–link),
beginning at a hospital in Nairobi, Kenya.
To Shirati, Tanzania, when I was ten days old, where I met my father for the first time.
To York PA, back to Shirati, to Philippi WV, to Ephrata PA, and then to the messy all-over-the-placeness of young adulthood, and now back in York County, PA, for 20 years.

Here are some 55 Facts and Notes:
The number given to asteroid Pandora is #55. I am Pandora’s progeny–I can never leave a box unopened.

The number 55 is apparently a lucky number for the astrological sign of Leo. Roar!

In Mathematics:

  • 55 is the product of the smallest sexy prime pair (although I do not know what this means, I too am small, and sexy, and in my prime.)
  • 55 is the largest triangular number in the Fibonacci sequence (again, I know not what this means, but I am large, and I like triangles.)

The element Caesium has the number 55 on the periodic table. According to Wikipedia, Caesium is “a soft, silvery-golden alkali metal with a melting point of 28.5 °C (83.3 °F), which makes it one of only five elemental metals that are liquid at or near room temperature.”

In Numerological terms, my soul number is 5 (add the digits in 8.10.1967, and keep adding digits together until you get a single digit), so 55 (five and five) feels like a good strong year for me. In the tarot, the fifth major arcanum card is The Hierophant, which symbolizes the passing on of knowledge and traditions—I like to think of that as the Teacher. So I am going to take that as my personal charge for the coming year and double my efforts to be an effective and compassionate teacher.

The number 5 breaks out of the stable solidity of the 4, offering new opportunities for growth, but also the potential for conflict and instability. I go into this double five year with my life shaken and stirred (boy howdy!), ready to find my new balance, eager to grow and change and Become more me.


Gratitude List:
1. My father’s relative health. July was a difficult month for our family. I am reminded to treasure every moment with the people I love.
2. Walking with a good friend on woodsy trails this morning: Hackberry trees, smell of fox (pervasive in those woods), teasel, wild mugwort, wild hibiscus, the Little Conestoga Creek, and dogbane. Mostly: good, easy conversation and companionship.
3. Monarchs. I know they’re heading onto the Endangered Species List. Grateful to see so many here where we live.
4. Scent of fox is a reminder of the story of Foxwoman, told by Martin Shaw. Reminder to know myself, to know my wildness, to trust my dreamingself.
5. So many delicious birthday blessings! I feel delight and strength and hope, and such a connection with so many people whom I have known, both in person and online. So much love!
May we walk in Beauty!


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.


“Life…is a wonder. It is a sky laden with clouds of contradictions.” —Naguib Mahfouz


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


“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


“Soul of my soul … be water in this now-river.” —Rumi


“You are the Soul of the Soul of the Universe, and your name is Love.” —Rumi


“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


“It’s not only those who have succumbed to hate who have to change. We need to learn to love bigger, to bring them back.” —Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


“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


“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

The Teacher

If you’re just joining me in these recent posts, I am taking a trip through the Fool’s Journey, the soulpath laid out in the stages of the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards. As I work on creating my own deck with the help of an online AI image generator, I am renaming some of the cards to unthread the gendered nature of the older titles, but holding the images and ideas I have learned in twenty years of studying the tarot carefully in my center while I consider their significance.

I have been struggling to meditate on this one because of my own recent pain. For so many years of my life, I have identified as a teacher, and since early April, I have doubted that path, considered other options as perfectly viable options for my future, and finally, returned to The Teacher as my primary vocational destiny. It came clear to me one morning, just after I celebrated the graduation of the senior class I was unable to finish teaching. Being among them, even after the grief and rage of this loss, reminded me of the thing that brings me most alive. And so, I said Yes to a small school that has offered me a position as a Humanities Teacher. I am feeling satisfied and grateful. I have not yet signed the paperwork, so I won’t give details just yet.

In the Rider-Waite-Smith deck, this card is the Hierophant, a figure in the clothes of a bishop or pope, holding up a hand in blessing. The idea that comes with this card is the passing on of tradition. But it looks so patriarchal, I just struggle with it. As I worked with this card with friends, we came to see that this isn’t inherently about passing on the patriarchy, but about passing on knowledge and history, nurturing ideas and critical thinking. This is, to me, The Teacher.

I’ve spent so many years of my teaching life saying that I could probably be happy in any profession, that it’s not necessarily the profession that I love. But I realize that I have been fooling myself. Here’s another thing: One playful thing you can do in working with the tarot is to find your Soul Card. Take your birthday: Add the year to the month to the day. Mine is 1967+08+10=1985. Then add the digits together: 1+9+6+7=23. If it’s more than 22, add those together: 2+3=5. Your number, between 1 and 22, is your Soul Card. This is your soul’s work. It always bothered me that my Soul Card was The Hierophant, and I have sought out other, more helpful interpretations, and now, as I settle on my own extension of the meaning of this card as The Teacher, and realize that the vocation of Teacher is truly part of who I am, I can breathe a little better.

As I worked with the AI on this one, it was very important to me that my input would cause the AI to create the image in a natural setting because I think that the most pressing issue underlying everything we do and teach today must include a sense of the importance of knowing and protecting the Earth.


Gratitude List:
1. Settling into my vocation. When I have signed the paperwork, I will say more, but for now, I am deeply grateful and delighted to have found a teaching position for the fall!
2. Cool mid-June. I struggle with really difficult allergies from mid-May until mid-June, so during what are the most pleasant temperatures of the late spring, I keep indoors with doors and windows closed. When I emerge from the allergy fog, the season has usually turned hot. I am so grateful for these cooler days when I am emerging and able to live out of doors again.
3. Kindness. Tenderness. Gentleness.
4. Poppies. I still don’t have any of my own, but I LOVE walking and driving past other people’s gardens, especially when the poppies are blooming.
5. Truth. Veracity. Impeccability. People who can humbly speak what they know to be true without having to shift the narrative in order to defend or aggrandize themselves.
May we walk humbly, justly, and kindly, in Beauty!


“We are so brief. A one-day dandelion. A seedpod skittering across the ice. We are a feather falling from the wing of a bird. I don’t know why it is given to us to be so mortal and to feel so much. It is a cruel trick, and glorious.” —Louise Eldrich


“A man who does not know how to be angry does not know how to be good. And a man that does not know how to be shaken to his heart’s core with indignation over things evil is either a fungus or a wicked man.” —Henry Ward Beecher, social reformer and abolitionist (1813-1887)


Here’s the best way to see a thing: catch
the edge of light
that burns
around its opposite, that
which it would otherwise
obscure.
—Mark Bibbins


I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone.
How to believe the legends I am told? …

I turned your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore—
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
That is the gift I thank Medusa for.
—May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”


“How you get there is where you’ll arrive.” —The Mad Hatter


“When you look at what is happening to our world—and it is hard to look at what’s happening to our water, our air, our trees, our fellow species—it becomes clear that unless you have some roots in a spiritual practice that holds life sacred and encourages joyful communion with all your fellow beings, facing the enormous challenges ahead becomes nearly impossible.” —Joanna Macy


“We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time.” —Joanna Macy


“And I consider myself a skeptic, but Lord, I’m an optimistic soul.” —Rising Appalachia

Holding the Boundaries

Art by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI. Brightwing Tarot.

I’m trying not to engage in too wide-ranging a re-interpretation of the cards as I find my way through the Fool’s Wanderings in the tarot, so I want to be careful with cards like this one, which I have always found unsettling. The Fool leaves the arms of the nurturing Earth in the Empress/Matrix card, and now meets the Emperor. As I meditate on the meaning of this card and what the Fool needs to learn here, I find the martial and domineering nature of the Emperor to crunch too intensely against my own notions of peace and justice.

The Emperor is the boundary-setter, putting their own Will into the world and establishing the edges. Rather than interpreting this card as the selfish and greedy conquest of a power-hungry patriarch, I look at this boundary-setting as an incredibly important moment in the Fool’s learning process, when they realize they, too, deserve justice and respect. In my own recent crisis, I find that I must make a stop here in the land of The Protector (whom I might end up calling The Boundary-Setter), and relearn how to re-member my own boundaries, how to shore up the walls of my garden, and say, “This far, and no further. Here is my limit.”

And it IS a re-learning and a re-membering. It’s never a once and done thing. This Fool that is me has been here in this place before, learning about boundaries and protection of my insides. I thought I had completely aced this lesson in the past. Yet I find myself here again. Again. The assault on my inner realm this time has been more intense than I could have previously imagined. Time to re-learn this lesson. With the Emperor/Protector/Boundary-Setter, I say, “I will protect myself. I will hold fast to my inner truth and not feel shame.”

And this one pairs so beautifully with the work of The Matrix, in this case a binary pairing that dances together to form a deeper complexity. The life force of The Matrix is free of boundaries and rule-setting, and the soul force of The Protector creates healthy and safe boundaries. Too much of one or the other, and the Fool will lose her balance.

And how can I truly create brave and safe where others can feel belonging if I cannot protect my own inner world? One thing that the traditional Emperor does not seem to know how to do is to ask for help. I’m grateful to add that layer to my version of the card. This Protector knows how to ask for help in times of breached walls.

Here is my Emperor poem from several years ago. I find that it’s one of those moments when my own voice from the past has something to say to the me of the moment:

Setting the Intention
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I will.
That should fill
the task list of the day.
Just say,
“I will.”

Then make that happen.
Make your will into a thing
Let it sing.
Give it ground.

Cast your boundaries around you:
east and south and west and north.
Go forth
and do your will.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak. I know he makes my gratitude list every day now, but really, the sun twinkling off the deep cerulean of his feathers is such a revelation! I feel like Mother Mary is tapping me on the shoulder every time I see him. Such a Blue!
2. Safe and protected spaces, and the people who rush to help shore up the walls when they’ve been breached.
3. Father Richard Rohr’s words today on symbolic language for the journey of faith. I felt like he’d been watching my own story somehow. Powerful synchronicity.
4. Reclaiming my place.
5. So many Beloveds. You and you and you. Twice this past weekend, I met people in the flesh whom I have only known online, and I was so blessed to know and see their beauty in the real world. I can be really socially awkward, especially right now, but I love this sort of encounter! Balm to my soul.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Mater and Matrix

So, the Fool has embarked upon adventure–unprepared but winsomely present to each moment on the road–has learned the elemental mysteries of the universe from the Medium, and has studied wisdom and lore from the Secret Keeper. The next two characters the Fool meets are usually called The Empress and The Emperor. By renaming the Empress Matrix, I haven’t actually managed to entirely pull this character out of the gender binary, for matrix is the source, the womb from which we are born, the fertile Earth, the rock bed on which crystals are formed. This is the birth-giver, the bringer of life: fecund, nurturing, fruitful, generative. The German word mater, from which we get the word mother, comes from the Latin matrix.

This Matrix, unlike Neo’s computer simulation, is the source of all life, the life force that pushes dandelions through concrete and pulls forth the greening of the spring, draws forth the flower, and brings flower to fruit. Then the Matrix locks up that life force into the hard shell of the seed to begin the cycle all over again.

After acquiring knowledge and power from Medium and Secret Keeper, the Fool must take time to grow, and to carefully observe the cycles of life, to feel the Life Force that feeds the Fool’s own self. The Fool learns to tend and nurture life force in the presence of the Matrix.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about The Empress:

Message from the Empress
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.


The Matrix/Empress has no time for rule-making about bodies. Here is where the Fool learns about Embodiment, about Being a Body. Unlike certain strains of Buddhism and Christianity that stress transcending or mortifying the body in order to reach enlightenment or purity, The Matrix knows that the body is pure and right and holy. “Your body is a temple,” we were told in Sunday School, and were expected to hide and contain and control it. “Your body is a temple,” says The Matrix, “and it is meant to be celebrated and inhabited and experienced.”

How do you experience life in a body? Is it painful? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Joyful? Ecstatic? Primal? What meditations and movements, what breathing and noticing, can you do to more fully experience the deep sense of belonging in a body?


Gratitude List:
1. People who get it, who understand your story even when you need to speak around silent spaces. People who See you even when you feel like parts of you have become invisible.
2. Textile arts, particularly crocheting and knitting–how amazing that we can take one or two little sticks, and a piece of string, and make such amazing things? Knot and twist. There’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?
3. Wood thrushes calling in the woods at Sam Lewis Park this evening.
4. Disc Golf. I didn’t play because we only have two sets of discs, but it was such a delight walking through the course as the boys played. Child 2 said to Child 1, “You’ll have to hurry up and get your license so we can do this whenever we want!”
5. Blue grosbeak, a constant visual presence at the feeder, and oriole, a constant aural presence in the holler.
May we walk in Beauty!


“If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.”
—Franz Wright


“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —attributed to Buddha and to Nelson Mandela


“Let fury have the hour.
Anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?”
–The Clash


“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”
― Junot Díaz


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King


“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

The Secret Keeper

After the Fool studies under the tutelage of the magician or medium, they begin an apprenticeship in lore and knowledge and wisdom with the High Priestess. I’m trying to unthread some of these roles from the gender binary, so for now, I am calling this person the Secret Keeper. On any spiritual path, there are stages and steps in the journey toward wisdom and maturity, and the Secret Keeper represents that careful opening up of understanding as the Fool absorbs new things.

Why might it be important for the Fool to absorb knowledge and teaching slowly and carefully rather than dashing immediately into the inner sanctum? I think of the people I watch on the national scene, celebrity preachers who, heady with the sense of power they feel with their shallow understandings of biblical “truths,” begin to preach a gospel of prosperity or nationalism, people who develop immature and twisted ideas of purity based on rule-based dogma, and then try to pass off pat and glib salesmanship as faith. A surface glance at a holy text or a shallow absorption of a spiritual principle will not help the Fool to deepen and grow, and in order to face the coming challenges, the Fool needs to go deep.

To use the churchy word, the Fool needs discipleship, the careful study and application of spiritual disciplines, in order to be grounded in the power learned at the Medium’s knee, and the knowledge offered by the Secret Keeper.

What are your spiritual disciplines? Here are some of mine:
1. I love the Search for Beauty, or as Mary Oliver puts it: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”
2. I find Gratitude Lists to be really helpful, especially when I find myself cycling into complaining and despair.
3. Writing poetry. Writing in general.
4. Trying to envision everyone as a beloved child of Godde or the Universe. I don’t do this lightly, and I would never require it of anyone else. In situations where I am trying to understand someone who hurts other people, I try to meditate on the fact that they, too, are beloved. It’s not about forgiveness or about tolerating injustice or evil, just about not losing sight of the other’s essential humanity.
5. Meditation with images, like a piece of art or a photograph or a tarot card.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak
2. Cardinal
3. Goldfinch
4. The green flowery smell of mid-May
5. Always something new to learn.
May we walk in Beauty!


“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.” —Terry Pratchett


“Oh, God, make me a hollow reed, from which the pith of self hath been blown so that I may become as a clear channel through which Thy Love may flow to others. I have left behind me impatience and discontent. I will chafe no more at my lot. I commit myself wholly into thy hands, for thou are my Guide in the desert, the Teacher of my ignorance, the Physician of my sickness.” —attributed to Abdu’l-Bahá


“Truth is an agile cat. It has more than nine lives.” —Joy Harjo


Silence
by Hafiz

A day of Silence
can be a pilgrimage in itself.
A day of Silence
can help you listen
to the Soul play
in marvelous lute and drum.
Is not most talking
a crazed defense of a crumbling fort?
I thought we came her
to surrender in Silence,
to yield to Light and Happiness,
to Dance within
in celebration of Love’s Victory!

The Happy Medium

After setting out on the journey into the woods, or to the cliff’s edge, or through the deep and shadowy valley, the Fool encounters a series of individuals, wise mentors who offer the Fool help, advice, skills, and wisdom.

The first of these is traditionally called The Magician or Mage. I like the term Mage, because it reminds me of the three Magi of the legends that came from the “wise men from the east” who visited the Christ Child. I am also enamored of Madeleine L’Engle’s Happy Medium, who can see into the patterns of the cosmos. For now, I am calling this one the Medium. This advisor to the Fool has ready access to all the tools of water, earth, air, and fire, and has a deep spiritual capability to visualize the change they wish to see in the world, and then the inner fortitude to make it happen. The Mage or Medium doesn’t just let life happen to them; they happen to life. So the Fool, who has set out without any real planning or purpose other than adventure, receives here the training to develop a vision, to make a plan, to create what they want in the world.

I feel a little like I am the Fool seeking the Medium’s wisdom right now. How can I use the skills and tools that I have to draw to myself the Next Thing? How can I put my own thoughts and ideas into the world, envision a future, plan for what I want, and make it happen? All while maintaining the winsomeness of the Fool.


Here is a poem about Magic, for the Magician:

The Magic of Language
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Listen to the wisdom of the sage.
“What is language, but a kind of magic?
Here am I, in my own organism, my tower of Self,
and you there in your own lonely keep,
and how shall we bridge the gap between us
but by language? These webs of sound
we string together, we cast them through sky,
drawing out threads of meaning,
as with a wand, fiery threads of sense.

“We build this bridge on air,
scratch symbols on a page with feathers,
and stories flow like water between us,
borne on gossamer strands
of word on word on word.
We manage and tend our loneliness
by weaving cloths of language.
How can we find each other in the shadow
but for the flow of speech we offer
and the magic of these words upon the page?


Gratitude List:
1. Well duh! That was no indigo bunting! It was a blue grosbeak. I should have known that. I’ve seen and identified both in recent years. But my brain blipped, much as it does when it mistakenly equivocates unequivocable things in math-world. So yay! Blue Grosbeak!
2. I love Kindergarten! I love the stories. I love the shining eyes. I love the wiggliness. I love the dreaminess. I love the restfulness. I love Miss Nikki and Miss Abby, and I love being Miss Beth.
3. Putting Difficult Things behind me. No, I’m not going to start repressing Big Feelings, but you can only spend so long looking at the devastation of the wildfire before you start to clean up and replant and rebuild.
4. Foreacre Furfamily! We HAD to do something about the barn kittens yesterday. This is the second time a cat has given birth in the barn (that we know of). I think people drop off their cats at farms, and then the feral population burgeons. Last night we had a near tragedy involving some of the kittens and a mower, so we put out the call for someone to come take the kittens and the Foreacres responded! They have all five kittens safely cared for, and they even took the mama after we trapped her, so she can be fixed. I love people who care for animals.
5. Energy. Today is the first time in a long time that I haven’t felt a pressing need for a nap.
May we walk in Beauty!

*#4 is really a rant. Please DON’T abandon your animals at farms in the country. Yes, there are mice in the barn for a feral cat to eat, but there are also bird’s nests all over the woods, and baby bunnies, and we want to enjoy the birds and the bunnies. And when you abandon your cat, someone else will have to be responsible for dealing with the offspring, and for getting the animal fixed.


“The Word is not a pet. The Word is the wildness behind creation, the terror of a black hole, the atomic violence of burning hydrogen within a sun.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“I stand before what is with an open heart. And with an open heart, I dwell in possibility.” —Macrina Weiderkehr


“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett


“Somewhere in the world there is a treasure that has no value to anyone but you, and a secret that is meaningless to everyone except you, and a frontier that possesses a revelation only you know how to exploit. Go in search of those things.

Somewhere in the world there is a person who could ask you the precise question you need to hear in order to catalyze the next phase of your evolution. Do what’s necessary to run into that person.” —Rob Breszny


“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.” —Stephi Wagner


“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ―George Orwell


“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, that person sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” —Robert F Kennedy


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil it multiplies it.” —Martin Luther King Jr


“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” —Frederick Douglass


“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” ―Jane Goodall

The Fool’s Mission

Another poem about the Fool:

Begin at the End
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Begin your road at the ending,
as the last pathway rounds the bend.
Dance to the lip of the chasm–
place your foot upon a bridge of rainbow.
Keep your eyes upon the distant wood,
your ears tuned to the song of undine and dryad.

Remember, your road is a circle,
and everywhere you are is the start of your journey.
Your road is of water, of vision, of air,
of heartbeat, illusion, and wisdom
a pathway of fire and smoke.

Feel how the sky under your feet holds you up,
how the earth at your back is made only of dreams,
how the only way forward is light and color,
how a distant harping draws you onward.


Gratitude List:
1. Indigo Bunting at the feeder: Impossible blue
2. New endeavors. I’m heading off to kindergarten in a moment
3. Just now, half a minute after I typed #1, the Bunting flew straight to the window. I was terrified that he was going to crash into it, but he flew up and hovered and looked in at me for several wingbeats! Holy holy holy!
4. Orchard Oriole
5. Silence
May we walk in Beauty!


“No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” —Lupita Nyong’o


TO MAKE A PROMISE
by David Whyte

Make a place of prayer, no fuss,
just lean into the white brilliance
and say what you needed to say
all along, nothing too much, words
as simple and as yours and as heard
as the bird song above your head
or the river running gently beside you,
let your words join to the world
the way stone nestles on stone
the way the water simply leaves
and goes to the sea,
the way your promise
breathes and belongs
with every other promise
the world has ever made.

Now, leave them to go on,
let your words alone
to carry their own life,
without you, let the promise
go with the river.
Have faith. Walk away.


“Feminism requires precisely what patriarchy destroys in women. Unimpeachable bravery in confronting male power.” —Andrea Dworkin


“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” —Brené Brown

The Fool Sets Off

The Fool Sets Off On the Journey, Brightwing Tarot

In the tarot, that ancient tool for exploring the journey to the center of the self, the Fool sets off on a journey. She’s naive and eager to court adventure. He’s unafraid of dangers that may lie in his path. They dance on the edge of the cliff, follow the trail of butterflies, and seek out that which is fresh and new and exciting. Anything could happen, yes, but anything COULD happen! With Walt Whitman, the Fool sings: “Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, / Strong and content, I travel the travel the open road!”

This is how the fairy tale begins. You are the golden child, innocent, hopeful, full of promise. Tabula rasa, a blank slate. Anything can happen.

You live on the edge of a great wood, a forest beautiful and terrifying. You live in a warm, inviting cottage. In a poor but tidy little hut. In a fine and well-appointed house. In a castle. In a dirty, ramshackle hovel. In a high tower.

With warm, nurturing, and protective parents, or a family struck by despair and dysfunction. With a gentle and forgetful grandmother. With your father, a benevolent but distant king, and his wife, a smothering overprotector. With the vain and hostile wife of your loving but absent father, a traveling merchant. With a terrible witch who stole you from your family. With a kind witch who has rescued you from your suffering.

One thread runs through all the tales: You are admonished not to go into the forest alone. There is a set boundary, a garden, a lane, a wall—a line that you must, for your own safety, never cross. For the wood, while full of calling birds and bright butterflies, can also be a place of fear and danger, where a child could be lost or eaten by wolves. Both the beauties and the dangers are very real.

And the wood is exactly the place that your adventure must take you, for the forest is the landscape of your own adult life. Perhaps, like Red Riding Hood, you made your first steps into this wood on your own with the firm and gentle guidance of a loving parent who gently set you on the most known pathway. Perhaps, like Hansel and Gretel or Vasilissa the Brave, you were set into the wood without supplies or direction, pushed out of childhood innocence before you were ready. Maybe, like Goldilocks, you followed a trail of bright flowers or a shining ray of sunlight into the wood, against all the cautions of the adults in your life, and your own curiosity drew you into the trees.

Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Once upon a time there lived a golden child
who followed a trail of bright flowers
deep into the heart of the forest.

That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
This is the story you chose for your own
in those rainbow days before you were born.

Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.

We forget how to find our way,
forget that we are the main character,
the child of the glorious day,
forget our identity,
forget our destiny, our star
forget how to follow our guides,
forget who they are.

So step into the clearing, Dearies.
Have a seat by the fire.
Here’s a little advice:

Keep following the flowers,
the butterflies, the little birds,
whatever drew you in here in the first place.

Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
but don’t give them Grandma’s address.

Breaking and entering is still
breaking and entering, Sweetie,
even if it’s a cute little cottage.
You never know what’s in the oatmeal.

Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
Your mother’s voice inside yourself
will always lead you true.

Beware of riddling with old women.
Always remember your manners,
and always be kinder than necessary.

There’s a happily-ever-after
right around the bend,
but you might have to travel
half a lifetime and complete
three impossible tasks
to reach it.


More Advice from Aunt Eliza
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

It doesn’t always have to be so,
but it seems to be the way things go:

When the sunny trail ends at that dead ash tree,
when the sweet-scented grasses turn to brambles,
when the radiant butterfly flits into shadows
and out from behind the tree pads the wolf–

That is when the story really gets started.

Epiphany can be those shiny angels,
those glittering kings bearing gold,
but it also comes in shadows and cobwebs.

One day you are sleep-walking
through your dreamy life,
not paying attention to where the path leads,
and epiphany comes in the form of a crow,
calling your name from the topmost branch
of a lightning-struck oak.

Or you find the sweet cottage
but wake up surrounded by bears
or tossed head-first into the furnace.

Or an old woman in tatters and rags
swoops into the clearing, chattering,
demanding to know who you think you are,
demanding your service, your heart.

And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Who do you think you are, meddling in this story?
Can you give your whole heart to the process?
What are you doing here, in the heart of this forest,
this landscape of your life?
What is your real name?
Are you ready to fight for it?
To go on a quest, answer the riddle,
do the three impossible tasks,
risk your own dissolution, your death,
just to claim it as your own?

You thought you were so brave,
following the path to explore the woods,
though you’d been warned,
though your skin prickled,
though you knew the stories
of those who never returned.

Now is the time for bravery.
Now is the time for fierce
uncompromising joy.
Now the real exploration begins.


Gratitude List:
1. Symbols for the journey
2. Good coffee
3. Art-gallery-hopping
4. Adventure
5. Fairy Tales
May we walk in Wonder!


“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde


“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux


“A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” —Anya Seton


“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” —Alexandra K.Trenfor


“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn’t interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn’t interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life.” —Oriah Mountain Dreamer


The Bridge

In a trivial gesture, in a greeting,
in the simple glance, directed
in flight toward other eyes,
a golden, a fragile bridge is constructed.
This alone is enough.

Although it is only for a moment, it exists, exists.
This alone is enough.
—Circe Maia
translation from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval


“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ―Roald Dahl


“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” ―Mary Oliver


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” ―Vonnegut