Listening for Stirrings of Spring

Happy Groundhog’s Day, Bright Ones! For today, I offer a collage of writings from past Imbolc days:

What do you bring up into the light today?
What has been developing within you during your Winter Sleep?
What does the dawning light tell you about your shadows?
How does the coming sun define the shape of you?
Groundhog’s Day is a modern version of the ancient celebration of the Goddess Brigid, who became syncretized with the Catholic Saint Brigid, whose feast day is February 1 or 2, depending on whom you ask. Brigid asks: What path will you commit yourself to in the coming season?


SONG FOR POETS: A POEM FOR BRIGHID’S DAY
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, Feb 2013

(Today we look for that jolly rodent, and also we commemorate Brighid, triple goddess and patroness of Ireland, Saint of Kildare. Smithcraft, poetry, and healing arts are her realms.)

Sacred wells, undying flame.

We forge our words on your anvil,
listening for the sweet ping
of hammer on metal,
watching the sparks fly outward,
shaping and crafting.

We seek them like wild herbs
found only on the side of a mountain
for a short season each year.

We search under bracken,
through briar and thorn,
stepping through bogs,
listening for the birdsong
that tells us we have arrived
at the proper place.

We give ourselves to words,
not waiting for inspiration,
but chasing it like skuthers of fog
over the misty hills.
Seeking the solace and healing
that words offer,
and turning our minds
to do that healing work.
Crafting our words
into tools and enticements.

A year and a day
the old ones would pledge
to your service.
So may it be.
One year of poetry,
making it, reading it.

Oh Lady, give us poetry.

Questions to Contemplate in the Season of Brigid:
This is the season of sunlight and shadow:
What is the shape of my shadow?
How does it hamper me?
How does it hold me?
How does it tell me the shape of my soul?

Brigid is the Smith, she who works the forges:
What within me is being tempered this season?
What is being shaped and shifted?
What sacred patterns are being traced along my edges?
What useful tool am I being forged to become?

Brigid is the Healer.
The waters of her well bring wholeness.
What spaces within me need the touch of her waters?
What dis-ease drains my vitality?
How can I offer the waters of healing to others?

Brigid is Patroness of Poets.
How do words shape my reality, like iron is shaped in the forge?
How do my words bring healing, like water from the well?
How can I speak poetry into the cold and the shadows
of the season which is upon us?
Can I offer my daily words with the care and the artfulness of the poet?


Gratitudes:
1. My neighbor and his snow blower. We got some good exercise shoveling about a third of the driveway, for about an hour. Then Ron brought his snow blower over and finished up the rest in five minutes.
2. We might be covered in a foot of snow, but the birds are singing spring songs.
3. Breathing out. Starting afresh. My new semester is feeling like a field of unbroken snow, waiting for us to cover it with our little birdy tracks.
4. Two snow days right when I need them.
5. Professional development. I learned a new thing–sort of by accident–about how to design Google Slides this morning. And I’ve listened to Sonya Renee Taylor talking about Accountability vs. Cancel Culture. Take a deep, deep breath. Yes, Call people out, when the situation warrants. Call people in when you can. But, she says, let’s call on each other. Don’t be “bound to the binary” of calling out or calling in. “Your amygdala is your business.”

Walk in Beauty, Beloveds!


“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” —Albert Einstein


“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” —Cornel West


“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.
“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.
“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.” —Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”


“Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.” —Borges


“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” —Neil Gaiman

Song for Brigid’s Day

You know how a little task, left to smolder, grows and builds until it’s a raging, impossible fire? I let that happen this past semester with some of the grading that needed to get done. It just got out of hand. I can make all the excuses: the distraction of election and insurrection, winter depression, the frustration of trying to work with assignment submissions online and students who simply cannot seem to figure out how to submit so they email you or leave the documents in their shared folder. Still, it was me not getting it done.

My friend Gloria says she’s read that incorrigible procrastination (my adjective) is related to low self esteem. I think I must have work to do there, and of course that feeds into the sense of depression and the further procrastination.

Last night, at about three, I finally put the first semester to rest. It’s a relief, but the chronic nature of my procrastination has now created a lingering sense of inadequacy that dogs me, makes it hard to celebrate joyfully.

But here is a breathing space: Today is Brigid’s Day. Brigid was a goddess of the British Isles, who became conflated with Saint Brigid. Notice her in whatever guise she calls to you–she is the Teacher I need for this moment. She calls for commitment to your purpose, calls for responsibility and accountability. Not a heavy and forced and angry accountability, but a joyful and purposeful walk into your destiny.

Like our friend the groundhog takes stock of shadows and light, of what will be needful for the next six weeks as we walk out of winter and into spring, today (this season) is for taking stock, for considering what inner and mental health resources we may have on hand, what we will need to search out in the coming weeks, in order to make it through.

So, on the night when so many of my friends were tending their hearthfires in honor of Brigid, and meditating on her healing and inspiration, on how she stirs the Earth and Her creatures to waken, I was finishing a task, slipping in just under the wire to be accountable to my work, celebrating this seasonal shift toward awakening with my own wakeful process, my commitment to my task, late and haphazard as it felt.

The wakefulness of this moment, when the Earth begins to stir beneath her blanket of snow, requires acknowledgement and tallying of the past, and striving and moving into the future. Commitment to make a change. I have been telling myself at the beginning of every semester that I will be on top of things THIS time. And still, I fall and I fail. Perhaps I need to get some help in this coming season. Our school, in conjunction with a local mental health organization, offers at least one free session with a trained counselor in a year. Perhaps my commitment on this Brigid’s day should be different than my usual bombastic “I can do this myself!” Perhaps it should be to seek help, find resources that will support me to meet my goals.


Gratitudes:
1. Resolve
2. Awakening
3. Wisdom of the Grandmothers
4. Snow Day
5. This cat Sachs, who is trying to rest in the circle of my arms as I type. He keeps putting his paw on my hand. He is purring. He likes snow days as much as I do.

May we walk in wisdom and Beauty!

Song for Brigid’s Day
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

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“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” —Terry Tempest Williams


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


“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolf


“Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” —St. Teresa of Avila


“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear. I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” ―Lauren Oliver, Delirium


“You can never leave footprints that last when you are walking on tiptoes.” ―Leymah Gbowee

She Would Have Been a Good Woman

In her story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” Flannery O’Connor brings a family face-to-face with a serial killer called the Misfit, who, along with his minions, kills the family, one by one. It’s a stark and horrifying story, not only of the cold-blooded murders, but of the character of the matriarch of the family, a grandmother who believes in her goodness, her self-satisfied sense of privilege. She is blind to her bias, and willfully committed to her ideas of caste and race and privilege. At the very end, just before the Misfit kills her, she shows the merest hint of self-understanding, the briefest light of awakening to the truth. Standing over her dead body the Misfit proclaims: “She would have been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Please understand that I am not advocating violence here in these violent times, but I kept hearing the Misfit in my head these past few days, beginning with watching Lindsey Graham speak with such passionate fervor in the dark hours between Wednesday and Thursday. Others, too, spoke with eloquence and zeal about how the terror of the preceding hours made them take a long look at how denying the fairly-cast electoral votes delegitimized the process and led to the type of unrest that caused the terror attack on their own building.

And yet, here we are, three days later, and they pull back, they equivocate. They condemn the acts of violence and the destruction, but they continue to press the false narratives that got us to this point in the first place. It now appears that the Vice President’s life was probably truly in danger, as many of us suspected, that among the hooligans and yahoos was a very organized group of would-be assassins intent on turning a protest into an insurrection (which they achieved) and an insurrection into an assassination and a bloody coup. And yet the Vice President remains silent. He dithers and equivocates as he has always done.

On Wednesday afternoon, Congress met the Misfit, and for a few brief hours, in the shock of terror, some of them woke up to the horror that lay beyond the web of lies they’ve been weaving. A glimmer of light shone through on Epiphany. But they seem to be settling back into silent complacency that only furthers the lies of the powerful who seek to loot and plunder our democracy as surely as the insurrectionists looted its halls and offices on Wednesday.

The landscape is littered with lies,
seeded with falsehoods like landmines,
like bombs hidden in the halls of justice.
The fabric of reality is stained,
torn and twisted, threads cut and tangled.

It’s nothing new, this rhetoric of insurrection.
For years now, they’ve been spreading it on,
lie by lie, suggestion by suggestion,
layer by seditious layer, whipping the masses
into a frenzy of rage and disenfranchisement.

Now is the time for clear-headed cleaning,
gathering threads of Truth where we find them,
patching and weaving, healing the fabric,
stitching and mending, finding our way
to the source of the lies and destruction.

Long before terror and chaos pillaged the building,
the lies were laid to pillage the truth, to bend
the will of the gullible and power-hungry masses
to do the silent bidding of the suited pirates
who have laid the groundwork of sedition.

Calling for calm and understanding only veils the carnage,
drawing another layer of lies to cover the wreck.
Now is the time for the stark strands of truth
to stand out and carry the narrative
back from the brink of destruction.


Gratitude:
Today I am grateful for truth, for narratives that center stories of people who have been cut from the narratives told by the powerful to skew the truth to their own agenda. I am grateful for the weavers and menders and spinners who pick up the torn and tangled threads and get to work to repair the tapestry of our story, holding the lie-mongers to account, and weaving in the threads of truth.


“A man is either free, or he is not. There cannot be an apprenticeship for freedom.” —Amiri Baraka


“Beloved community is formed not by the eradication of difference but by its affirmation, by each of us claiming the identities and cultural legacies that shape who we are and how we live in the world.” ―bell hooks, killing rage: Ending Racism


“Consider whether great changes have not happened deep inside your being in times when you were sad. The only sadnesses that are unhealthy and dangerous are those we carry around in public in order to drown them out. Like illnesses that are treated superficially, they only recede for a while and then break out more severely. Untreated they gather strength inside us and become the rejected, lost, and unlived life that we may die of. If only we could see a little farther than our knowledge reaches and a little beyond the borders of our intuition, we might perhaps bear our sorrows more trustingly than we do our joys. For they are the moments when something new enters us, something unknown. Our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, they take a step back, a stillness arises, and the new thing, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“After silence,
that which comes nearest to
expressing the inexpressible,
is music.” —Aldous Huxley


“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”
—Shel Silverstein

Epiphany Witch & The Holy Aha!

I hoped to wake up on Epiphany morning with a final fascinating dream to spool out into meaning to carry into my year, but the moment I woke the cobwebs of sleep were swept aside, and the dreamscapes dissipated.

Here is a poem I wrote a couple years ago for Epiphany, about Old Befana, the Epiphany Witch from Italian folklore. In the stories, Befana takes good care to sweep and tidy her house every day, and tends to get caught up in all that needs to be done in the mundane world. One day, three strange characters come through her village. They are dressed in colorful and sumptuous robes. They’re riding camels. They carry with them gold, and frankincense and myrrh to give to a king they seek. They have seen portents in the sky, a star they believe they will lead them to this king, this Christ-child.

Befana hosts them in her humble house for the night, bustling about, cooking and cleaning and sweeping in all the corners. In the morning, when they begin the next stage of their journey, they ask Old Befana if she would like to come with them to seek the Holy Child. She can’t make up her mind, can’t decide, can’t get ready. There’s just so much to do, so much sweeping! And before she realizes what has happened, their caravan bells are just whispers in the distance. And suddenly, Befana knows that she must go along! She MUST catch that caravan! She grabs her broom and ties her scarf around her neck, and races after them, but she’s too late! She never catches up.

It sounds like such a story of loss and missed opportunity, and it is, but it’s also about what happens next. Old Befana dedicates the rest of her life to finding the Holy Child, flying about the world on her broom, listening for the bells of the Magicians’ caravan, sweeping the cobwebs from the sky, seeking the Christ-Child. On the way, she offers treats and gifts to all the children she passes.

So it’s a story about missing the holy and the magical and the sublime because we–like Old Befana–are too focused on the daily details in front of our faces. It’s a reminder to look up and out and stay aware for the Holy Visitors. But also a reminder that we can give our lives to the beauty of seeking the holy, and bless others with the gifts of our search. Each one we meet just might lead us closer to the Holy Child.

La Befana: Epiphany Witch
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She’d got her eyes fixed
on what was right in front of her,
the dust and the dirt
and the everyday mess.

Wanted to be ready
for the coming of the child
but couldn’t see beyond
the day she was in.

Believe me, I know
what the old one
was up to–and I don’t
sweep and dust–
but I too get caught
by the fishhook of the present,
stuck in the nextness
of each task ahead,
forget to lift my eyes
to see the shine and sparkle
of my arriving guests,
can’t put down my broom,
my pen, my daily rhythm,
to look up and outward.

Like Old Befana, I catch, too late,
the jingle of the caravan bells
as they turn the corner in the distance,
see the disappearing cloud of dust.

Hastening to grab my cloak and bag,
I’ve lost their trail before I reach
the distant corner, left behind,
bereft, alone, dust-covered,
traveling bag in one hand
and broom in the other,
destined to spend my life
sweeping the skies,
chasing down the Holy Aha.


Gratitudes:
1. I’m still so happy about having two working toilets in this house of four people. I know it’s a luxury that many people don’t have, and I don’t take it for granted. In our lives, with a teenager who likes to stay up quite late, and then putters around in the bathroom in the middle of the night, creaking the floor and sometimes humming, it’s better for our sleep. And no more yelled negotiations at the bathroom door when one person has an urgent need to go and someone else is still in the shower.
2. Reminders to keep looking for the Holy One, even in the mundane moments.
3. The work of spinning and weaving, mending and healing.
4. A friend of mine is gathering data and ideas for a dissertation, and asked me to be something of a guinea pig for a project that includes taking photos and writing about mindfulness in my teaching process. I love doing things like this, and of course it’s like a little professional development retreat in the middle of it all.
5. All the people who seek Goodness, who follow the distant sound of the caravan bells, who clear the cobwebs that hinder clear vision of the Truth, who tend to each child along the way as though they are meeting the Child of Light.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Epiphany. The light floods in. The eyes open. And open again. See. See further. Aha!” —Moonbat, ‘14


“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.” —William Wordsworth


“A Woman in harmony with her spirit is like a river flowing. She goes where she will without pretense and arrives at her destination prepared to be herself and only herself.” —Maya Angelou


“In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” —Phil Ochs


“The sense-making in poetry is about getting behind the brain. A poem is a door. Sometimes poets make sturdy, locked, exclusive club doors that you can only enter if you are one of ‘us,’ or if you can speak (or pretend to know) the password. A really good and satisfying poem is an open and inviting doorway that frames the view in a particularly compelling way. ‘Look!’ it says. ‘Stand and stare. Take a deep breath. Then tell me what you see.’
“Good poetry, I think, holds a paradoxical perspective on language itself: it acknowledges the inadequacy of words to completely map an inner geography, and it also steps with reverence and awe into the sacred space that language creates between writer and reader. Words are both inadequate and holy.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014


“Where does despair fit in? Why is our pain for the world so important? Because these responses manifest our interconnectedness. Our feelings of social and planetary distress serve as a doorway to systemic social consciousness. To use another metaphor, they are like a ‘shadow limb.’ Just as an amputee continues to feel twinges in the severed limb, so in a sense do we experience, in anguish for homeless people or hunted whales, pain that belongs to a separated part of our body—a larger body than we thought we had, unbounded by our skin. Through the systemic currents of knowing that interweave our world, each of us can be the catalyst or ‘tipping point’ by which new forms of behavior can spread. There are as many different ways of being responsive as there are different gifts we possess. For some of us it can be through study or conversation, for others theater or public office, for still others civil disobedience and imprisonment. But the diversities of our gifts interweave richly when we recognize the larger web within which we act. We begin in this web and, at the same time, journey toward it. We are making it conscious.” —Joanna Macy


“In a time that would have us believe there is always more to strive for, more to accumulate, more enlightenment to reach – the most radical stance we can take is enoughness.
What if we quit trying to be spiritual and aspired to be human instead?
What if there is nothing to fix because we are already whole?
What if there was no time to prove ourselves, because we’re consumed with marveling at life?
What if there is no reason to hold back our gifts, because they are meant to be given?
What if every morsel, every glance, every moment and every breath is a miracle of enough?” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“It was miraculous. It was almost no trick at all, he saw, to turn vice into virtue and slander into truth, impotence into abstinence, arrogance into humility, plunder into philanthropy, thievery into honor, blasphemy into wisdom, brutality into patriotism, and sadism into justice. Anybody could do it; it required no brains at all. It merely required no character.” ―Joseph Heller, Catch 22

Deep Sleep and Fleeting Dreams

Last night’s sleep was deep and dreams were fleeting.

Gratitudes:
1. Deep sleep
2. Yesterday I saw a bald eagle, right here at the house
3. Baking
4. I’ll see my parents today, if fleetingly
5. All of you, candles and stars, lights twinkling in your own particular constellations, bringing the light.

May we walk in Beauty!


Christmas Eve Ponderings:
“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”
—Omar Khayyám


“In our heart and soul we are each like Mary, holding the possibility for a birth that can change the world.” —Llewellyn Vaughan Lee, Quote from A Prayer at the Winter Solstice (2012)


Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
but let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune but do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore, be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
—Max Ehrmann 1927

Paxtang Boys and Proud Boys

Today is a weighty day, a day with heft.

  • Here, in PA, we’ve got a wintry mix, clouding the sky and filling the air, adding a mood both festive and anxious.
  • Here in the US, we are rolling out a hopeful new vaccine for a viral pandemic that is currently killing more of us daily than the number killed on 9/11.
  • Here in the US, our Electoral College will cast their votes for a new president in an election more volatile than any since that of Abraham Lincoln.
  • Here in the US, many of us are still gasping in the wake of a seditious attempt by several states, the sitting president, and 126 elected House Republicans to destroy our democracy, an attempt thwarted by our judicial branch, in a display of the importance of multiple branches of government creating checks and balances on the abuse of power.
  • Here, on the planet, we gaze in awe at meteor showers and planets in conjunction, and a total solar eclipse visible from our southern hemisphere. Some of us are even now commemorating the stories and legends of sky-portents in the days of the coming of the Child of Light.
  • Here in PA (and in the US), we remember the murderous ride of the Paxtang Boys at dawn on this day in 1763, when they massacred six of the last remaining Susquehannock people in cold blood.
  • Over the weekend, we watched their heirs and legacies–Proud Boys and others–bellowing in the streets of our capital, attacking historically Black churches and desecrating Black Lives Matter flags. Will we stand up to them, this time?

Here is something I wrote last year about the Paxtang Boys’ ride and the ways in which we have loosed them again upon the innocent. Today, when the Proud Boys are marching, it feels more grimly apt than ever. At the end, I’ve included a poem I wrote after visiting the site of the massacre on this day in 2013:

On this day in the walk through the December labyrinth, I mark the death of six people in a small village fifteen miles from here on the other side of the river. On December 14, in 1763, a group of angry white men from the Paxtang area of Harrisburg saddled their horses in the darkness and rode to Conestoga, to a small village a couple miles from the Susquehanna River in Lancaster County, where they burned the houses of the few remaining members of the Conestoga group of the Susquehannock people, and brutally murdered the six people they found there.

Fourteen residents of the village were away at the time, and escaped to Lancaster City, where they requested protection. Officials placed them in the county workhouse/jail on Water Street in the City for their protection. Two weeks later, just after Christmas, on December 27, the murderers broke into the jail and massacred everyone, men and women, elders and children.

The Paxtang Boys, as they were called, gathered reinforcements over the following days, and rode to Philadelphia, intent on murdering Native people taking refuge there. Only the forceful eloquence of Benjamin Franklin, who confronted them outside the city, kept them from continuing their murderous rampage. As far as I know, none of the men ever had to face justice for their murders. And in my research, I have found no account of anyone who tried to protect the villagers, either in their village or in Lancaster’s jail. Other than the cold comfort of locking them inside a jail cell (which proved in the end no protection at all), no one was able to offer the last remaining members of the Conestogas safe harbor.

One of my deep shadows this December is a fear of how we have let the Paxtang Boys out to ride again: white people’s rage, racism, privilege, a sense of entitlement to power and economic security, greed and grasping, fiercely protective anti-otherness. I need to keep probing this shadow, exposing my fear of today’s Paxtang Riders, so that I can be ready to stand against them, to stand between them and the vulnerable people they are intent to destroy.

Today, so many who have been seeking safe harbor within the borders of my country have been denied that safety, have been turned away to wait in squalid camps where they are in danger of looting and rape and kidnapping and murder, have been separated from their parents/children by my government and thrown into cold cells, have been forced to hide for fear of deportation. I cannot escape the irony of the modern-day name of the road where the stone marker memorializes the Paxtang Boys’ massacre of local indigenous people: Safe Harbor Road.

How shall we prepare ourselves to be Safe Harbor in days when the Paxtang Boys are riding again?

Here is a poem I wrote in 2013, after I visited the site of the stone marker at the place where the massacre occurred, at the corner of Safe Harbor and Indian Marker Roads. The names of the six who died on this day are in the poem.

Come with me now, Bright Souls
and we’ll sit in a circle together
silently a while. Then we talk.

Light six candles
for the people of the longhouse
who died that wintry dawning.

The air is filled already
with too many words.
The day carries so many mutterings
on the wind, on the wings
of the vulture, drifting
above the broken fields.

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

If we are to keep awake,
to live in the place
where the heart stays open,
then perhaps we must look
into the teeth of the story.
Together we gaze at those shadows.
Together we speak their names.
Together we listen for the sparrow’s call.

At the place of the great stone
I did not speak their names.
I left my shell there at that place
in the glittering sun.

Some days I cannot bear the darkness,
but I will close my eyes and sing
while you keep vigil near me.
And when you falter, too,
I will have found the strength renewed
to witness the tale while you sing to me.

Perhaps you will not believe me
when I tell you: As I drove
that road toward the River,
six deer ran across blue shadows
cast by afternoon sun on snow,
over the fields to the road.
They paused a moment to watch
the golden fish of my car approach,
then slipped across Indian Marker Road
and were gone, past the still pond
and into a fringe of wood.

Stay Home, Stay Safe

A Poem, Some Gratitudes, a Dream, and a Quotation Collection:

Listen, Friend:
I will not tell you that
god has a purpose for your anguish.
Your tragedy was not divine will
sending a lightning bolt to wake you up
or to teach you a lesson about trust,
whatever the street preachers tell you.

Bad things happen, and they keep on happening.
Why, just yesterday, I saw a story
about some mother’s child gunned down
in the streets in the daylight
and people stood by and took videos
with their new camera phones.
There’s no god in that, right?
No good in that, no god.

And I don’t know what Moses and his king were thinking,
but I can tell you that this plague is not some
divine retribution by a heavenly pharoah
trying to teach us all a lesson,
though there are lessons aplenty to learn,
if only we can open our eyes and see,
then see again, and deeper.

I still hold that there’s a Creative Force
that set the Universe in motion, a Love
that watches us and even extends Itself toward us
when we’re in the throes of agony,
even sends occasional lightning bolts
of insight when we’re at the edge of holding on.

I don’t know why the good ones die young
or why tornadoes always seem to hit the trailer parks
instead of the mansions on the hills,
why the rich fat cats recover from the virus
after all their disregard of caution,
and those who are already suffering
lose the ones they love.

But here, in all the chaos of unknowing,
is this web: A line from me to you, another
cast to the next one that you love,
and one of mine, and on and on,
a tender, joyful, fierce and loving web
of hearts that hold and notice
even in the midst of all that is being destroyed.



Gratitudes:
1. Health care workers. They’re stretched thin right now. Spare them some love.
2. This man, who plans meals for special occasions just like his mother always did.
3. Making things. I sewed all day yesterday. It made me happy.
4. Finally! After seventeen years here, we are getting the septic system replaced. The pipes are in, and all that remains is to finish hooking up all the extra pieces and to put the dirt back where it belongs.
5. Reflections

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


In the dream, I am in a large crowded theater where people are preparing a play. Everyone is excited. They’re throwing themselves into their roles. I am kind of on the sidelines, supporting, encouraging, wishing I could be part of the fun.

I can’t participate, because no one is wearing masks or social distancing. Also, I am supposed to be in quarantine, so why am I in a crowded theater?

I go sit in a little room with a few others who aren’t in the main cast, and suddenly realize that even I am not wearing a mask. Fortunately, I have one in my purse.

I know where this one came from. Yesterday, I scrolled past something that a friend of mine posted about the Covid Phone alert yesterday, and she and her friends were mocking it, scorning the governor, encouraging each other to get together with their families and friends today. But I know that people are going to get sick as a result of their irresponsible actions today, and some of them are going to die because they ignore the warnings. I know that my beloveds who work in hospitals are preparing themselves for the terrible decisions they are going to be needing to make in the coming weeks about who gets treatment, and who doesn’t.
I have SO MUCH to be grateful for, and I AM grateful, and joyful. But I am also worried and sad, and angry at my friend and her friends for being so cavalier about something that will claim people’s lives. Please make safe and responsible choices today, friends.

[Later Edit: I promise I won’t resent you if you are gathering with the responsible people of your bubble, tending to each other’s mental health as you responsibly gather. I know there are grey areas here. My sulks are reserved for those who simply ignore it all and pretend nothing is happening, and who scorn those who are taking precautions. Still, I wish safety for all.]


Thursday’s Thankful and Thoughtful Words:
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” —Meister Eckhart


“‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding.” —Alice Walker (h/t Tony Brown)


“Perhaps you were brought to this place for just such a time as this.” —paraphrase from book of Esther


“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. it is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable.”
—Nayyira Waheed


“Only those who attempt the absurd
will achieve the impossible.”
—M. C. Escher


“A seed sown in the soil makes us one with the Earth. It makes us realize that we are the Earth. That this body of ours is the panchabhuta-the five elements that make the universe and make our bodies. The simple act of sowing a seed, saving a seed, planting a seed, harvesting a crop for a seed is bringing back this memory-this timeless memory of our oneness with the Earth and the creative universe. There’s nothing that gives me deeper joy than the work of protecting the diversity and the freedom of the seed.” —Vandana Shiva


Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower
by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Joanna Macy

Listen
Quiet friend who has come so far,

feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Once Were Women

Not entirely sure how the strangeness of this poem came about. I found the trail and followed it, is all.

Once Were Women
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

There was a woman who lived in a very
small house. She had small rooms
and small chairs and her door was
small and her windows were small
and when she spoke, her words
came out small and her life was just so
small and no one was surprised
when she ran away from her small house
and went to live in the wilderness.

That other woman lived in a crooked place
and her paths were crooked and her
couch was crooked and the pictures
were crooked on her walls and crooked
was her way of walking and when she spoke
the words tumbled crooked from her mouth
and everyone understood when one day
she stood up straight and stretched her spine
and went to live with the small woman
out in the wilderness.

The very tall and thin woman with
a thin, thin smile, one day she smiled
wide and went to live with the women
who lived their wild lives in the wilderness.
And the woman who tried to be invisible:
she let herself be seen one day and she
ran out to join them, too, and the woman
who used to start every sentence with “Sorry.”
And the one who ate only leaves,
and the one who had headaches,
and the one who bought all the shoes,
and the one who painted everything grey,
and the one who swallowed her song,
and the one who was afraid of the rain.
Off they ran, and they became wild
as the animals, and some of them became
animals and some of them became
raindrops and some of them became
the red oak leaves quivering in the wind.
And they lived.
Happily.
Ever.
After.


Gratitudes:
1. I came downstairs this morning and Youngest (who is in a negative and defiant phase), said, “Ooooh! I like all those colors!”
2. We saw a fox on the way to school! I took a dirt connector road that I’ve been avoiding because the farm cats on that road don’t seem to have enough fear for cars, and trotting down the road ahead of us was Red Tod himself. He ducked into the underbrush before we passed.
3. There’s a Moms group at our school that gave each teacher a gift bag this week: yummy snacks, coffee, tea, mints, trail mix, a Post-it notepad, and a shiny silver pen. It was a big morale boost.
4. At least now that we’re definitely going virtual for a while, it will relive me of the sense of something impending. This feels like a really good call. I was just beginning to feel unsafe.
5. Having hard conversations–I feel like I am growing in my ability to engage conversations without getting defensive and without trying to appease, just sitting with the challenge of it, saying my part, and listening empathetically. (I hope I didn’t jinx myself by saying that.)

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“Walk fearlessly into the house of mourning, for grief is just love squaring up to its oldest enemy.” —Kate Braestrup


“Honesty matters. Vulnerability matters. Being open about who you were at a moment in time when you were in a difficult or an impossible place matters more than anything.” —Neil Gaiman


“Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors, but today we kneel only to truth, follow only beauty, and obey only love.” —Kahlil Gibran


“To write is to ask questions. It doesn’t matter if the answers are true or puro cuento. After all and everything only the story is remembered, and the truth fades away like the pale blue ink on a cheap embroidery pattern.” —Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo


“With guns, you can kill terrorists.
With education, you can kill terrorism.” —Malala Yousufsai


“The [one] who moves a mountain
begins by carrying away small stones.”
—Confucius, The Analects


“We learn from our gardens to deal with the most urgent question of the time: How much is enough?” —Wendell Berry

Line From a Song

For the first line of this one, I stole a line I loved from Jindu’s poem from yesterday. I love how my own poetic voice is stronger and more on fire when I write with someone else.

A Line From a Song
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

There’s a line from a song I don’t remember,
something about the way November closes in,
how thin the space between breaths, how roses
still bloom in this bitter wind, but death stalks
the room I’m in, walks in winter’s shadow.

I know that somewhere in the middle of the song
was a line about longing for what I cannot have,
about the wrong door leading to the right room,
or the other way around. I’ve found I remember it
better when I hum it right before I go to sleep.

But sleep is the best drug I know, when
I can achieve it, when I can believe that I’m not
just escaping the rattle and whir of my days.
Sleep whirls the vortex that tosses the flotsam
of poetry into the day, and I’m remade.


Gratitudes:
1. One of my students asked my advice about her outfit yesterday because she said she thought I was “fashionable.” That’s not a word I think anyone has ever used or me before, and it was startlingly sweet.
2. Also yesterday, a student knocked on my door during a class and asked if he could borrow my skull. I have a plastic skull in my classroom–named Yorick, of course (alas! poor Yorick!)–and I sort of live for moments when I can participate in surreal shenanigans like that.
3. Giant burgundy leaves on a little oak tree.
4. Writing poetry with others.
5. Horchata.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“When Tolkien needed someone to place in the face of the great rising evil in his story, he chose the small ones. You and I are the small ones, friends. Let’s join hands and stand together. Let’s work together, speak together, sing and whisper and shout together.” —EWK


“We have been to the moon, we have charted the depths of the ocean and the heart of the atom, but we have a fear of looking inward to ourselves because we sense that is where all the contradictions flow together.” —Terence McKenna


“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.” —Audre Lorde


“Don’t operate out of fear, operate out of hope. Because with hope, everything is possible.” —Winona LaDuke


Our deepest fears are like dragons
guarding our deepest treasure.
—Rainer Maria Rilke


Praise Song
by Barbara Crooker
Praise the light of late November,
the thin sunlight that goes deep in the bones.
Praise the crows chattering in the oak trees;
though they are clothed in night, they do not
despair. Praise what little there’s left:
the small boats of milkweed pods, husks, hulls,
shells, the architecture of trees. Praise the meadow
of dried weeds: yarrow, goldenrod, chicory,
the remains of summer. Praise the blue sky
that hasn’t cracked yet. Praise the sun slipping down
behind the beechnuts, praise the quilt of leaves
that covers the grass: Scarlet Oak, Sweet Gum,
Sugar Maple. Though darkness gathers, praise our crazy
fallen world; it’s all we have, and it’s never enough.


“Look at everything
as though you were seeing it
either for the first or last time.
Then your time on earth will be filled with glory.”
—Betty Smith

Portent

Shining Through

This moment actually happened last night as I was driving home. My mind made a meaning of it, where perhaps someone else might not have noticed the way the eagle flew, or watched the crow fly after. I think my point is that it’s not just that I am overly whimsical or that the spirits of the land had a specific message for me, but that we make the meaning we see, and that that does have portent and meaning because of the context we give it. And that perhaps not being ready to see, not paying attention, deprives us of inner connections we could be making.

Portent
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Last night as I crested Mt. Pisgah ridge
beneath a wispy crescent of a moon,
an eagle flew low across my vision
from west to east, across the moon
across the gold-splashed indigo dusk.

I’d caught my breath when
flying north to south, a solitary crow
crossed the eagle’s path
and disappeared into the growing dark.

I could say it was important. Potent.
A portent. Was I the only observer?
Was it a moment meant for me,
an implication for my mind to find?
Had I not been meandering homeward
at that very instant, would there have been
a meaning in that moment?

If a tree falls, and all that, right?
What I do know is
that within the world of me
there is now
a great X inscribed
by black wings
across an indigo sky,
saying, “Here, here, here.”


“You can pray until you faint, but unless you get up and try to do something, God is not going to put it in your lap.” —Fannie Lou Hamer*****”Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” —E.L. Doctorow*****“Silence is a frightening thing. Silence leaves us at the mercy of the noise within us. We hear the fears that need to be faced. We hear, then, the angers that need to be cooled. We hear the emptiness that needs to be filled. We hear the cries for humility and reconciliation and centeredness. We hear ambition and arrogance and attitudes of uncaring awash in the shallows of the soul. Silence demands answers. Silence invites us to depth. Silence heals what hoarding and running will not touch.” —Joan D. Chittister*****“The present moment is the intersection of eternity with time.” ―Beatrice Bruteau*****“Only the present moment contains life.” ―Thích Nhất Hạnh*****“I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful—an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”―Ansel Adams*****“I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me.” ―Hermann Hesse, Demian*****“I went inside my heartto see how it was.Something there makes me hearthe whole world weeping.”―Rumi (Barks)*****”Did you ever hear a tree pushing out of the ground or the snow falling? Great things happen in silence.” ―Mother Angelica*****”Everything belongs, even the “bad” and dark parts of yourself. Nothing need be rejected or denied. No one need be hated. No one need be excommunicated, shunned, or eliminated. You don’t have time for that anymore. You’ve entered into the soul of the serene disciple where, because the Holy One has become one in you, you are able to see that oneness everywhere else. Almost like magic!” ―Richard Rohr*****“Our work is to show we have been breathed upon—to show it, give it out, sing it out, to live it out in the topside world what we have received through our sudden knowledge, from body, from dreams, and journeys of all sorts.” ―Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes*****“We found ourselves in a realmwhere dreams are formed,destiny is chosenand magic is as realas a handprint in the snow.”―Libba Bray