In June, right after school was over, and before I had even completed my grading, I went on silent retreat at the Jesuit Center at Wernersville, probably my last time there, as the Jesuits are selling the building and grounds. I needed that healing time.
In the weeks since, I have been taking stock, clearing out my hoard (fabric, mostly, but more will come), and working on getting healthy.
Here is a little photo essay of my time on retreat:
I took along a white cloth and some red thread. I have been inspired by several instagrammer embroiderers to begin to create a story cloth, something that’s not specifically functional, but is more of a journal, a dialogue with my inner self. On one of the first days there, I was meditating on something I’d read, a Buddhist idea about the base of the spine being where the three rivers meet. I began to consider what my three rivers are. Along with embodiment, I received creativity, and magic/mysticism. So I began embroidering the flowering hand image I found framed on the wall–for creativity. Then I embroidered a full body–my body–with wings and a crown, to represent embodiment, being alive within this body. And later, I embroidered my stump, the center of my current magical work, representing the inner work and the spiritual connection to the Source of All Life. All three are connected to a center cauldron, which is the place where the three rivers meet. Other images above include some collages I made while meditating, a painting (“You can become all flame,” said the ancient desert abba), and the back of my #alonetogether sweater, which I completed during retreat.
More than almost anything, perhaps, I will miss this grand cathedral beech.
I can’t remember where this form came from. I may have made it up, too. I’ve only written this one, and on one hand it feels strange and experimental, and on the other hand, I really like it. I don’t have a name for it.
Take any two-syllable word. That’s your title. Write five lines of poetry. The first sound in each line is the sound of the first syllable of your word, and the last sound in each line is the second syllable. Don’t try to keep the spelling the same, just the sound. My poem has lines of 10-12 syllables long.
Silent as a mouse creeping along a fence, Simple the patterns, but intricate the sense, Since what’s in the center is often intense, Sift carefully through all the evidence, Silt washes away, leaving behind reverence.
Yesterday’s sermon has really caught me, particularly the moment when Saul is watching the coats for the men who stone Stephen, because they know Saul is responsible and trustworthy. Later, after his conversion, Paul mentions it again, that he watched the coats while the others killed the man. Mindy asked whether we, too, hold the coats. Am I considered to be someone who is trustworthy to hold the coats of people who harm others in the name of established religion? I want none of that. If you feel you must uphold religious ideology that harms others in the drive for some misbegotten sense of church purity, you can count me out. I will not hold your coats.
Gratitude List: 1. Children making chalk art on the parking lot during parking lot church 2. Mending, making whole, making do 3. Yesterday’s sermon–grateful for new metaphor and language to describe the work of justice 4. Plans and projects for summer 5. Snowfall of tree blossoms everywhere
May we walk in Beauty!
“It is possible to become discouraged about the injustice we see everywhere. But God did not promise us that the world would be humane and just. He gives us the gift of life and allows us to choose the way we will use our limited time on earth. It is an awesome opportunity.” —Cesar Chavez
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” ―Frederick Buechner
“The words you speak become the house you live in.” ―Hafiz (translated by Ladinsky)
“Humans are the most intellectually advanced animal on the planet and yet, we are destroying our only home. The window of time is very small, but I refuse to believe that we cannot solve this problem.” ―Dr. Jane Goodall
“Memory makes the now fully inhabitable.” ―David Whyte
“Things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance even after the physical contact has been severed.” ―James Frazer
“Which world are we trying to sustain: a resource to fulfill our desires of material prosperity, or an Earth of wonder, beauty, and sacred meaning?” — Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck
“Crystals are living beings at the beginning of creation. All things have a frequency and a vibration.” —Nikola Tesla
Today, write an apology poem. Get it off your chest. Ask for forgiveness. Say you’re sorry. Apologize for something you did or didn’t do. Apologize to your parents, or to your children, or to the Earth, or to the librarian for that book you never returned.
Gratitude List: 1. The sense of smell–the heady perfume of rose, the tang or peppermint, the redolence of supper cooking 2. Layers of flavor, and how texture and sweet/salty/sour make up the experience of taste 3. Rest, even when I don’t feel like it. My body says REST, and I must comply, so I do 4. Teaching poetry. I try to design my classes that have poetry components to have poetry during April, so this is a happy month for me 5. Talking it through
May we walk in Beauty!
“I pray to the birds. I pray to the birds because I believe they will carry the messages of my heart upward. I pray to them because I believe in their existence, the way their songs begin and end each day—the invocations and benedictions of Earth. I pray to the birds because they remind me of what I love rather than what I fear. And at the end of my prayers, they teach me how to listen.” ―Terry Tempest Williams, Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place
“Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” ―Emma Lazarus
“Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual.” ―Ernest Hemingway
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.” ―Robert Frost
“What I have seen is the totality recapitulated as One, Received not in essence but by participation. It is just as if you lit a flame from a live flame: It is the entire flame you receive.” ―St. Symeon the New Theologian (949-1022)
“We love the things we love for what they are.” ―Robert Frost
“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts.” ―Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
“I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.” ―Sarah Williams
“Resist much, obey little.” ―Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass
“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” ―e. e. cummings
“If we do not mean that God is male when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, then why should there be any objections to using female imagery and pronouns as well?” ―Carol P. Christ
“Subversive language, however, must be constantly reinvented, because it is continually being co-opted by the powerful.” ―Carol P. Christ
Today is National Librarian Day. Really. Write an ode to your librarian. Or to your library. Or to the Ancient Library of Alexandria. Odes are formal, song-like praise poems in honor of a person, an event, or an idea. Set it to music, maybe? Get your guitar and go sing to your librarian.
Here’s a rather free-verse ode to my librarian friends:
You are my favorite subversives, sneaking about in the racks of books, stalking the readers, eyes a-gleam: “This one, I think, might interest you,” knowing full well that you just may have altered the course of a life.
Gratitude List: 1. My colleagues. They’re such good folk. Such good folk. 2. Sunshine 3. Yellow flowers 4. Sunshine 5. Sunshine (Oh, did I say that one already?) 6. Sunshine
May you walk in Beauty!
The Happy Virus by Hafez
I caught the happy virus last night When I was out singing beneath the stars. It is remarkably contagious – So kiss me.
“It is our mind, and that alone, that chains us or sets us free.” —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell
“We must live from the center.” —Bahauddin, father of Rumi
“Some days I am more wolf than woman and I am still learning how to stop apologising for my wild.” —Nikita Gill
“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” —Albert Einstein
“Writer’s block results from too much head. Cut off your head. Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa when her head was cut off. You have to be reckless when writing. Be as crazy as your conscience allows.” —Joseph Campbell
“Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.” —Annie Lennox
Well, I’m back to life and living. I think. It’s been a challenging ten days. I would feel fine for a short while, and then I would just crash, my energy ebbing, leaving me stranded, stuck. Hmm. Sort of like a certain ship the world’s been watching for the past week. I’d lie there, thinking about how lazy I was, not getting anything done, not grading, just scrolling through Facebook and re-watching The Great British Baking Show. But my brain was foggy, too, and energy to think and process was also at a minimum.
I did manage some knitting and some mending while I was stuck in the Covid Canal, things that took only quiet movements, and little thought. That helped me to feel like I wasn’t completely out of commission. Isolation was hard, and I was feeling depressed and weepy by the last day. I had the erroneous idea that somehow walking out of isolation would mean I was suddenly well, as if it was the bedroom itself which was stealing my vim. Sunday was a hard hit with reality, realizing that getting out of isolation and getting well are two different things.
My doctor says I am one of those mysterious cases in which fatigue and exhaustion linger. No one knows quite why, but they do say that it tends to abate in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, I am going to school, keeping the teaching parts light, getting them writing and researching and reading. I’m back to school today with a really light schedule, trying to conserve energy, to rest as I am able. It does me good to see my students again. They’ve managed extremely well without me, of course.
My doctor says I’ll need to sort of recondition my body to maintain energy for longer periods, to listen to it when it says REST. I’ll also need to recondition my breathing and sense of smell, she says, to train my lungs to remember that they can take in enough air for a full breath, to train my olfactory sense to pick up various scents and aromas again.
I tried to go back into the world with the double mask again, but I am so short of breath that I am just wearing one surgical mask for now, and breathing is definitely easier than with two. I suppose I really don’t need to double mask since I have both vaccine and active antibodies. I’ve been doing it because I am an example to my students, and I want them to see it as normal.
Gratitude List: 1. Cat love 2. Being back at school. Monitoring my flagging energy, but energized by my students. 3. So much care from my circles of Beloveds. 4. Spring. The riot of trees breaking into bloom. Forsythia setting fire to everything. 5. Some hints of smell returning.
May we walk in Beauty!
“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic. . .the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” —Charles de Lint
“My invitation to each of you—student, faculty, community member—is to find a story of someone who has made a change, small or large, whether the consequence was their life or their comfort, and I want you to share that story with at least one other person, something that inspires you to step beyond the boundaries of your courage into a new world beyond the measure you ever thought you could make.” —Kevin Ressler, in 2017 memorial for M. J. Sharp
“What you will see is love coming out of the trees, love coming out of the sky, love coming out of the light. You will perceive love from everything around you. This is the state of bliss.” ―Miguel Ruiz
“My darling girl, when are you going to realize that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage.” ―Alice Hoffman
“Sometimes I can feel my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I’m not living.” —Jonathan Safran Foer
WHEN I AM AMONG THE TREES by Mary Oliver from Thirst (Beacon Press) When I am among the trees, especially the willows and the honey locust, equally the beech, the oaks and the pines, they give off such hints of gladness, I would almost say that they save me, and daily. I am so distant from the hope of myself, in which I have goodness, and discernment, and never hurry through the world but walk slowly, and bow often. Around me the trees stir in their leaves and call out, “Stay awhile.” The light flows from their branches. And they call again, “It’s simple,” they say, “and you too have come into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.”
(Oooh. It’s been over a month since I have posted. This business of trying to juggle all the balls means something tends to get set upon the back burner. Sorry, dear blog-space–you got the back burner this time.)
Irony, according to Mx. Google: a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.
Example: When Covid cases in your area have been going down, but you’ve continued to double mask, to keep your distance, to wash hands, and also, you just got your J&J one-shot special anti-Covid vaccine, and five days later, feeling a distinct malaise, you go get a rapid antigen test at your local urgent care, and come home with instructions to isolate yourself from your family and the world for ten days because you have contracted Covid. Somehow.
I have contracted a case of Covid, along with a distinct case of Irony.
Things could be so much worse. Really. It’s a pain to be out of commission in the final week of a quarter, but also, I can write my lesson plans for my most excellent substitute, and then catch up on the overdue grading that was weighing me down.
I’m not afraid I’m going to die. There’s that really weird thing I’ve read about the vaccines: that they don’t entirely eliminate your chance of getting sick, but they 100% reduce your chance of dying.
Three days in, and an acetaminophen for the headache, and I am feeling pretty good. I’ve got grading to do, and a huge pile of mending, books to read, a blog post to write, and poetry floating through my brain. The birds are singing their springtime arias outside (it IS spring today!), and the sun is flooding in my window.
The cats keep knocking at the door to be let in. And then let out again. And then let in again. The CDC papers they gave me at Urgent Care say pets pose minimal risk of spread, so we’re going with that. It would be impossible to keep them out.
I’m allowed to go outside and walk around and take springtime pictures, as much as my energy allows, and if I stay away from people. I mask up when I go out, even though we live in the country.
I miss my family, even though they’re here in the house. So much of our togetherness is just togetherness, not necessarily talking, so yelling “How’s everybody doing?!?!” through my closed door doesn’t quite cut it. Still, I can hear them out there, creaking floorboards, talking to their friends on the Discord server, and Jon brings me food and coffee.
Once upon a time there was a woman named Rapunzel. Her hair, unlike that of the fairy tale princess, was short and grey. She lived, for a time, in a tower in a little wooded hollow surrounded by rolling hills. Although witches get a bad rap in all the stories, and most of them really aren’t as evil as they seem (in fact, many of them are wise women), there is an evil witch in this story, named Covid. Every day three princes would bring Rapunzel food and coffee. Cats would come and go as they pleased.
I think Rapunzel will live happily ever after.
Also, and most importantly: A Joyful Spring to you! Blessed Ostara! The shining wheel of the year turns, and we stand poised, balanced, equal day and equal night. Breathe in the balance, the sun, the birdsong. Breather out hope, compassion, dedication to making the world a better place.
A poem from 2006, to celebrate the turning of the year-wheel into Spring.
The way maple swings its wings spiraling down shafts of dawn wind, The way chickadee whistles on bitter March mornings, The way lichen spreads grey-green lace upon the patient rocks, The way the egg falls from jay’s beak to lie silent, cold, and whole upon the moss, The way the wren defends her nest, The way rabbit hints at her home and scratches the packed earth, The way squirrel scolds her wayward cousin’s child. The way heron stands more still than thought, The way the pond reflects the orange air at sunset, The way snake stalks the field mouse through gathering dusk, The way the fields are washed in the milk of the moon, The way dark midnight covers the farm like a blanket.
Also this, from 2014: “We come to that place, one of the quarter points we notice in Terra’s dance with Sol. Equinox. My head today is full of these complicated E-words: Equinox, Equator, Equilibrium, in-Evitable. At these equal points of spring and fall, we are ever so much slightly closer to our star than we are on the outward fling of the Solstices. Do-si-do, Sun. Swing your partner. Welcome, Spring, oh welcome, Spring.” (I’m not sure that bit about being closer to the sun at Equinox is quite accurate.)
And, from 2018: Today, snow or no snow, our planet whirls into another season. Here in the western hemisphere, in the northern temperate climates, the early flowers have been up and blooming, calling to the bees. I have yet to see the early foragers this year, and it makes me anxious.
Someone must awaken the bees! The crocus have opened their golden throats. The windflowers have blown awake out on the lawn. Where are the Queen’s daughters? Where are the melissas? Someone awaken the bees!
On this first day of Ostara, the ancient holiday to celebrate the awakening spring, on the day when night and day are equal in duration, I like to ask myself questions to awaken my spirit:
What are the instincts and drives within me that must awaken, like the bees, to get my work done, to find the food I need to carry me through the season? What new things are stirring within? What is awakening? What is hatching? How do the forces of balance and imbalance work in my life? What can I do to bring more elegant balance into my daily rhythms? In what ways can I disrupt the balances which keep me caught in a rut? This year, I keep coming back to the question of what calls me awake? When I fear that the bees will not awaken, I think about the sleepy spirit within me that likes to settle into sameness. It takes some effort to wake up, and then to wake up again, and to keep waking up, shedding the outer layers, like an opening flower.
Today, I will watch for the bees. Today, I will keep my eyes open for the People of Feathers, who wing their way across the sky. Today, I will feel the breezes on my face. Today, I will keep listening for the voices of the bees, and for the voices of the young people.
Blessed Ostara to you! Happy Equinox! A Joyful spring. Walk in Beauty.
I am finding new rooms in the house of my voice while I write with Jindu. When I respond to something in one of his poems or something he has said, and then weave it into the sense and the sound of my next poem, the writing gets electric and lively in ways I can’t often set myself up for when I write simply for myself.
Heron Feather by Beth Weaver-Kreider
On my altar are bones and a blue heron’s feather a shard of broken pottery a snake skin five seeds three pennies and a statue of an ancient goddess I made from clay some milkweed fluff a pen I love to write with and a paintbrush tools of the trade some sea shells and a stone from the path to my house in the village where I was born.
Some of this is a lie but all of it is true and when I die you may keep all my lies but put the stone into my left shoe so I will know where to go and put the heron feather in in my hand so I can fly there but don’t make plans for a long time yet I have lots of magic yet to make I think this is what it really means to be alive.
Gratitudes: 1. Glad we decided to go to virtual learning when we did. My son and I were sent home early today because we were exposed. I’m grateful that my school takes tracing seriously. I hope I can get a test tomorrow. 2. My students are such tender and sweet-hearted folx. I’m going to miss seeing them in person, but I look forward to seeing their whole faces for a while on Zoom. 3. Writing with Jindu. I am learning so much about poetry from writing with someone with such a rich sense of craft and word-work. It is such an honor. 4. Wordplay and artplay 5. Lancaster’s ExtraGive. Every year my town has a day of giving, and people give to their favorite charities, together, and every year it raises more money for people do to good in the world. It gives me hope.
Stay safe, Beloveds!
“…when women speak truly they speak subversively–they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want–to hear you erupting. You young Mount St. Helenses who don’t know the power in you–I want to hear you.” —Ursula Le Guin
“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” —Muriel Rukeyser
“Oh to meet, however briefly, the greatness that lives under our surface. To summon enough bravery to be without armour and strategy, for the chance at meeting that irreducible power. Oh to make of our terrified hearts a prayer of surrender to the God of Love; that we remain safe in our quivering ache to be near that Otherness, even for a moment. To touch that ancient life who will never relinquish its wilderness, who lets instinct make its choices, whose knowing lives in bones and whose song is a wayfinder.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.” ―Parker J. Palmer
“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” ―Emily Dickinson
“One of my favourite teachings by Martín Prechtel is that ‘violence is an inability with grief.’ In other words, it takes skillfulness to grieve well, to grieve wholeheartedly. It requires us to bravely, nakedly come to face all that is lost, keeping our hearts open to loving just as fully again. “When we make war, lashing out in rage and revenge, it is because we are unwilling to make this full encounter with grief. It is easy to enact the same violence which has taken so much from us―including towards ourselves―but the greater work is to let that which is missing enlarge your life; to make beauty from your brokenness. “Whatever you hold in the cauldron of your intention is your offering to the divine. The quality of assistance you can generate and receive from the Holy is governed by the quality of your inner offering. When you indulge in fear and doubt, you are flooding the arena where love is attempting to work.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Our true home is in the present moment. To live in the present moment is a miracle. The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
“An awake heart is like a sky that pours light.” ―Hafiz (Ladinsky)
“There’s a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line.” ―Oscar Levant
Today is the first day of school. I don’t think I have ever begun a year with such a roiling sense of uncertainty, even my first year. My room looks ready. My slideshows look ready. I seem to have lesson plans in place. I have practiced Zooming and recording and publishing the Zoom.
I just have to trust that it’s all there, all in place, because something inside me feels like I am trying to stand on water. Or, as someone posted in a meme this week, building the plane while it’s in the air. Yeah, that.
One thing that I am certain of is this: The support and prayers and good energy I feel from my beloveds is so strong, it is almost palpable. Without that, without the good humored and earnest colleagues and administration and custodial staff, without the knowledge that I will be back among my students today, I don’t think i could do this. But these human circles make it possible, and even delightful, to step in and see what happens. This is my entire gratitude list for today.
If you’re looking for some concrete ways to be energetic support in these anxious times: First and foremost, pray for the safety of students and teachers and staff at the schools in your area, that we and our families will be able to mitigate with enough intention and care that we will not make each other sick.
Then, perhaps just as important, pray that we will FEEL safe, that we will be able to re-establish school as a place of belonging and wellbeing. That we will be able to establish strong and healthy community. We’ll never be able to make it through the twisting pathways of the brain past the protection centers toward the higher level critical thinking skills if we can’t first feel safe.
Then pray that we will learn together, that we will be able to engage each one, especially those who are remote.
Thank you for being part of the village that raises the children of your community. In a year when it seems that every answer is the wrong one, we need to step in and BE the answers.
“All the wonders of life are already here. They’re calling you. If you can listen to them, you will be able to stop running. What you need, what we all need, is silence. Stop the noise in your mind in order for the wondrous sounds of life to be heard. Then you can begin to live your life authentically and deeply.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
“When you have to make a choice, and you don’t make it, that is itself a choice.” —William James
“What do you promise your distant ancestors you will bring back into the world? What do you promise our cultural descendants you will bequeath them? Amid the ruins of a dying civilization, let us be clear and intentional in what we plant.” —Sean Donohue (FB post)
“Educating yourself does not mean that you were stupid in the first place; it means that you are intelligent enough to know that there is plenty left to learn.” ―Melanie Joy
“I hold the most archaic values on earth. . .the fertility of the soul, the magic of the animals, the power-vision in solitude. . . .the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe.” ―Gary Snyder
“The words were on their way, and when they arrived, she would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain.” ―Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
“If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper.” ―Thich Nhat Hanh
“The study of silence has long engrossed me. The matrix of a poet’s work consists not only of what is there to be absorbed and worked on, but also of what is missing, desaparecido, rendered unspeakable, thus unthinkable.” ―Adrienne Rich
“Be ready to be surprised by the crazy, wonderful events that will come dancing out of your past when you stir the pot of memory. Embrace those long-lost visitors.” ―William Zinsser
“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but ourselves can free our minds.” ―Bob Marley
“Bare your soul of all mind, and stay there without mind.” ―Meister Eckhart
The last day of July is Lughnasadh Eve, one of the four cross-quarter points between the Solstices and Equinoxes, along with Halloween (Samhain), Groundhog’s Day (Imbolc), and May Day (Beltane)–their traditional Celtic names are in parentheses. Unlike the others, which have found their way through webs of lore and story to more modern and playful traditions, Lughnasadh (sometimes also called Lammas) no longer lingers in the modern psyche.
Lughnasadh is the celebration of the time of the sun’s heat, the mid-harvest, when the summer crops are plentiful and abundant, when berries and corn, tomatoes and zucchini, fill our bellies and our dreams, offering us coolness and nourishment. What we longed for in the stinging winds of February now surrounds us, almost numbing us into a cloying sense of enoughness.
I haven’t preserved much food for several years now, because the beginning of August is always the race to prepare for the beginning of school. But on social media, I am enjoying photos of friends canning applesauce, freezing corn, making pickle relishes, living into the traditions of their ancestors and creating a hopeful future from the abundance of the present. If you use your imagination, you can feel that sense of deep anticipation in the frigid dark of December when you go to the freezer and pull out a bag of golden kernels of corn, how you will bring the sunshine of this moment into the cold of the future.
My house is ancient, and we have a single air conditioner in the living room that keeps us cool on the hottest days. This summer, we put a second free-standing air conditioner on the second floor to make sleeping more bearable. Still, this pre-menopausal body is struggling against the heat, not letting me sleep. I sneak downstairs, open the door to the balcony, and try to sleep in the recliner with the cool night breezes that seem to pass by the upstairs windows. Funny how my February dreams of summer never seem to include the sense of overwhelming heat, the burden of humidity. Conversely, my summer self seems to forget the beauty of shadow, the silence of snowfall, the twinkling of winter starlight, in my memories of the unbearable cold. I’m so human.
Perhaps that is the main lesson of living by seasons, of making internal notes to carry us from point to point on the compass rose of the year: Remembering that we’re humans in a big, big world. These shifts may be semi-arbitrary in the ways that we mark them, but they remind us that we’re here in these human bodies to experience what matters. We are en-mattered, living by sensation, of cold and heat, of bellies full and empty, of muscle and sinew, breath and bone. Of sight and hearing, touch and taste and smell. Of pleasure and pain, ache and longing, desire and love.
Lughnasadh in particular was once a celebration of the bread. The first wheat had been harvested. People made elaborate designs with wheat to bring good luck and mark the year–the original corn dollies. Bread was made to celebrate, loaves fashioned, butter churned, and berries made into jam. The seeds were planted, the harvest was ready, and the work of saving the harvest began.
What will you make of the harvest in this coming season? How will you shape the loaves of your year? This year, we’ve hunkered down, masked up, read and learned about antiracist work. We’ve called Congresspeople, expressed our desires for justice, stood up, marched, learned some more. How do we make this real, save this harvest for the future, that it may feed those who come after us? We must not leave it in the fields to rot and die. The truth this season tells us is that there is abundance, enough for everyone. We must participate in its harvest and preservation, and make sure that everyone gets their share.
Yesterday, I caught bits and pieces of the funeral of John Lewis, and I plan to go back in the coming days and listen again, to plant the seeds of his words and deeds into my own psyche as deeply as I can, to take the yeast he has offered, and to work to shape loaves that are just and hopeful. Let us work to preserve the harvest of his work and legacy, so that his golden light may shine far into the future.
As he said in his final words: “Walk with the wind.” Walk with the wind, soulkin, sun on your shoulders.
Gratitude: The life and work and legacy of John Lewis. Perhaps we have been called to these times, to follow his legacy, to take his work into the future, to make the United States what we dream it can be, a nation where all people–no matter their race or creed, their sexuality or physical or mental ability, their gender or national origin, their class or status or education–can be free and equal.
“Morning prayer: “Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice.” —John Lewis
Instead of trying to practice nonviolence, let us try to practice the connections that make violence both inappropriate and impossible. —Sharif M. Abdullah
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” —Marcel Proust
Naomi Shihab Nye: “You are living in a poem.”
“Every woman must own her story; otherwise we are all part of the silence.” —Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International
“Don’t just be yourself. Be all of your selves.” —Joss Whedon
“Some people have a wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy.” —Abraham H. Maslow
“You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in your joints and very shabby.
But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” —Margery Williams -The Velveteen Rabbit
I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact I just said “shit” than you are that 30,000 kids died last night. —Tony Campolo
“Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself.” —John Lewis
“Though I may not be here with you, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe. In my life I have done all I can to demonstrate that the way of peace, the way of love and nonviolence is the more excellent way. Now it is your turn to let freedom ring.” —John Lewis
“So I say to you, walk with the wind, brothers and sisters, and let the spirit of peace and the power of everlasting love be your guide.” —John Lewis
I think that was a white fragility dream. Weird. I occasionally dream dreams where I am more of an observer than a character, like watching a movie. This was one of those.
The character in this dream was a man driving a car. In my dream-mind, I called him The White Man. He was trying to get to a place where he could get rid of the body in the back of his car. It was important to note, in the dream, that he was “innocent.” He believed he was not responsible for the death of the body, but there it was in the trunk of his car, and he had to deal with it. He knew that if anyone saw the body, or if he was stopped by police, he would be culpable, even though he had nothing to do with the body being in his car.
That was important in the dream–The White Man was totally innocent, himself. He just needed to get rid of this body in his trunk before he was caught with it, because he would not be held guiltless if caught. (sounds familiar, right? “But my ancestors didn’t own slaves!” “But I believe that everyone is equal!” “But. . .”)
I am working on doing my inner work, trying to be open and transparent with myself and others about my biases and unaddressed prejudices. My psyche had to throw up a movie-style story to get me to notice that I must be trying to hide my own biases, my own vulnerabilities, while I am trying to fix myself and my problem. I’m insisting on my own innocence, even while I am driving around with a body in the trunk of my car.
There was one significant clue in the dream, a clue that insisted that The White Man is me: He wore a little bag around his neck with his wallet and keys in it, just like I wear when my clothes don’t have pockets.
Time to work more seriously on vulnerability, on not hiding my ugly truths, on accepting that there really is no such thing as the innocence I insist upon as long as I am hiding a body in the trunk.
Gratitudes: 1. Rest 2. Work 3. Exercise 4. Cool water and nourishing food 5. Dreams that keep me unsettled enough to keep moving
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
“To be brave is to behave bravely when your heart is faint. So you can be really brave only when you really ain’t.” —Piet Hein
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” —Upton Sinclair
“You can never go down the drain.” —Mr. Rogers
“Good People, most royal greening verdancy, rooted in the sun, you shine with radiant light.” ―Hildegard of Bingen
“Just living is not enough said the butterfly, one needs sunshine, freedom and a little flower.” ―Hans Christian Anderson
“I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquillity comes from the development of love and compassion. The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” ―Dalai Lama
“You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you.” ― Vandana Shiva
“You can tell people of the need to struggle, but when the powerless start to see that they really can make a difference, nothing can quench the fire.” ―Leymah Gbowee
“I remember Hushpuppy at the end of Beasts of the Southern Wild, just trying to take some food home to her daddy Wink, finally turning to face the hideous beast on the bridge, facing it down and saying, “I take care of my own.”
“I take care of my own. You are my own, and I am yours—I think this is what God is saying, or trying to, over the din. We are each other’s. There are many forms of thirst, many kinds of water.” ―Anne Lamott
“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. Indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf