Every year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.
In these chill mornings, while we are waiting in the warm car in the dawn for our carpool companion to come out to the car, I watch how the light rises through the trees in her hollow, how the branches cross and tangle, creating loops and circles and triangles and the shapes of eyes. I am a fan of Zentangles, and I find that lately I am am obsessed with putting lines on the page, crossing and intersecting much as the branches intertwine, as though my mind might float away into the grey winter sky were I not to catch it in a tangle of lines on paper.
While I do sometimes use prayer to describe that place I go when I am consciously opening a space within me to communicate with the Great Mystery, I more often find myself thinking in terms of placing myself deliberately on the web of being, of holding my beloveds in the web of energy generated by Love. The dawn trees, the lines on a page, the webs of prayer: I am held, anchored at least momentarily in time and space. So, tangle will be my word for today, a tangle that holds and anchors and communicates along its seemingly random lines.
Gratitude List: 1. Tangles and webs 2. Trees and dawn 3. Stories that nourish my spirit 4. Planning 5. How meaning comes into being
May we walk in Beauty!
“This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.” ― Walt Whitman
I Looked Up
by Mary Oliver
I looked up and there it was
among the green branches of the pitch pines—
a ruffle of fire trailing over the shoulders and down the back—
color of copper, iron, bronze—
lighting up the dark branches of the pine.
What misery to be afraid of death.
What wretchedness, to believe only in what can be proven.
When I made a little sound
it looked at me, then it looked past me.
Then it rose, the wings enormous and opulent,
and, as I said, wreathed in fire.
At the Beginning of Winter
by Tom Hennen
In the shallows of the river
After one o’clock in the afternoon
An eighth of an inch thick.
Night never disappears completely
But moves among the shadows
On the bank
Like a glimpse of fur.
Flies and spiderwebs
Appear alone in the flat air.
The naked aspens stand like children
Waiting to be baptized
And the goldenrod too is stripped down
To its bare stalk
In the cold
Even my thoughts
Have lost their foliage.
“Myth is much more important and true than history. History is just journalism and you know how reliable that is.”
― Joseph Campbell
Breath flows in, breath flows out,
Traveling always the curving path of the Goddess.
Breath flows spontaneously of its own will.
Thus all breathing beings
Continually give reverence to Her.
Be conscious of this unconscious prayer,
For She is the most holy place of pilgrimage.
She wishes for you to enter this temple,
Where each breath is adoration
Of the infinite for the incarnate form.
Into this body
As a nectar of the gods.
Every breath is a whisper
Of the Goddess:
“Here is the ritual I ask of you —
Be the cup
Into which I pour this bliss,
The elixir of immortal peace.”
If you look really closely, there’s a message hidden in there.
I am re-posting this piece I wrote last year on this day. Reminding myself how the gratitude practice keeps me centered:
Working with gratitude helps me to situate myself in time and place.
During these times of reflection, I am often hyper-aware of being here in this moment, right here, where I listen to the birdnews of the moment, the sounds of the day waking up, the thumps and bumbles of the smallfolk upstairs waking up.
This moment, where I look around to see the way the sun leans in or yawns behind grey haze. This moment when I sit in expectation of the bright yellow falling leaf, the flash of birdwing across my window, the way sun sparkles on spiderweb. This moment, in which yesterday’s movement is written in the aches and quirks of my muscles, the curve of my spine.
From the anchor of this moment, reflecting on the list takes me backward and elsewhere, to the color and shape of yesterday, to the shining white pebbles of moments past. I can pick them up and examine them, say, this one and I remember. I can watch how those pebbles are spun into golden strands sustained over time: The presence of a tiny impossible bird in this span of days. The season of the tang of tomato and the sweetness of basil. The long lazy days spent with the exploring feet and minds of my children.
The dailiness of the list also takes me forward into time. This has become my homework, the job I carry with me into each day. It is one of the anchoring ropes which I hold as I step into uncertain future, feeling my way in the grey mist as I go. Stepping forward with the search for gratitude on the agenda means I must go with an open heart, an open mind, searching not only for things, for items to check off my list, but for connections. It means walking into the future as into a puzzle, looking for five pieces of the coming day that will help me to shape the meaning of the picture that surrounds me.
I have been wondering lately at how this has become a habit, how I feel anxious and unmoored if I miss my daily list. For years, it was a thing I would do on occasion, as the mood hit, but in the past several months, it has become a deeper spiritual practice. I shift it from time to time, asking myself questions, or writing the list as a poem. Still, instead of becoming boring or tedious, it has become ever more a place where I can talk to myself, remind myself who I am, where I am, what I am doing here.
Nigerian writer Ben Okri: “Beware of the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.”
“In the end these things matter most: How well did you love? How fully did you love? How deeply did you learn to let go?” —Siddhartha Gautama
“The object and goal of all spirituality is finally the same: union, divine love, inner aliveness, soul abundance, generous service to neighbor and the world.” —Richard Rohr
“Only hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.” —Richard Rohr
From Garrison Keillor: “And it was on this day in 1945 that the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city of Hiroshima, Japan. It was the first time that a nuclear weapon was ever used in warfare, and only the second time that a nuclear weapon had ever been exploded. It was dropped over Hiroshima at 8:15 in the morning. It exploded 1,900 feet above the ground. Capt Robert Lewis watched the explosion from his cockpit and wrote in his journal, ‘My God, what have we done?'”
Gratitude List: 1. The voice of Rhiannon Giddens
2. The words of Wendell Berry
3. The wide world of Georgia O’Keefe
4. The enriching thought of Clarissa Pinkola Estes
5. The activism of Jane Goodall