Re-reading Lewis’s Narnia series is a struggle for me today. There are thealogical implications and structures that make me cringe, and racist and xenophobic stereotypes that offend me deeply. Still, often when I am trying to sift meaning out of events and experience, Lewis’s analogies appear into my consciousness to help me make narrative sense of what seems to be senseless. I know I have used this analogy before, have written about the bone-headed refusal of the dwarfs in The Last Battle to See the new reality, to engage with the truth of what was right in front of their faces, because they simply could not accept the truth that their eyes presented to them, but so often these days, I see similar intellectual acrobats who are unable to make sense of the reality they face because they cannot find their way out of the reality they have created for themselves.
In The Last Battle, at the moment of the very end of the world, everyone enters the door of the shack, expecting to see Aslan or his opposite (serious thealogical cringe). When the dwarfs enter, all they see is the dark interior of the shack. With the sounds of thousands rushing past them into eternity, the dwarfs sit down in a circle and talk amongst themselves about how deluded everyone else is, how everyone else has allowed their imaginations to run away with them. Griffle and his friends cannot see the reality that is in front of their faces because they have created a reality that they refuse to interrogate, and so they are stuck in the shack.
All along the way, the dwarfs, clannish and tribal, can only see the interests of themselves and those like them. Lewis gives them more range than he does his specifically evil characters. You’re allowed to like them, to wish–along with the children and Prince Tirian–that they would let themselves See beyond the structures of reality that they have created. But in the end, they’re imprisoned–as Aslan points out–by their own false reality.
I keep thinking of the dwarfs these days as I read bits and pieces of the rants from people who believe this virus is a hoax meant to line the pockets of Bill Gates and his cronies. They’ll give you web sites and articles and Youtube videos that explain how the virus is really not a thing, how it’s played up by Big Pharma because: insert merger here, only old and weak people are dying [really, I am still hearing this], Bill Gates, ba-dum, ba-dum, ba-dum. . . They write whole essays in the social media threads. They sound like college professors. Or the Unibomber. Or evangelists. They’re the mansplainer of mansplainers, although some of them are women. They will explain to you in great detail how none of this is happening, how some nebulous cabal has created this whole thing in order to rule the world [cue super-villain laughter]. They’re not going to be fooled again, they tell you.
“You must think we’re blooming soft in the head, that you must,” said Griffle. “We’ve been taken in once and now you expect us to be taken in again the next minute.”
(The Last Battle)
Instead of the shaggy golden face of Aslan, however, the image we behold in the space we have entered today is a life-threatening virus, and it’s overwhelming hospitals and taking lives at an increasingly rapid pace. And for some unfathomable reason the maskless masses continue to sit in their circle saying, “The dwarfs are for the dwarfs,” refusing to see the danger that is right in front of their faces. I too have little faith that the pharmaceutical companies have more interest in public health than in their own wealth and power. I don’t believe that corporations are capable of basic altruism. Still, the global goal at this point is to eradicate this virus to the greatest extent possible, and public health requires a vaccine, requires mitigation efforts. Please don’t sit in the circle with Griffle and Diggle and their friends, denying the reality of what is around you.
Gratitudes: 1. Belonging: This is something I wrote in previous years, but still rings true today– “I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.” 2. Birdwatching at our little feeder station. There’s a whole family of red-bellied woodpeckers, along with the newly-arrived flock of juncos, titmouses (titmice?) and nuthatches, chickadees, goldfinches, sparrows, doves, downies, cardinals, a blue jay, and several fat squirrels. 3. How physically cleaning a space seems to create inner space. I need the creative jumble of clutter, but putting it neatly away also makes creative spaces. 4. My mother’s old Singer sewing machine. I have been putting it to great use lately, making what my friend Kris calls Frankendresses–I love that term. 5. This web of loving hearts. Thanks for being part of it all. Cast a line to someone today. Let’s make a glorious net, a new thing, a hopeful future.
May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!
“Healing comes in waves and maybe today the wave hits the rocks. And that’s ok, that’s ok, darling. You are still healing, you are still healing.” —Ijeoma Umebinyuo
“No matter where we are, the ground between us will always be sacred ground.“ —Fr. Henri Nouwen
“The truest art I would strive for in any work would be to give the page the same qualities as earth: weather would land on it harshly; light would elucidate the most difficult truths; wind would sweep away obtuse padding.” —Gretel Ehrlich
“The fact that these words and the jumble of lines that create their letters has no real, inherent meaning outside of a human context, yet they hum with life, is a wonderful reminder that what we imagine can easily become real and powerful simply because we decide it should be so.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist
“Writing at the library. Surrounded by thousands of books, windows into other minds. Some of these writers are living. Some are not. Neatly ordered rectangles of concentrated human life and intellect. A book is certainly a kind of ghost and libraries are pleasantly haunted places.” —Jarod K. Anderson, The Cryptonaturalist
“The beauty of the world…has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” —Virginia Woolf
I know nothing, except what everyone knows — If there when Grace dances, I should dance. —W.H. Auden
“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
Josiah was really quiet in the other room just now, and then he said, “I count eight bluebirds.” I joined him, and he pointed out not only eight, but more than a dozen, in the branches of the sycamore and the walnut, on the ground beside the shop, in a patch of yellow aconite. And all the while someone else–house finch, perhaps–was singing a spring song. Spring is on its way. Listen for the things the morning birds are telling you, feel it in the breezes, even on a chilly day. It’s coming.
Gratitude List: 1. The great cloudowl, one morning last week, that flew above us in the morning sunrise, grey feathers spread above the coming sun, magenta belly borne by the sun rays rising. 2. Pretzels with creamy pub-style horseradish 3. My incredible students. Students Council sells singing serenades for Valentines Day, and all day Friday, my classes were briefly and beautifully interrupted by wandering minstrels singing love songs. 4. The Emergency Women’s Shelter. Volunteers staff a 40-person shelter in St. Mary’s church social hall all through the coldest months of the year. This is a web, a safety net, a community basket. 5. Bluebirds waking into spring.
May we walk in Beauty!
My friend Sue asked me to weave some poems and bloggy bits together for a talk at her church this morning. The concept is Longing and Belonging: Creating a Culture of Care in Community. Here’s what I put together.
Culture of Care: Longing and Belonging
Good morning–I’ll start with a poem: Take a breath Sit down in the silence of the room of this moment in time
watch how the moments flow over you when you release your grasp on the one ahead watch how the space of this room takes shape around you watch how your breath blooms into the air
Feel the vast spaces within you, knowable, unexplored, waiting for you to enter and experience who you are in your deepest self. Listen for the whisper of your own voice in the echoes of your dreams. Stretch your hands up and out. Draw in deep breaths. Stretch and stretch. You are larger on the inside.
First, I want to point out that I am a poet, not a preacher; not a theologian, but a dreamer. As an English teacher, I teach students to create a strong and arguable thesis, to develop careful supporting details and evidence, and to conclude their argument with a discussion of the implications and applications. When I approach questions that deal with inner landscapes and spiritual ideas, however, I am less likely to work in the realms of supportable arguments and more in the world of metaphor and image, spinning ideas of different colors and textures together to make a whole web. It’s less linear, and more circular–like a web. Some of what I am going to share today is prosey bits I’ve pulled off my blog, some is poetry–mine and others’–and some is connective tissue, more lines drawn to hold the web together. So, let’s speak of longing and belonging.
One of the phrases that Sue offered me for this morning was to consider how communities create cultures of care. Let’s draw a bright asterisk of shining strands with that one, the foundation strands of the web, anchored in human relationships of listening well, of speaking truth, of the deep desire for connection, of belongingness, and of knowing that we are beloved children of the Creator of the One Who Made Us.
Since we have just come through Valentine’s Day, here’s a little Valentine poem about the web of community:
To all my Valentines, you and you and someone else: we draw these webs between us, made of chocolate and sunlight and tentative smiles and the toothy grins of our children and the hope of helping out a little bit and seeking our roots and our sources together and following traditions and breaking traditions and going a little bit wilder and dancing until the chickens come home to roost. When your heart goes skipping through windows, you’ll know one of us is thinking of you.
One of the books I am reading at the moment is Matthew Fox’s Naming the Unnameable: 89 Wonderful and Useful Names for God. While he finds whimsical and imaginative images as well as historically and theologically-based ones, I am pretty sure that he does not include Spider in his list. I hope no one here is too arachnophobic. But if we’re to spin out this metaphor into a strong web on this asterisk of community care which we have placed into the room, we have to place The Holy One at the center of the web, spiralling outward, still making the world, watching her strands, feeling the way the energy of the web shifts as breezes blow past and events occur along its lengths. And we, too, are spiders, spinning our own smaller webs among the spaces between us, emulating the one who Spun it all into being.
We live in a woodsy area, and we just can’t keep all the critters out of our old house. One morning, I walked in morning darkness into the kitchen, and right into a spider’s web. I wrote a little poem about it. I don’t think I knew at the time that I was writing about God.
All night the spider spins her careful message, stringing the gossamer web across the kitchen: You are not alone. Fine strands connect you to the Universe. Remember, you belong in the net of all that is.
Perhaps the spider had other ideas about the meaning of that event.
Before belonging is longing. The writer Starhawk says that the glue at the center of the universe is love, is desire, is the longing for connection. The Creator gives us a clue in the very structure of the atom, of particles whirling around a central core, continually seeking their source, longing toward center, drawn outward in the spin, but longing always inward. And in the center of our own human atoms, our individual webs, is that very craving for connection.
And sometimes that feels like a design flaw, doesn’t it? This deep longing we carry within us, that seems to be imprinted into the very strands of our DNA, when unfulfilled, leaves us feeling awkward at best, and cut off and isolated at worst.
The 12th century Persian Sufi poet Hafez writes of this longing in this poem. (This is a Daniel Ladinsky translation.) He also offers a way to respond to the sometimes overwhelming desire to be loved and noticed and accepted:
Admit something: Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.” Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise Someone would call the cops. Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect. Why not become the one who lives with a Full moon in each eye that is always saying, With that sweet moon language, what every other eye in This world is dying to hear?
So there, at the end of the poem, is the beginning of the answer to how to deal with the pain of the longing for belonging: To offer the words that everyone else is longing to hear. Build our own connections.
Contemporary US poet Martha Collins writes similarly in her poem “Lines”: Draw a line. Write a line. There. Stay in line, hold the line, a glance between the lines is fine but don’t turn corners, cross, cut in, go over or out, between two points of no return’s a line of flight, between two points of view’s a line of vision. But a line of thought is rarely straight, an open line’s no party line, however fine your point. A line of fire communicates, but drop your weapons and drop your line, consider the shortest distance from x to y, let x be me, let y be you.
What would our webs look like, were they all made visible? Connecting point to connecting point–what lines are drawn between ourselves and those who have gone before, between ourselves and others in the world today? Between ourselves and the planet? And God?
As we circle the lines of our webs outward, line to line, we move from the deep longing to offering belonging to others. The principal of the public elementary school where my fifth grader attends (he happens to be a Messiah College grad) taught his students the South African Zulu greeting, “Sawabona,” which means, “I see you.” The response is “Sawabona shikhona,” which seems to mean: “Because you see me, I am here.” Our ability to look at each other, to catch and hold eyes, is one of the possible keys to belongingness. What a powerful tool to offer to elementary students, a script for belonging and connection in each spoken greeting.
My good friend Gloria, a professor in EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, often signs off from our typed online conversations, “I See you,” capital S. It is neither a flip nor a throwaway greeting, but a deeply honoring gift, acknowledging our belonging to each other. What is this longing for belonging that we have encoded within us but a desire to be truly seen and cherished? I See you. How simple. Like Moana, we can look into the burning rubble of each other’s pain and say, “I know your name. I know who you truly are.”
Here’s a poem I wrote after a wonderful evening with a group of my college friends, a group of people who have offered each other an unconditional and unwavering belonging, love, tenderness:
Sit with your beloveds in a circle, and feel the truth of how your hearts are woven together every bit as real as that basket under the hall table where a fine cat is purring.
You will hear the echoes of the ego towers that have fallen, see the memory of rubble in the eyes. Say out loud, “I see you.” Say, “I witness.” Weave the new strands together. See how your stories are one singular tale.
Feel the starlight making a net around you, a silver basket reflecting your own.
When we build conscious webs of connection between ourselves, in churches, in classrooms, in families, in friendship groups, among strangers, we participate with the Creator in a mystical act of creation. We mirror the invisible webs of energy and force that surround us, that are built into the very structure of the created order. One of our greatest scientists–Albert Einstein–said that in the end, of all the natural forces present in the world, the greatest is love.
A year or two ago, I wrote a piece on my blog about how my church’s celebration of World Communion Sunday brought me into connection and community on a day when I was feeling a deep disconnect with US Christians. I feel a strong bond with the people of my church, but it had been a week of US Christians doing and supporting some pretty terrible and unjust things, and I was angry. While I have no problem taking communion with my church, I had a memory in my head of taking communion at Ephrata Mennonite Church, when we would file through the little room behind the pulpit, sit with the pastors and bishops, and answer the question, “Are you at peace with God and man?” I wasn’t feeling at all at peace with many men, and quite a few women, too. I wanted nothing to do with a wider communion that included people who could glibly support an administration that tore children from their parents and locked them up in detention centers. Even within my own beloved community, I wasn’t sure I could see through my rage to participate in a symbol of unity with Christians everywhere.
I’m pretty sure it was the bread that made me weep. The cup was on the table, but there was no bread. (Truth be told, I was already in tears by that time, from the moment of the offertory song: “She’s got the whole word in her hands.”)
“Today’s bread comes from all around the world,” they said. But where was the bread? It was not the lack of bread that made me weep, but the bringing of it. As they spoke of pita, and the Syrian people who have been caught between warring fronts for seven years, a mother brought her children and pita to the tables, children who have relatives in Lebanon, Syria’s neighbor and a country healing from its own civil war.
Then while a mother and her child brought tortillas, the bread of her homeland Honduras, to place upon the tables, they reverently recalled to us those from Central America who have suffered, whose children have been torn from parents’ arms when they come to our borders seeking safety.
And then while a father from Indonesia brought his son with steamed Indonesian bread for the tables, they spoke of the tsunami and devastation.
They reminded us of Puerto Rico and of hurricanes and of how it feels not to be believed when you tell your terrible stories, and a grandmother and her small one came forward with a baked loaf like we eat in the United States.
I thought perhaps I couldn’t take Communion today, I who want nothing to do with so many who call themselves followers of Jesus. I thought perhaps I shouldn’t. Perhaps the anger would keep me away from the table. Until the table was filled with bread and tears. Until grief stepped in to the place of anger, and I, too, felt like I could belong at the table.
When they are babies or small children, each child at my church is held and blessed by one of our pastors, and told: “You are known and loved by God.” You are known and loved by God. You are known. You are beloved. Whatever your word for that great and unknowable–but personal and tender–Mystery, know this today and always: The One who is the Source and Cause of all being, all Beauty, all Knowing, all Making, loves you. Knows you. As intimately as a painter who cherishes the tiny green dot of color in a painting, which she knows is there, which she placed there with purpose. You are deeply and singularly beloved. You are Seen, capital S.
There is a moment, in the baptism story of Jesus, when the Spirit of the Holy One appears in the form of a dove and speaks to those gathered, saying, “This is my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.” My prayer for you, for me, for all of us in this coming year, is that our significant dawnings and discoveries may be accompanied by the absolute shining certainty that we are the Beloved Children of the Universe. That the One who watches us, who wings above us, who blows through us, who shines light into our confusion and grief and fear, the spider at the center of the web of all that is, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, although it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved. I am Beloved.
I’m going to end with a poem I wrote one Thanksgiving as I was pondering the building of tables instead of walls. We are all the travellers and pilgrims. Like Moana and her people, we wander. And like Moana, we carry within us and upon us the maps which will bring us home to each other. And we are all of us the home, holding within us webs that reach outward to draw each other in.
Blessing for the Visitor
May you who wander, who sojourn, who travel, may you who make your way to our door find rest for your tired feet and weary heart, food to fill your bellies and to nourish your minds, and company to bring you cheer and inspiration. May you find comfort for your sorrows, belonging to ease your loneliness, and laughter to bring you alive. And when your feet find themselves again upon the road, may they remember the way back to our door.
Monday’s Muses: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” —Robert Frost
“I am always doing what I cannot do yet in order to learn how to do it.” —Vincent van Gogh
“Have you been to jail for justice? Then you’re a friend of mine.” —Anne Feeney
“Nice people made the best Nazis. My mom grew up next to them. They got along, refused to make waves, looked the other way when things got ugly and focused on happier things than “politics.” They were lovely people who turned their heads as their neighbors were dragged away. You know who weren’t nice people? Resisters.” —Naomi Shulman
“The desire to reach the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise and most possible.” —Maya Angelou
“Begin with something in your range. Then write it as a secret. I’d be paralyzed if I thought I had to write a great novel, and no matter how good I think a book is on one day, I know now that a time will come when I will look upon it as a failure. The gratification has to come from the effort itself. I try not to look back. I approach the work as though, in truth, I’m nothing and the words are everything. Then I write to save my life. If you are a writer, that will be true. Writing has saved my life.” —Louise Erdrich (via Terri Windling’s Myth and Moor blog)
“This is the season of owl, of winds that howl through the hollow, the season of the sharp bark of the fox, voicing longing in the bosque.
This is the season of bitter, of fierce flakes feathering cheeks and hands, the season of crystal, crisp and cutting, of beauty that will slice you open.
This is the season of rising, thin and pale, into the dawn air, but also of burrowing, huddling deep into the layers that hold you.
Walk the thin line of today with care, one foot precisely placed, the other. . .
Perhaps you will notice, when you raise your eyes for a moment, how the line curves out ahead of you, bringing you always back home.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider (1/13/16)
“Love the earth and sun and animals, Despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, Stand up for the stupid and crazy, Devote your income and labor to others… 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.” —Walt Whitman
“In lying to others we end up lying to ourselves. We deny the importance of an event, or a person, and thus deprive ourselves of a part of our lives. Or we use one piece of the past or present to screen out another. Thus we lose faith even within our own lives.
“The unconscious wants truth, as the body does. The complexity and fecundity of dreams come from the complexity and fecundity of the unconscious struggling to fulfill that desire.” —Adrienne Rich
Gratitude List: 1. This Jungian Life podcast. The one on Shame, in particular. Reminder that finding delight in each other combats shame. Reminder to examine the ways I live by shame instead of by belonging. 2. I think I am ready for the new classes to start. I love the three classes I am teaching this semester: Speech, AP Composition (College Composition I), and Creative Writing. 3. Yesterday’s lovely weather–practicing archery with the kid. 4. Remembering: I don’t have to be perfect. Just good enough. And me–just me. 5. Church fellowship meals.
On the way to and from school these days, the kids and I are listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s magical book series, The Raven Cycle. Yesterday, she explored one character’s way of being/not being with others in a tender discussion of loneliness and lonesomeness and aloneness. I can’t reconstruct her dreamy prose here, but the idea caught the flighty bird of my attention.
I have been considering these concepts lately, too, because one of the shadows that overwhelms in this season of shifting shadows is loneliness. Let’s keep our eyes open and hearts aware, as we walk this path together, of those who live with a deep sense of isolation and lack of connection from others. I see them at school, those who–for whatever reason–remain separate from the rest, keep their heads down and their eyes low, who take up so little body space they can almost make themselves invisible. Whether it’s fear or shyness or past pain or perceived difference, they live in isolation from others, and it takes deep tenderness and patience to step through the veil toward them. Social anxiety is a monstrous fear for so many young people these days, and it breeds an aching loneliness.
It’s also possible to be extremely socially interactive and still feel separate and apart, lonesome. In places where you feel a profound sense of unbroachable difference with others, it’s easy to feel isolated, no matter how gregarious and interactive your relationships. Yesterday, I posted Brene Brown’s message on my board at school: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The holiest communities for me have been the ones where we can acknowledge and appreciate the ways in which we are different, where we can revel in the uniqueness of each individual while meeting at our common points. In this season, I have been more acutely aware of some of the challenges of meeting in ways that appreciate difference when theological and political discussions have created such chasms. Our current cultural divide heightens our separation and makes belongingness even more elusive. It is possible to be interactive and friendly on the surface while feeling the width of the chasm between self and others as a poignant and painful lonesomeness.
One of my deep, deep longings, especially at times when the rest of the world seems to gearing up the energy to a frenzy, is for long periods of quiet aloneness, a nearly impossible commodity in this season. The demands of the world outside become so intense that I can find it hard to catch my breath. I need to take my aloneness when I can, and keep my schedule as loose and open as possible. I need to be my own dragon at the gate. It’s hard at times to keep the open and watchful heart that is ready to notice the lonely hearts of others when I am protecting my own aloneness, and I feel this tension acutely in the shadow season.
Let’s keep our hearts aware and awake to our own needs for space and quiet in this season, even while we offer belonging to those in our communities who may be feeling invisible or isolated.
Gratitude List: 1. Quiet moments of restful aloneness 2. Belongingness. Deep, true heart-meeting belongingness 3. Warm fleeces and flannels 4. Watching students open themselves to being known 5. You, out there, breathing and thinking and dreaming and being present.
In the dream, there is a combustible child, who is likely at any moment to burst into flame: hair, chest, shins on fire. I am the child, running to escape a mob of children. Their fear and their curiosity and their rage torment me. I just want to be alone, so I can burn in peace. I burn, but I am not harmed. But my fire can burn the buildings of the town, and the trees.
Also I am a child in the mob. I run with the others, trying to catch the combustible child. I want to protect him. I know that some of the others mean to kill him, and I want to be the first to find him, to warn him, to help him. But he is always ahead of us.
We are in the labyrinthine passages beneath an old mill building. I am the child, running and hiding, afraid the light of my burning will show the children where I am. I am also seeking the child, fearful that he will hurt himself, or burn the building down, but mostly that the other children will hurt him.
I have found a way to the roof of the old mill. The others are still mostly down in the underground passages. The building is wood, but it is not burning beneath me, although other buildings have burned in the past. Down below, I am a child in the mob; I hear two children talking. They have discovered one of the secrets of the combustible child: “I think he was the one we thought had drowned there in the lake. Remember?” I have to find the combustible child and warn him.
(I welcome comments and thoughts about my dreams. I don’t feel comfortable with the “Your dream means” sort of interpretations, but speculative and conjectural comments and questions are better for helping me to think through what might be going on.)
Gratitude List: 1. How tears sometimes bless the receiver of tears. Sharing emotion, like sharing bread. 2. Laughing with loved ones 3. Pumpkin coconut pie, venison pie, chocolate pumpkin cheesecake pie 4. Sweet soft cat. I’m a little grumpy because Thor was chasing Sachs all around the house, thumpily and hissily. I could not get him to stop. I came downstairs to the recliner, hoping it would distract him, and I could get back to sleep. No. I held him and gave him a lecture about chasing kitties. No. Every time I settled down to sleep, he was off and thundering. The minute I turned on the light and picked up the laptop, he jumped up beside me, rolled onto his back, and fell into a deep sleep. Sigh. And am I grouchy? No, I just love this soft warm breathing presence beside me. I’ll nap later. 5. Belonging. I don’t always feel like I belong, or like I understand the unwritten rules of certain groups, even though I think I am a pretty good observer of human nature. So when I am in a group whose rules accept everyone’s awkwardness and oddness unconditionally, which loves each one not in spite of our oddities, but because of them, then I feel safe. Then I feel belonging. I am especially grateful to those of you who know how to extend unconditional welcome in ways that make everyone believe they belong.
Exile is the theme of today’s Poetic Asides Prompt:
There are bubbles of belonging inside these spaces of separation, places where true soul contact lies, and understanding lives. It gives the exile a chance to feel connected, even in the crowd of loud and angry judges who seek to cut away the sinners from the inner group of those who belong, the righteous ones.
I’m done with trying to seek favor with the hoarders of grace who place the ancient blood rules and regulations above the call of love. I’ve chosen my exile and it only remains to name the spaces where the outcasts can gather together, our Cafes of Emigres, where grace and mercy are served with the tea.
Blessings to you this morning, whether you are spending it in quiet contemplation or amidst the chaos of children and relatives, whether you are filled with a sense of longing or a sense of belonging, whether you are satisfied or whether you are wishing to change your lot. May your heart find the light. May your soul be restful in the shadows. May you know yourself to be a part of the web of things.
Gratitude List: 1. The inner and outer worlds 2. Darkness and light 3. Peppermint meltaways 4. Mary’s Canticle 5. You. Always You.
May we walk in Beauty!
“From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.”
—Rory Cooney, from “Canticle of the Turning”
Making the House Ready for the Lord
by Mary Oliver
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice–it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances–but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.
“I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through
listen to this music
I am the concert from the mouth of every creature
singing with the myriad chorus” —Hafiz
“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” ―Mary Oliver
“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass
“I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field—a place to enter, and in which to feel.” ―Mary Oliver
I carefully outlined the significant stages of my life, but somehow forgot to put my 18-22 section on there–and that was a SIGNIFICANT part of my life. It’s where I met Jon, where I met my lifelong friends. Where I learned to hold on to love even through a rough patch. I want to remake it in paint or colored pencils.
I am pretty strongly anti-established-religion. White Christian evangelicals in the US today are complicit with such great evils that I want nothing to do with them. I see people who say they follow the way of Jesus shrugging their shoulders and ignoring the pain of children torn from their parents by a government they support. I see them rabidly calling for more ill-treatment of people seeking asylum at our borders. I see them fighting for systems and policies that further marginalize people who are ill and struggling with poverty. I see them speaking with vitriol and rancor toward people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people from other countries. The list goes on.
There’s a quotation, often attributed to Gandhi (though perhaps erroneously), that goes: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I’m a fan of Jesus, too. I just don’t like a lot of the people who claim him. I don’t think it’s possible to really “get” who Jesus was and support a political administration that tears families apart, that regularly spews such racist and xenophobic and homophobic and misogynist hatred. I sound really judgey here, and I try hard not to be judgey, but I can’t withhold my judgement at times of great injustice and destruction.
On the other hand, I love a lot of Christians. In fact, despite its harsh beginning, this post is really about a church that I love, a place where I–with all my wild, witchy, unsettled, doubtful, defiant, questioning universalism–can feel belonging. We’re all welcome in this place, and questions are blessed, and crunchy feelings are held and observed together. Some people use very specific God-language that I couldn’t bring out of my own mouth, but I don’t feel uncomfortable because my own non-specific and outside-the-box language is accepted, too. I am not the only one who calls the Holy One by the name of Mystery. And I don’t want to be in a place where everyone believes exactly the same thing–just a place like this, where Love is the guiding principle.
And we sing together. And we make art. And we talk and dream and stand up to the powers together. We talk earnestly with each other and we laugh together, and cry. Our children feel safe and loved. It’s Real Church. It’s good community. I am grateful for each of the individuals who make up the circle of us.
Gratitude List: 1. Making collages with Chloe and Monica and the others this weekend at camp. Drawing the Rivers of our Lives with Josiah and Andrea and Maggie. Soulful art-making.
2. Storytelling. Vulnerable, life-affirming, tear-filled, laughter-filled, life-sharing storytelling.
3. Fudgy chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. I have severely curtailed my sweets intake in the past month, and I don’t let myself eat sugary things unless I am absolutely sure it will be worth it. This cake was completely worth it.
4. Christine’s Box of Tea. I tried the Stash Chocolate Hazelnut, which was sublime.
5. We are in the Golden Season: Goldenrod, sunflowers, slanting sunlight in the afternoons, Jerusalem artichokes, yellow walnut leaves. Glorious golden! Now for some coolness, please?
May we walk in Beauty!
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an afterthought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.” —Christopher Walken
“Who has not sat before his own heart’s curtain? It lifts, and the scenery is falling apart.”
—Rainer Maria Rilke
“The only choice we have as we mature is how we inhabit our vulnerability, how we become larger and more courageous and more compassionate through our intimacy with disappearance.” —David Whyte
“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wandering awed about on a splintered wreck I’ve come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its’ imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them.” —Annie Dillard
“Forms are the symbols of formless divine principles; symbolism is the language of nature.”
—Manly P. Hall
“One cannot live the afternoon of life according to the program of life’s morning; for what was great in the morning will be of little importance in the evening, and what in the morning was true will at evening become a lie.” —C. G. Jung
From Omid Safi:
The great mystic Zol Nun (Dhu ‘l-Nun) met a woman at the sea shore.
He asked her: “What is the end of love?” She answered: “O simpleton, love has no end.”
He asked why.
She said: “Because God, the Beloved, has no end.”
“Whenever one person stands up and says, ‘Wait a minute, this is wrong,’ it helps other people do the same.“ —Gloria Steinem
In the silence before time began, in the quiet of the womb,
in the stillness of early morning is your beauty.
At the heart of all creation,
at the birth of every creature,
at the centre of each moment
is your splendour.
Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the splendour of this moment. Rekindle in me the sparks of your beauty
that I may be part of the blazing splendour
that burns from the heart of this moment. —John Philip Newell
“I wish I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the Astonishing Light
of your own Being.”
“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” —Emma Goldman
I have been thinking again about the quotations I post every day, how they’re like rungs on a ladder for me, steps toward ideas that I am seeking, seeds of ideas that I am watering and nurturing. Sometimes they’re a little harsh and jangly, and that is well and good, because I am feeling a little harsh and jangly these days, full of nerves easily frayed by the next round of cynicism and rudeness and cruelty and tragedy.
Then I find another quotation that blows cooling breeze over the rippling waters of my soul. Or someone posts a picture of a man carrying a pink umbrella to shield his family from the sun, and his wife, with their baby on her back, wraps an arm companionably about his waist. Or a student comes up to me with shining eyes and a world-changing idea. Or the mist lies over the fields of drying sunflowers like a road to Avalon.
And I find myself back at the start again, learning as if for the first time, that my heart must hold them all, both the jangly and the tender.
I watch my skittish cat, the longing in his eyes to be part of the action, and the constant anxiety, the startlement at every tiny sound. He’s so sensitive, so wound up, so completely attentive to it all, that he sometimes gets paralyzed, and can’t function except to flee and hide. When we determine that our Work is to pay closer attention, to increase our sensitivity, to care more deeply, it is possible to become as tightly wound as poor Sachs, and tremble in fear at any change in atmosphere. In days like these, it’s important to me that I remember the pink umbrella and the shining eyes and the mist. If I don’t want to get completely jangled and twitchy, I must keep looking for the feathers and the sparkling morning cobwebs, must listen for the racket of robins in the hollow each morning, must breathe in the scent of autumn in the air.
“The world has been abnormal for so long that we’ve forgotten what it’s like to live in a peaceful and reasonable climate. If there is to be any peace or reason, we have to create it in our own hearts and homes.”
—Madeleine L’Engle, A Swiftly Tilting Planet
“People are just trees who have forgotten.”
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” —Goethe
“My actions are my only true belongings.” —Thich Nhat Hanh
“If you don’t risk anything, you risk even more.” —Erica Jong
“The women, united, will never be defeated.” —Ubaka Hill
“Life is a luminous pause between two great mysteries, which themselves are one.” —C. G. Jung
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” —John Steinbeck
Gratitude List: 1. Balance
2. Paying Attention
3. Waking Up
4. Beginning Again
“What comes, will go. What is found, will be lost again.
But what you are is beyond coming and going and beyond description.
You are It.”
Gratitude List: 1. Lemons and limes, which is to say: that which refreshes.
2. Bumblebee photobombers, which is to say: that which surprises and delights.
3. The Sufi poets, which is to say, that which deepens and enheartnes.
4. The great-horned owl in the poplar tree, which is to say, that which awakens and reminds.
5. This fuzzy fellow sleeping here beside me, which is to say: that which trusts and belongs.