Gratitude List: 1. Red berries and autumn leaves and morning mist. And afternoon walks through the fields and orchards. 2. A day off. It’s a working day, but one I can take at my own pace. (Last night was really rough with gastro-intestinal issues, so I am especially grateful that I don’t have to go anywhere today. And I feel much better this morning.) 3. Maddy Prior and Steeleye Span and their fierce and folksy ilk–my soundtrack for today. 4. Reflected light. 5. You, my beautiful beloveds. How the right word always seems to come at the right moment. Sometimes I need to stew and fret and grumble for a while within the maze of my own troubles, but when it gets hard to breathe there always seems to be a thread in this amazing tapestry that I can grasp onto. May our webs and weavings grow ever outward to hold all within our reach.
Things That Made Me Happy Today (Another way to say Gratitude): 1. The chenille bedspread. It’s so comforting to snuggle up under it. 2. My Best Bird, the Oriole, flitting in and out of the honeysuckle vines all morning. 3. The holler is filled with the scent of honeysuckle. 4. Reading Bud, Not Buddy with the kid before he headed off to school this morning. 5. Completing the grading for four of my six classes. Only two more to go! 6. Talking on the phone with Sarah this morning. 7. The way the sun dapples the pathway the deer have made in the bosque across the stream. 8. How Ellis hums to himself wherever he is, like his dad.
Today’s Prompt is to write a correspondence poem. Mine will be about the elemental correspondences with the cardinal directions.
In the east, the birds are singing the day awake, the breezes whisper through the branches, and all the bells are ringing. Inspiration flies in on golden wings. Weave, spin, and cut the threads with a two-edged blade of finest silver. What is being born in you?
To the south, the sun is burning, and that which came to you as woven light begins to kindle and flame up. Life force surges all around you, and you feel your own fires rising. Nurture the burning within you. What is calling you to dance?
In the west, the creeks and brooks tumble over stones and sand and clay, on their way to rivers and bays and oceans. Now is the time to listen to your heart, to flow with the feelings that stream through you and around you. What is the message of your heart?
To the north, the wolves are howling, where caves are hidden in the boulders. The roots of things travel fathoms deep, and earth is a solid base for your footsteps. Your body is your home, and you must tend it, listening for echoes from within the earth herself. What holds and supports you?
Move to the center and feel the spirit swirling, the place where wind and flame, water and stone meet and quicken, where animating breath meets life force, where heart meets head, and stone becomes flesh, and the Beloved calls you to Become. Will you answer the call of Love?
There is no reason. Simply this: The Beloved is. And you are. And that is all there is for reason.
Oh, there’s a tiny blue butterfly on a golden flower in a field of green. And the way that vulture stood upon the wind above the river last winter, how you could see the snow-furred animal shape of the ridge through the stripes of naked trees.
Love slips out through the bars of reason. Like the butterfly, like the vulture. Like golden, like whisper, like tears. It’s more vision than reason, more realm, more white horse galloping through dream. More one single ray of light shining through the forest canopy to sparkle on a stone at your feet.
Why do you love me? has only one answer: You are. But how? Now there is a question with myriad answers, vast as the universe. Look up and outward, and you will see.
How do you love me? you ask the Beloved. She answers: Stone, sunshine, horse, breeze, butterfly, waterfall, and blue, blue, blue.
You have heard it said, though no holy book has said it, “You shall love the sinner, and you shall hate the sin,” which some have interpreted to mean that they shall cast away all whose love does not resemble their own. They have given themselves license to harass, to bully, and to goad.
But I say unto you: The world has had too much of hatred. You shall turn your eyes from the subject of sinning. You shall love whom the Beloved loves. You shall seek after love, watch for love as a gardener watches for tender shoots, and nurtures them, and breathes upon them.
You have no time for anything abstract as hatred. You shall be the Caretakers of love, the Beloved’s own gardeners, tending love wherever you see it, in whatever form it takes, nurturing bud to blossom.
One of my recent obsessions is taking photographs of light reflected in windows, so that it falls on the landscape outside, or seems to hover between realities, like a doorway or window between worlds. Mirrors, reflections, shadows: light and shadow create images that show us another version of reality, enable us to see things from a different perspective.
At the beginning of the year, instead of choosing a single word for my meditations throughout the year, I felt a nudging on Epiphany day just to keep the three that had risen to the top of my list: Bird, Bridge, Boundary. They’ve been weaving and reweaving themselves through my contemplations in the past month. And a week later, I felt the compulsion to add a fourth: mirror.
The season of Brigid calls us to consider mirrors and reflections and shadows, those otherworldly, deeper layers that offer us images of who we really are in the world. Look. Then look deeper. See, then See again. Open your eyes, and then open your eyes, and then open your eyes. The Groundhog takes on a priestly role, reminding us to examine what reflections we are making in the world, what shape is the shadow that we cast behind and around us.
Two nights ago, I dreamed about going on an adventure with one of my beloveds. I wrote and told her of the dream the next morning. During our conversation, she offered me the gift of mirroring, of showing me the shape she sees me casting into the world. It was a different image than my own perceptions offered me, and gentler. My own sense of inadequacy, my fierce judgement of myself, has cast another layer of shadow into my own perceptions, and made me see myself with too critical an eye. It took the gaze of a friend, the tending perception of another, to shift the view for me.
Light is funny that way. Send it through water, and the image is distorted, shifted slightly. The kingfisher knows this, and automatically corrects for refraction, aiming straight for the minnows despite the tricks of the light. I’ve let myself be seduced by the critical angle of the light, viewing myself with a distorted lens. It helps to have a beloved willing to gently mirror a different perception back to me. My contemplative lens will be clearer now, and perhaps my work will blossom as I view it through another’s eyes.
I’m intentionally mixing the images here: mirror, light, shadow, image, refraction, reflection. Their meanings are like different layers of light viewed in the reflections on a window, each with its own truth to offer, but all part of the layered image.
May your reflections in this season bring you insight into your truest self. May your beloveds be tender mirrors to guide you to images which help you blossom. May your inner gaze be kind, offering yourself space to grow and change.
Postscript: This image of the back pages of my grandmother’s copy of The Mennonite Community Cookbook is also a reflection of sorts, a mirror that shows me my reflection in the past, in my own ancestors, or perhaps their reflection/refraction into the image of me. When I am searching for a recipe, fanning the pages with my thumb, there’s a moment when I feel this little arc in the paper, this spot worn away by the years of my grandmother’s own thumb flipping the pages of her cookbook, and I can almost feel her reflected into the moment, into me.
Today is Epiphany, the day the light dawns, the coming of the wise ones, the baptism of light, the moment of the Holy Aha! Cultures throughout the world celebrate today as the coming of the Three Kings. Orthodox Christians celebrate this as the day of the baptism of Jesus.
There is a moment, in the baptism story, 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 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, is well pleased with us. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that this is true, but it is sometimes hard to hold onto. You are Beloved.
Here’s my Dream and Meditation Soup from the Dreamtime. I’m organizing them by character, symbol, theme, and word: 1. Rhiannon, Epona, Kingfishers, the Madwoman in the Attic, the Ferryman, crossing-Maker, two-faced people 2. Bridge, Boundary, Shadow 3. Crossing, grief, solitude (privacy), sufficiency (insufficiency), resistance 4. Maferefun (Praise be!), Sawabona (I see you)
For the coming year, the three words that I will carry with me: Bridge, Boundary, Wing
I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for kingfishers this year.
Yesterday, my Beloved friend Mara asked her friends to write Epiphany poems. Because of its association with the Three Magi, I wrote my poem about the legend of La Befana, sometimes called the Witch of Christmas, because she flies around the world on her broom searching for the Child of Promise. When the wise ones stopped at her door on their journey to find Holy Child, they invited her to join their caravan, but she was too busy with her own concerns. The moment their dust disappeared in the distance, she regretted her choice, and ever since then, she searches. Sometimes she gives children sweets.
La Befana: The Epiphany Witch
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. 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 besom in the other, destined to spend my life sweeping the skies on my broom, chasing down the Holy Aha.
Gratitude: 1. The search for the Dawning 2. Bridges, even when they’re rickety and dangerous 3. Boundaries. I don’t believe in political walls. I do know that to preserve my own sanity in the coming year, I have to develop stronger boundaries within me between the working self and the creative self. I need to know myself separate from my work and not defined by my specific work identity. 4. Wings. Flight. Seeing things from new perspectives. 5. Knowing myself a Beloved child of the Universe.
May we walk in Beauty, Beloved Children of the Great Mystery.
Words for the Holy Aha! “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
Why Are Your Poems So Dark?
by Linda Pastan
Isn’t the moon dark too,
most of the time?
And doesn’t the white page
without the dark stain
When God demanded light,
he didn’t banish darkness.
Instead he invented
ebony and crows
and that small mole
on your left cheekbone.
Or did you mean to ask
“Why are you sad so often?”
Ask the moon.
Ask what it has witnessed.
“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
Gratitude List: 1. Indigo buntings
2. There are twins in the holler! Fawns who’ve just been allowed to start exploring dancing through the neighbors’ yard, flicking into the woods. Curious. Sweet. Timid.
3. Vulture or eagle or hawk shadows that spill down the hill.
4. Last weekend’s Elements class. Such a marvelous group of thoughtful people.
5. Re-reading Hugh Lofting’s The Twilight of Magic with the boys. I discovered this book in my school library in fifth grade, and I read and reread and rereread it. MY first real introduction to the character of the wise woman who is accused of being a witch.
Thoughts for Tuesday:
“The great affair, the love affair with life,
is to live as variously as possible,
to groom one’s curiosity like a high-spirited thoroughbred,
climb aboard, and gallop over the thick, sun-struck hills every day.
Where there is no risk, the emotional terrain is flat and unyielding,
and, despite all its dimensions, valleys, pinnacles, and detours,
life will seem to have none of its magnificent geography, only a length.
It began in mystery, and it will end in mystery,
but what a savage and beautiful country lies in between.” —Diane Ackerman
“It is good to love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is well done.” ―Vincent Van Gogh
“Change is continuous on the seamless web,
Yet moments come like this one, when you feel
Upon your heart a signal to attend
The definite announcement of an end
Where one thing ceases and another starts;
When like the spider waiting on the web
You know the intricate dependencies
Spreading in secret through the fabric vast
Of heaven and earth, sending their messages
Ciphered in chemistry to all the kinds,
The whisper down the bloodstream: it is time.”
“One of the most exciting things for me about being in the freedom movement was discovering other people who were compelled by the Spirit at the heart of our organizing work, and who were also interested in the mysticism that can be nurtured in social justice activism. We experienced something extraordinary in the freedom movement, something that hinted at a tremendous potential for love and community and transformation that exists here in this scarred, spectacular country. For many of us, that “something” touched us in the deepest part of our selves and challenged us in ways both personal and political.” ―Rosemarie Freeney Harding, in “Remnants: A Memoir of Spirit, Activism and Mothering”
“I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.”
“Would you come if someone called you
by the wrong name?
I wept, because for years He did not enter my arms:
then one night I was told a
Perhaps the name you call God is
not really His, maybe it
is just an
I thought about this, and came up with a pet name
for my Beloved I never mention
All I can say is―
―Rabia of Batista
“The aim of education is to reveal an attainable image of self that is lovelier than that manifested in his or her present acts.” ―Nel Noddings