Today’s prompts were Galaxy (or galaxy-type things) and love/anti-love:
Sometimes by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Sometimes when I say I am seeking the Beloved, it is your wise eyes I see, your expectant face, your eloquent and tender hands.
Sometimes when I listen for the humming of the stars, it’s your voice my ears remember, your quiet murmur, your trilling whistle, clear and bright.
Sometimes when I pause in the middle of the trail and catch the aroma of lilac or hyacinth sifting into the clearing, it’s your scent I’m sensing, and I am held in your arms as surely as if you were here.
In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, I have recorded Jane Yolen’s “Earth Day.”
The prompts today are Trap, and Blue. Instead of doing a mash-up, I did two.
In the Arms of the Beloved by Beth Weaver-Kreider
You can’t escape the blue, the windy robe of the Beloved draped like a veil over the rim of your living, over the bowl of your holiest spaces,
and scattered deep within the indigo arms of the tree-shadows, indigo bluer than soul, pathways striping the afternoon green, leading you home to the arms of your most desired Mystery.
Trapped in the Anagrams by Beth Weaver-Kreider
I am rapt. I start prattling, debating. I stay apart: No parties. No pasta. No prattling patter. I’m caught in the strata. No matter, I rap and I mutter. This pome can’t escape the trap and the stutter, lodged under a tarp of ratatat blather, of anagram chatter.
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.
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.” 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.
Gratitude List: 1. Contemplating Longing and Belonging, and the Web upon which we all live and move. 2. Deep sleep. Somehow, at this point of middle age, sleep has become a regular visitor to this list–perhaps because it’s not so regular in real life 3. How dreams teach me about myself 4. Artistic processes–whether it be collage or poetry or doodles, or simply seeing and listening 5. All my Beloveds. You’re in my heart, on my web. I cast a line from me to you today. Take hold.
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.