Bread and the Bird of Heaven

He’s back! I went out this morning to do Ten Breaths, and the moment I stepped out onto the porch, there was his whistle. One long, clear call in the dawn air. I listened longer, and he kept piping occasionally, one or two or three long notes at a time. I think I saw him, too, pulling apart a sycamore ball to get the nourishing seeds, but the rising sun was behind him so he was in silhouette. I waited, but he was busy, too busy to call more than a single whistle at a time. Then, just as the chill drove me to turn back indoors, there it was, the full trill: “O-ri-ole!” My shining bird friend is back in the hollow.

Yesterday I decided to make sun rolls to celebrate the May. I don’t have a recipe for sun rolls–I’m not sure there is one, really. It just seemed like the thing to do on a crisp May Day to welcome the turning of the season.

So when I went out for yesterday’s Ten Breaths and to wash my face in May Day dew (because that’s what you do), I picked dandelions. I couldn’t resist the violets that grow so thickly next to the locust grove, so I picked some of those as well. The poor dandies looked utterly brutalized by the previous day’s rain. I brought them in and washed them and laid them on a cloth to dry. Within an hour, they’d perked up, as if they were outside on their stalks. The Life Force is powerful in dandelions.

If I were to write a book about magic, I think the second chapter might be about dandelions. The first chapter would be about yeast. Yeast is primordial. Yeast is ylem. I’m pretty sure I am not using that word quite correctly, but I have commandeered it for my own purposes. Ylem, according to Dictionary.com, is “the primordial matter of the universe, originally conceived as composed of neutrons at high temperature and density.” I just stop at primordial matter of the universe, and take my meanings from there. Yeast is ylem.

I used my typical recipe for rolls, warming the milk, adding salt and a little flour and yeast. Because these were to be sun rolls, I exchanged the sugar for honey to celebrate the Little Sisters who have been busy in that dandelion patch. And I let the mix bubble for ten minutes. Really, is there any more magical moment in daily existence than coming to the bowl of yeast and flour after ten minutes to see the transformation that has occurred there? The scent of living, growing Life Force, the eager face of the bubbly risen mix. There’s a sound as well, or perhaps I have imagined it, of the bubbles. . .gurgling, plipping, popping, bubbling. . . Life Force.

I always start mixing bread in the stand mixer a friend of mine gave to me when she moved. It makes the process a little simpler, but I also love the feeling of connection it gives me. Even solitary bread-making is communal. I have my recipe mostly memorized, but I keep the cookbook handy on the counter, because that, too, was written by a friend, and it adds to the web of connections I am building as the gluten is aligning in the dough.

Yesterday, I added about a cup of yellow dandelion petals when I added the extra flour (flowers and flours), and used the mixer to bring the dough together, but I need to knead by hand: I love the feeling of kneading a good dough. Then it was rise and shape and rise and bake.

In the meantime was a bittersweetness. I haven’t seen my parents for seven weeks, and we had an exchange to make. They’re giving their old laptop to my boy, and they were out of whole wheat flour, and my mom needed some more crochet hooks and yarn. I had felt a little sheepish about buying two bags of whole wheat when I was out last week, and now it seems there was a reason. So we went to the trailer at the entrance to their retirement community to make the drop off–we’re not allowed to go on campus, and we’re grateful that they are so protected. There they were, and we got to see them and to say hello, from a distance, and through our masks. I didn’t realize how hard it would be not to hug. That was a challenge. The closeness emphasized the distance, but it was marvelous to see them.

They gave us another bag, too, with cookies and a couple pieces of chocolate cake, and a bottle of elderberry mead, perfect for a celebration of May Day. What a treat! So my May Day was sun rolls and mead and chocolate cake, the Life Force in flowers and yeast and honey, and a glimpse of my beloveds.

And now, this shining morning after, the call of the Bird of Heaven from the sycamore.

Gratitude List:
1. Oriole is back!
2. Elderberry mead
3. Yeasty sun rolls
4. Connections and community
5. Life Force evident everywhere

May we walk in Beauty!


“The only time incorrectly is not spelled incorrectly is when it is spelled incorrectly.”


“There is no such thing as one-sided generosity. Like one ecosystem, we are each at different times receiving or purging, growing or pruning. In those moments when you believe you aren’t receiving enough, consider what you most want to receive might be the thing you need to give away.” —Toko-pa Turner


“Gardening is civil and social, but it wants the vigor and freedom of the forest and the outlaw.” —Henry David Thoreau


“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.” —Joanna Macy


“What if the Creator is like the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s God: “like a webbing made of a hundred roots, that drink in silence”?

What if the Source of All Life inhabits both the dark and the light, heals with strange splendor as much as with sweet insight, is hermaphroditic and omnisexual?

What if the Source loves to give you riddles that push you past the boundaries of your understanding, forcing you to change the ways you think about everything?

What if, as Rusty Morrison speculates in “Poetry Flash,” “the sublime can only be glimpsed by pressing through fear’s boundary, beyond one’s previous conceptions of the beautiful”?

Close your eyes and imagine you can sense the presence of this tender, marvelous, difficult, entertaining intelligence.” —Rob Brezsny

Questions for a New Season

(This is a reprise from a previous year. Somehow, this year, the talk of risk and abandon seems to need to include a caveat, that of course we are not risking our own or other people’s health or safety in the risks we are taking.)

May first is Beltane, the ancient holiday marking the mid-point of spring, the wanton flowering season, the wild celebration of abandon and extravagant freedom.

What will you give yourself to in the coming season? What direction will your passions lead you? What freedom can you claim for yourself in the days ahead? Throw off the cloaks and veils that hide you. Remove your corsets and girdles. Run barefoot in the fields. Roll in the grass. Swing from the trees.

May Day is about running through the door, barefoot and maybe naked, but completely unconcerned, willing to take the necessary risks to accomplish your dreams.

Look around you, at all that is growing so wildly, so full of life force. What forces within you are pushing their way toward the sunlight? What will not be contained? What is exploding into bloom? What vines curl outward from your center?

What will you risk in the coming season? What constricting “clothing” do you need to cast off in order to abandon yourself to your projects?

A Blessed Beltane season to you!
May your dreams feed you.


Gratitude List:
1. That pink guarddogwood
2. Stretching body and mind
3. Birdsong
4. Baking
5. Hunger, appetite

May we walk in Beauty!


“As I me walk-ed in a May morning, I heard a bird sing. . .” ―May song


“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” ―Jules de Gaultier


“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.” ―Iris Murdoch


“A light wind swept over the corn, and all Nature laughed.” ―Anne Bronte


“We are all just walking each other home.” ―Ram Dass


“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything.” ―Rainer Maria Rilke


“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over. He does not need punishment; he needs help. That’s the message he is sending.” ―Thích Nhất Hạnh


“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.” ―Frederick Douglass


“Hopelessness is the Enemy of Justice.” —Bryan Stevenson

Beltane Eve

I know all about rainy days and Mondays, and a long string of wet grey weather can make me sad, too. Still, a crisp and breezy drizzly morning feels to me like adventure, like sea change, like a new thing blowing in. Something in me starts to wake up on days like this.

And this is Beltane Eve, the halfway point between Spring Equinox and Summer Solstice. The Wheel turns. We might be living in a radically different world than we expected a year ago. But the Earth spins on. Here in the northern hemisphere, days lengthen, and despite the chilling breezes, the warm times are coming. The skies may be grey, but they’re clearer of pollutants than they’ve been for years. The waters are running clearer, too. Do the buds and blossoms of spring seem more vigorous, more filled with life force? Are the greens greener?

Beltane is about abandoning yourself to the experience of the life force that is burgeoning around you, being willing to risk losing yourself in the wild. And maybe finding yourself, too. Even if your existence is tied, these days, to a house, how can you celebrate yourself today (and this week and this season) as a being who belongs to the wild, who feels the life force within yourself as surely as the tree outside your window is feeling the sap rising from root to branch?


Gratitude List:
1. Wildness
2. Green
3. Wind
4. Energy
5. You

May we walk in Beauty! (Such, such Beauty!)


“Things aren’t so tangible and sayable as people would have us believe; most experiences are unsayable, they happen in a space that no word has ever entered, and more unsayable than all other things are world of art, those mysterious existences, whose life endures beside our own small, transitory life.” —Rainer Maria Rilke


“We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living. We live ourselves into t anew way of thinking.” —Richard Rohr


“To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” —Georgia O’Keeffe


“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.” ―Rebecca Solnit


“The child’s hand
Folding these wings
Wins no wars and ends them all. “
―Thomas Merton

Closing Time

The last poetry prompt of the month is to write a closing time poem.

The door stands ajar.
The curtain rises.
The window is open
and the screen is torn.

The moment has come
to escape the old ways
and enter into the new drama,
to dance down new pathways,
to fly toward a new horizon.

Escape!
Begin the Play!
Soar free!

That’s an exciting prompt for a Beltane Eve. May Day is about running through the door, barefoot and maybe naked, but completely unconcerned, willing to take the necessary risks to accomplish your dreams. What will you risk in the coming season? What “clothing” do you need to cast off in order to abandon yourself to your projects?

A Blessed Beltane season to you! May your dreams feed you.

Gratitude List:
1. Flicker on the ground at LMH this morning when we pulled in. We got to watch it for a full two minutes before it flew away into the morning sunlight.
2. On our walk this evening, swallows swooping low to get a look at us. I think there were both barn and tree swallows.
3. The smell of gill-over-the-grass after someone has walked on it. Smells like spring.
4. The smell of cow patties drying in a field. It transports me back in time, and suddenly I’m five-year-old Bethie walking home from Gwen’s house in the slanting sun of a late Shirati afternoon, the lake breeze playing in my hair.
5. Speaking of poop, I love the open-throated bark of a laugh that Joss gives when he hears a good scatological joke. Total delight, especially when his dad makes the joke.

May we walk in Beauty and Laughter.

Happy May Day!

CRANE_a_garland_for_mayday_1895
Today is May Day, celebrated around the world as the day of the workers.  Today we honor the people who fought–and still fight–for workers’ rights, the people who contribute their sweat for the good of a (hopefully) well-run society, the ones who get the job done.

It is also the day of Beltane, one of the ancient celebrations of spring and fertility.  Look around you, at all that is growing so wildly, so full of life force.  What forces within you are pushing their way toward the sunlight?  What will not be contained?  What is exploding into bloom?  What vines curl outward from your center?

Gratitude List:
1. The way life sometimes brings you exactly what you need. Two years ago on this day, I received a message from a friend saying that he had heard there was an opening on the English Faculty at Lancaster Mennonite High School.
2. The workers.  All the unsung people who make things run, and often without much thanks.   And all who work to make a more just society, not simply because it will benefit them, but because it will benefit all.  Happy May Day!
3. Daniel Berrigan, who died yesterday at 94.  A good man who lived his faith.
4. The certainty that the wheel will turn and a new thing will always come around again.  May comes again.  Happy May Day!
5. The richness of the pink on those dogwood trees in the rain.

May we walk in Beauty!