Brigid’s Day is dawning, the indigo shifting to blue and grey over the southeastern hills. A strip of tangerine edges the horizon like a waking eye. From the porch, I heard a rooster from the Tome farm on the western rim of our little bowl of a hollow, and from the east, up in the brush and the treeline, I heard what must have been coyotes mumbling–not the loud yaps or howls, but friendly “look-what-I-founds” and “keep-together-now-kids.” The sound was closer to me than the dog kennel on the other sound of the ridge and it didn’t have the “help-I’ve-been-abandoned” sound of those residents.
This morning, groundhog will see her shadow or not, but spring is on its way. I do hope she slept late this morning, until the coyote family passed through.
Feel Earth stirring. Notice the kicking of the life that is growing this morning, the sap rising, the fresh breath of breeze. What new gestating thing is calling you into your wildness today? What is growing within you? How can you nourish and tend it within you until it grows to be ready for birth?
Blessed be your seeds, your fertile dreams, your deep awareness of that which will awaken, will bud, will sprout, will rise. Dream well. Plan big.
Gratitude List: 1. On Thursday evening, we saw sundogs on the way home from school–they were trying to become a halo, and they managed to be rainbow arcs on either side of the sun. I keep meaning to write them in a list. 2. Brigid’s morning. If you look deeply into the grey, you can see rich and watery blues. 3. Coconut shrimp for supper last night, with stir-fried zucchini, and butter pecan ice cream for dessert. 4. Creating the life I want. 5. All that is waiting to be born within me.
On this day when everyone’s attempting to solve and re-solve their solutions, to resolve their resolutions, to tend to their intentions, I’m still waiting on a word. I watch my dreams and inner questions until the shining sixth, Epiphany, until the kings come. Wise ones. Mages. The light pours in on Epiphany and wisdom comes to the house.
It doesn’t really matter which day you embark on the journey. It only matters that you take it. Today we stand with Janus in his doorway, looking back and looking forward. With the double-faced god beside us, we can simultaneously look behind to the road that has brought us here, and ahead to the road we’re soon to take.
How could I live the coming year without that knowledge of the shadow that travels behind me, the road I walked to get here, the person I have been? It’s so easy, when we turn over a new leaf marking a new season in our lives, to simply yank the leaf from its twig, but the what-will-be is built upon the what-was. The new self which is emerging only arrived at this doorway on the persistent legs of the self which brought me here.
Whether you are waiting, like me, for Wisdom to come on Epiphany, or whether you step away from the door this morning to begin the journey of the year, this is the season of the set intention, the forward-moving affirmation. This is the time of the tabula rasa, the blank page upon which you can write whatever you choose.
Do you have a resolution for the coming year? A re-solution, perhaps, to an old and persistent problem? Or perhaps you need this official moment to end a habit that has you in a rut? Or to begin a new one that will get you traveling a more liberating and exciting road than the one you’ve become accustomed to walking? Many people I know prefer to call it an intention rather than a resolution. Perhaps an unachieved intention sounds less like a broken promise than an unsolved resolution.
The road to February is littered with broken resolutions and lost intentions, with holy words discarded and new habits jettisoned as old habits creep from the undergrowth and reattach themselves. I don’t think this means we shouldn’t set intentions or resolutions. Perhaps we need to set the intention and then set a second intention: To tend the first. If I set the intention to get 7,000 steps a day, and I succeed for a week or two, but then fall away, I will have had a less sedentary week or two. That’s a good thing. The idea, then, is to come back to it. Perhaps 7,000 is too much to ask, amid all the other things I need to accomplish. So maybe I re-set my intention and say 5,000 steps a day during the weekday, and 7,000 on weekends. And I try again, with fresh will and determination. After all, February first is another new beginning.
And I think we need to take great care in the intentions we set. If I decide that I don’t like the way I look these days, so I am going to whip my body into shape by diet and exercise, that’s a punishing resolution. My body is going to rebel, and the deep-self is going to feel attacked. But the fact is that for my whole life, I have needed to keep re-setting the intention to move more, and to maintain a healthier balance of the foods I eat. I don’t believe in self-denial. I will never entirely give up chocolate or ice cream or cookies, because then I am bound for failure. But I can probably re-set some of my boundaries with the sweet things. Slow down and savor.
Now there’s a good intention for experiencing life in 2020: Slow down and savor.
In the coming year, may you be kind to yourself. May you set reasonable goals that help you meet with success and fulfillment. May you bring out the best you, informed by all the versions of yourself that you have been. May you not jettison old versions of yourself along the trail behind you, but transform yourself in ways that acknowledge all the work you’ve done to get here.
Blessing for the New Year by Beth Weaver-Kreider
May you be born fresh and shining into the new year and may the old you continue, too, a thread that ties you to past versions of your truest self, for we need to be constantly reborn while we hold a deep sense of the shape we create in the universe.
Gratitude List: 1. All the birdlife of yesterday! It felt like we were in a legend. Suddenly, after weeks of very little bird activity, there were birds everywhere: bluebirds on the wires, finches and sparrows at the feeders with juncoes and mourning doves catching the windfall below, woodpeckers rowing through the space between trees. On the road, flocks of little birds schooled from grove to grove of roadside trees. Vultures, and maybe an eagle, hung in the updrafts above the Susquehanna. And a kingfisher chattered on Fishing Creek. 2. A good, hard hike/climb on the Mason-Dixon Trail south of Long Level. The trail rises above the river on a steep rocky ridge climb, and you’re on a dragon’s back of up-jutting rocks for a quarter mile or more, the river flowing wide like a lake on your left, and Fishing Creek rushing rapidly down the steep ravine to your right. 3. The hike reminded me of the moment in Prince Caspian when the children and Trumpkin are walking along the gorge, trying to find their way, and Aslan appears to Lucy. She must make a choice to follow him rather than going the way the others are going. She knows what is right, and she must follow that way, even when the others mock her for seeing things they cannot see. Even though he doesn’t say it at that moment in that book, I still heard him say, “Courage, Dear Heart” as we picked our way along the stony pathway. I’ll take that with me into the New Year. 4. We meant to go to Infinito’s for their pizza bar for supper last night, but they had closed early for the holiday. Instead, we went next door to Asian Yummy, and it was beautiful as well as yummy. 5. Again, as I feel the sadness and loss of these long mornings for writing and thinking, I can only be grateful for the gift of them in this Time out of Time. While I have not made headway on any projects in particular, I have stretched my writing/thinking muscles on the blog, and it has been satisfying and fortifying.
May we walk in Beauty!
Last January, I had repeated visitations from kingfisher, in waking life, in dreams, in conversations, in books. I chose kingfisher as one of my symbols for the year. Yesterday, as we were finishing our hike, climbing down the ridge toward Fishing Creek, where it moves slowly in deep pools before rushing down the ravine, we heard a kingfisher chattering in the hollow, over and over again. When I got home, inspired by a friend who is writing Shadormas, I wrote this two-stanza shadorma (3/5/3/3/7/5):
Kingfisher, who visited me at the start of the year chattered farewell to the year this cold afternoon.
And vulture floated like eagle through currents o’er the ridge while last year’s waters flowed down the Susquehanna.
Dreamwork: I don’t have much to say about last night’s busy anxiety dreams. In the dream, there is some sort of educational conference going on. It is both at my school, and not at my school. I go into a room, meaning to climb the stairs and go up a few floors, but it’s kind of Escher-like in design. I climb a flight of stair, walk along a landing, and the next flight leads down again into the same room, though I don’t really remember stepping down. Someone tells me I need to find the secret door on the landing. After that it’s possible to find stairs that go up, but each leads to an identical room with the same weird stair situation.
At one point, my colleagues are walking through my bedroom, and I say, “It wouldn’t be so bad if I felt this tired at the end of the day, but I feel like this right after waking up!”
Another of my colleagues, who retired a few years ago, is there, and he has brought his pet echidna. It’s really quite curious and adorable. It keeps sort of morphing into a puppy.
Perhaps I do need to pay attention to the exhaustion bit in here, and the confusion of stairs.
Looking through some old journals today as I work on a project, I came across this, from my 2016 Silent Retreat at the Jesuit Center:
“A brilliant moment. A brilliant and shining moment. Yesterday evening as I was intently collaging in the Ignatian Room in the basement, two women (Catholic sisters) ‘pssss-d’ at me from the doorway. They needed help to figure out their room and how to get settled, and so I broke my silence and directed them where to go. Pleasant connection.
Just now, I saw them coming in from packing their car, so I went to talk to them. (I feel a little shaky-giddy yet with the dearness and synchronicity of it.) They, too, are/have been educators. Sisters Mary Clare and Bridget, Sisters of Mercy from Dallas, PA.
They embraced me, embraced my story. They said that they will add me and my students into their evening Centering Prayers. They said they will send me the Energy of the Universe. They said that there are no chance encounters, no coincidences.
They kissed me and embraced me and blessed me. Oh marvelous world, that has such people in it.”
I remember them and their love so clearly. Indeed, there are no coincidences, no chance encounters. How will I, how will you, bless and embrace those we meet–with such purposeful blessing from the Universe?
We got a late trick or treat start, so I didn’t get the obligatory photo in their costumes (we’re going to make them dress up for a photo shoot today or tomorrow), but here’s a pumpkin carving photo. Barn shadows are stunning in these autumns afternoons.
Gratitude of Resistance Seven: This national ritual of blessing the children. That’s really what it is. Yes, it’s too much candy. Yes, there are sometimes pretty bloody images. Still, what we experience as a family every year on Halloween is genuine neighborliness. People sit out on their porches and smile at children, give them treats, tell them how great they look. And we folk who come from dark country roads into well-light towns are always welcomed as neighbors. This is my vision of America. We ought to have more door-to-door holidays.
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.
Gratitude List: 1. Coming through a conversation feeling more like myself. I wish everyone could have someone like that, who can ask questions and build upon ideas with you, help you sort things out. I am grateful for the people of my family, who do this for me.
2. Nieces and Nephews, good cousins to my children. The in-laws–my siblings chose their partners so perfectly. My parents.
3. My mother’s question: “How shall we pray for each other?” Reminds me of the sacred question to ask the Fisher King–the one that leads to the finding of the Holy Grail.
4. The art on the walls of the houses I visited today. Such beauty, such rich depth of meaning.
5. Gathering around a table with people I love. As Joy Harjo says, “Perhaps the world ends here.”
I am signing off for a few days, to sit in the woods, to walk the labyrinth, to listen for the messages that come my way. May you find cool shady spaces where your soul may be a rest. May your ears be filled with beautiful sounds and excellent words. I will continue to hold out my hands to join with yours in this web of prayer and healing. Namaste. Blessed Be.
Dear friends, dear friends,
Can I tell you how I feel?
You have given me such blessing.
I love you so.
(Sing to the old tune of “Soul Cake”)
Sit in a circle at dusk with people you love.
Let it be when the swifts are flying.
Let there be a catbird with a whiskery voice in a spruce tree.
Speak your stories into the bowl of the space between you:
stories like a rich meal, the bitter, the savory, the sweet.
Let it get dark. The darkness will listen, too.
You can hear people listening when you speak in the dark.
You may light a candle if you have a candle.
Laugh together. Cry.
Let there be occasional questions,
occasional grunts, occasional exclamations of oh-I-hear-that!
Make a meal of the stories before you,
and eat your fill. Be nourished.
Be together in your stories.
Know that all these stories are your story, too.
Let there be a benediction,
words sung or spoken into the full dark,
accompanied by the chittering of bats,
good words to keep you always
in this circle where you belong.
Gratitude List: 1. Circles
2. Swifts and bats
3. Children obsessed with the game that they have created between them.
4. Stories. All of them. Holding them together. The inspiration of stories.
5. Circles. Did I say circles?
Much love. May we walk in Beauty. May we walk in Love.
May we live in the center of our stories
Here is a poem from this day in 2013. It’s one of my favorites.
May the bright breeze of morning rouse your heart to singing,
May the fire of the noonday warm your heart to hopefulness,
May the cooling rains of evening wash your heart to freshness,
May the enclosing arms of the earth hold you through the midnight.
Walk in paths of the winds that awaken,
Walk through the fires that burn off the scars,
Walk in the waters that cool and renew,
Stand with your feet firmly planted on earth
Until you hear the voice of the wind,
Until you breathe the essence of the fire,
Until you smell the message of the waters,
Until you feel the heartbeat of the earth,
Until you see the sun rise
Gratitude List: 1. The wisdom and thoughtfulness of that group of students who led chapel yesterday, telling stories of their experiences of racism, opening up the conversation. The post-chapel discussion took more than two periods because people were so caught up in it, and people were talking about it in the halls. I am grateful for the courage they had to share their stories and get the conversation going.
2. Warm mittens
3. More readings from the desert mothers and fathers.
4. The collage assignment in Creative Writing. I love watching them create and develop and work with images.
5. Routines. Developing helpful habits.
Blessing. Benediction. Benison. In Old Irish, beannacht. In Swahili, baraka.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the act of blessing, of passing on the blessing, of sharing benediction with each other. Such churchy words, eh? Don’t let that distract from their universal power.
This evening I watched my incredible niece give her senior presentation at her school, a somewhat daunting rite of passage that requires each student to give a 20-minute presentation on herself (or himself), her goals and ideals, her personal story. My niece focused a great deal of her presentation on her family and her community, and it was clear that this is a young person who is grounded in her connections to others, who finds meaning in relationship and conversation and interaction. I am a very proud auntie.
While the senior presentation is a rite of passage designed to challenge the students to express who they are, where they have come from, and where they are headed, it was clear that a vital role of the whole process was to have a moment to bless each student individually. This was a ritual of benediction. The students, in telling their stories, receive from their teachers and gathered family and friends a sense of the importance and vitality of their own stories. They are now empowered with the sacred duty to fulfill their destinies, to find meaning in their lives.
I know people who do this in their everyday story, effortlessly and “unshowily,” humbly: constantly passing blessings on to those around them, to the people they meet. Un-self-consciously offering to others that sense of purpose and connection to something bigger than themselves. The way these people treasure the stories they are offered makes the story-teller feel validated and blessed, as thought they, too, now have a sacred task before them.
Gratitude List: 1. My marvelous niece Lara. And all my incredible nieces and nephews.
5. Winter aconite
Last night as I fell asleep
I asked the moon–
like a child begging
for a bedtime story–
to tell me a marvelous dream.
I asked for a big cat,
like a lion or a cheetah.
An oak tree, or any tall tree.
A stone of power.
And Lake Victoria.
Suddenly an owl appeared,
so I said, You come too.
I didn’t ask for much.
What I got was a job
as an Administrative Secretary
at a desk in the lobby
of a grand publishing company.
Papers and messages
lay strewn about,
and I knew nothing
about dealing with them.
I sat for a while,
shoved papers around
like Sisyphus pushing that rock.
Tried to plug in the lamps
to get a little more light.
Looked as busy as I could.
When I awoke,
I was snuggled up
with a child
now comforted and warm
after a nosebleed and winter chill.
Some nights I wake up
in a panic, worried
that they will freeze in the night.
Drifting off again, I found myself
in someone’s cottage,
the same child a dream child,
next to me in bed.
I looked outside to see the moon
and a giant shadow passed
across the yard toward
the back door.
My legs were dream-leaden.
I could not rise to rescue
the other child asleep
alone in his dream-room.
Did this go on for hours?
When dawn came,
I awoke between the two,
the flesh-and-blood boys,
the dream child now
Next time I ask for a dream,
perhaps I’ll call for a restless job
and a relentless shadow,
and wish secretly
for a leopard in a tree.
Prompt for Tuesday
I was planning to do a found poem for tomorrow, trying to figure out how to come up with five or six totally random phrases to weave into a poem, but this evening before supper, Joss started singing, “Once I was a snake. Once I was a weasel.” I have also been wanting to trying creating something with a mythic tone. So. Found poem. Myth poem. Join me? I am sure Joss wouldn’t mind sharing his song with you, too. Or find your own. Listen to someone speaking tomorrow morning and pull a couple phrases at random.
1. Windshield wiper fluid
2. Sentinel hawks along the highway
3. My dental hygienist, who cares so well for my teeth
4. The prayers and blessings that children give
5. Ellis, who cut a piece of red paper into the shape of a Y: “This is a Y, for you, because you are so important to me.”