Holding the Boundaries

Art by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI. Brightwing Tarot.

I’m trying not to engage in too wide-ranging a re-interpretation of the cards as I find my way through the Fool’s Wanderings in the tarot, so I want to be careful with cards like this one, which I have always found unsettling. The Fool leaves the arms of the nurturing Earth in the Empress/Matrix card, and now meets the Emperor. As I meditate on the meaning of this card and what the Fool needs to learn here, I find the martial and domineering nature of the Emperor to crunch too intensely against my own notions of peace and justice.

The Emperor is the boundary-setter, putting their own Will into the world and establishing the edges. Rather than interpreting this card as the selfish and greedy conquest of a power-hungry patriarch, I look at this boundary-setting as an incredibly important moment in the Fool’s learning process, when they realize they, too, deserve justice and respect. In my own recent crisis, I find that I must make a stop here in the land of The Protector (whom I might end up calling The Boundary-Setter), and relearn how to re-member my own boundaries, how to shore up the walls of my garden, and say, “This far, and no further. Here is my limit.”

And it IS a re-learning and a re-membering. It’s never a once and done thing. This Fool that is me has been here in this place before, learning about boundaries and protection of my insides. I thought I had completely aced this lesson in the past. Yet I find myself here again. Again. The assault on my inner realm this time has been more intense than I could have previously imagined. Time to re-learn this lesson. With the Emperor/Protector/Boundary-Setter, I say, “I will protect myself. I will hold fast to my inner truth and not feel shame.”

And this one pairs so beautifully with the work of The Matrix, in this case a binary pairing that dances together to form a deeper complexity. The life force of The Matrix is free of boundaries and rule-setting, and the soul force of The Protector creates healthy and safe boundaries. Too much of one or the other, and the Fool will lose her balance.

And how can I truly create brave and safe where others can feel belonging if I cannot protect my own inner world? One thing that the traditional Emperor does not seem to know how to do is to ask for help. I’m grateful to add that layer to my version of the card. This Protector knows how to ask for help in times of breached walls.

Here is my Emperor poem from several years ago. I find that it’s one of those moments when my own voice from the past has something to say to the me of the moment:

Setting the Intention
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I will.
That should fill
the task list of the day.
Just say,
“I will.”

Then make that happen.
Make your will into a thing
Let it sing.
Give it ground.

Cast your boundaries around you:
east and south and west and north.
Go forth
and do your will.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak. I know he makes my gratitude list every day now, but really, the sun twinkling off the deep cerulean of his feathers is such a revelation! I feel like Mother Mary is tapping me on the shoulder every time I see him. Such a Blue!
2. Safe and protected spaces, and the people who rush to help shore up the walls when they’ve been breached.
3. Father Richard Rohr’s words today on symbolic language for the journey of faith. I felt like he’d been watching my own story somehow. Powerful synchronicity.
4. Reclaiming my place.
5. So many Beloveds. You and you and you. Twice this past weekend, I met people in the flesh whom I have only known online, and I was so blessed to know and see their beauty in the real world. I can be really socially awkward, especially right now, but I love this sort of encounter! Balm to my soul.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Mercy Now: There is a Place for You

“There is still a place for you at our table, if you will choose to join us,” the young man said.
“Yes,” people chorused, “even now, there is a place for you.”
–Starhawk, The Fifth Sacred Thing

At the end of The Fifth Sacred Thing, when the military forces are over-running their city, Maya and the others decide on this strategy: They approach the soldiers and tell them they have set a place for them at the community table. They know that some of them, in the moment of invitation, will be shot and killed. They know the situation is dire. But they decide to appeal to the humanity of their enemies.

Can I say to the fiercely adamant Trump supporter on my Facebook threads: “There is a place for you at our table of welcome, if you choose to join us?”

Can I say it to the racists who are spouting venom and hatred?

Can I say it to the fear-mongers who scapegoat immigrants and Muslims and Latinx?

Could I say it to Mr. Smucker, my local representative, who consistently votes against everything I stand for, and for everything I stand against?

Could I say it to a denier of the climate Crisis? To a Monsanto exec?

Could I say it to Mitch McConnell? To Mr. Trump?

It’s an invitation that requires some self-reflection: “. . .if you choose to join us.” It doesn’t condone the soldier’s violence. It begs a different relationship, a sideways step across the line. It offers a way out for the individual trapped in a cycle of violent words and actions.

I am unsettled and twitchy these last few days about my own position in this story, my own lack of empathy and welcome. I’ve been working really hard at keeping the conversation to a high level. Still, in conversation this weekend, I said something to the effect that this administration has drawn the racist and homophobic cockroaches into the light. A dear and wise friend firmly and kindly called me on it. Just days after I wrote something calling out the president for calling people animals, I was calling people cockroaches. In my defense, I was being metaphorical. I didn’t intend to dehumanize, I tell myself. But what did I intend? Why use such metaphors? We tend to stomp on cockroaches. There’s a verbal violence for you. I can’t defend such language.

My friend encouraged us to look at people’s needs, to ask what needs are not being met when a person chooses, either verbally or physically, to harm another. This is the beginning of empathy.

In The Fifth Sacred Thing, the community was willing to risk their lives for the truth of this question. Am I willing to risk letting go of some of my protective rage so I , too, can invite people to the table? What will we be asked to risk if we offer this invitation? It’s not about destroying healthy boundaries. The community was actively standing up to the soldiers. Still, they chose to offer their enemies a choice, a way out.

My personal rhetoric in these difficult times has had a strong edge of boundary to it. I believe that to fight the evil (yes, evil) that is harming children and families and communities, we must declaim the truth. When a president uses a constant barrage of lies in order to confuse and demoralize the populace, truth-telling is a necessary and powerful act.

I wonder if there are ways that I can hold firmly to the truth-telling, and still set the tables in the rooms of my words in ways that invite my rivals to sit and eat and be nourished. Can I speak against the lies in ways that invite those who believe them to tell their stories and share their pain? And perhaps become transformed rather than entrenched?

“We die. That may be the meaning of life. But we do language. That may be the measure of our lives,” said Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison, who joined the realm of the ancestors this week. She told the truth, directly and fiercely. And she also knew the power of words to heal, the power of narrative to create a bridge to a more just future: “This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal.”

And further: “Is there no context for our lives? No song, no literature, no poem full of vitamins, no history connected to experience that you can pass along to help us start strong? You are an adult. The old one, the wise one. Stop thinking about saving your face. Think of our lives and tell us your particularized world. Make up a story. Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created. We will not blame you if your reach exceeds your grasp; if love so ignites your words they go down in flames and nothing is left but their scald. Or if, with the reticence of a surgeon’s hands, your words suture only the places where blood might flow. We know you can never do it properly–once and for all. Passion is never enough; neither is skill. But try. For our sake and yours forget your name in the street; tell us what the world has been to you in the dark places and in the light. Don’t tell us what to believe, what to fear. Show us belief’s wide skirt and the stitch that unravels fear’s caul. You, old woman, blessed with blindness, can speak the language that tells us what only language can: how to see without pictures. Language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. Language alone is meditation.” ―Toni Morrison, The Nobel Lecture In Literature, 1993

I don’t know if I can do it with grace and brilliance, with fierceness and tenderness. But I can try, as Morrison requests. Language has magic to it. As a teacher of language and a writer, I take that seriously. Let’s apprentice ourselves to the powerful human magic that language offers us, to create spaces within our words where our rivals may find a space to rest and consider, where we may all be transformed, and the future may be created with love.

As an epilogue, I offer you this song by Mary Gauthier, “Mercy Now.” Click the link, sit back, and listen.

Mirrors and Reflections

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.