Epiphany: The Holy Aha!

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
seem unfinished
without the dark stain
of alphabets?
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

In the Dreamtime, Day 12

Last night before I went to sleep, I read an article about hypnogogia, that half-dream state between sleeping and waking where the mind is churning through images that feel portentous and wildly creative. It was a helpful reminder to me about dreamwork, about how to catch those elusive butterflies of dream and story that flitter away in the moment of waking. It makes me grateful that my body wakes me before the alarm, because I have those seconds to try to hold the moments of dream before the sudden noise of the alarm startles them away.

1) In the dream, I am in a grand-looking inn, but we are quickly noticing how poorly the place is built, more like a cheap television set than a truly beautiful space. The opulence is false.

2) In the dream, we are on the second floor of a building, dancing and pounding our feet, enjoying the sound of the echoes. We suddenly remember that there is someone living below us.

3) In the dream, I am standing under an umbrella on a bridge in the dawn, misty rain falling around me. There is a word in my head: trophism. I had to look that one up upon waking. Google says: “the turning of all or part of an organism in a particular direction in response to an external stimulus.” (Ah. I am turning my face to the light, like Kris’s poinsettias in church on Sunday.)


Gratitude List:
1. Words that come in dreams. In this case, “trophism,” like what I do when I turn toward the light.
2. Dream-bridges
3. Making a plan to catch up, and implementing in. Slow and steady, little tortoise.
4. Slow starts. “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow,” said the poet, and it applies to oh-so-many forms of waking.
5. I think, perhaps, I can begin, just a little, to notice the increasing day.

May we wake to Beauty!


“Jesus was not brought down by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.” —Barbara Brown Taylor


“He said the wicked know that if the evil they do is of sufficient horror men will not speak against it. That men have only stomach for small evils and only these will they oppose.”
—Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing.


“Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.”
―Parker J. Palmer


“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
―T. S. Eliot


We need for the earth to sing
Through our pores and our eyes.

The body will again become restless
Until your soul paints all its beauty
Upon the sky.
—Hafiz


“Perhaps the uprising of women around the world is the earth’s own immune system kicking in.”
—Nina Simons, Bioneers


A poem for the New Year:
Love Your Life

And a voice will come from the stillness
to give these words: Love Your Life.
You will know from its deep urging
to let go your well-worn list
of all you felt you first needed.
Begin here, freely,
from this muddy place.
It doesn’t matter if you are broken,
empty handed, shabby.
Go now, into the day:
the open trails, the markets,
the long trail to the sea.
Find all the ways
a lover loves the Beloved:
each hidden bloom, unspoken wound,
vagary of heart.
Become a brave and willing traveler
in a wild, forgotten terrain~
a realm of intimate, tender relating,
infinite mystery, un-tethered joy.
Now, moving in this world, you know
that love is the greatest fortune.
Only you will not amass it:
you are it.

—Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, Befriending The Soul


“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.”
—Terry Pratchett

Making Sense

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about the senses. One day when Ellis was about five years old, we had a conversation, and we came up with twenty or more senses, beyond the five they teach in kindergarten. Here are some of them.

Praise for the senses
that anchor the soul to the body,
that cushion the spirit in flesh,
that stitch us together.

For the sight and sound and hearing,
yes, and taste and touch,
and also for the sense of warmth,
and balance, and gravity,
for the sense of what impends,
and the sense of presence,
of self-knowledge, of an inner world.

For the sense of direction,
the sense of time that passes,
of knowledge of what has gone before,
and the sense of duty to others,
the sense of truth, of justice,
the sense of humor,
and the sense of belonging.

Praise for the threads of sense,
the bridges from these islands
of individual humanity
to the world that surrounds us,
and the small universes
of each other.


Gratitude List:
1. The faint rings on the end of Sachs’ charcoal grey tail.
2. The bottoms of his paws, how trim white fur surrounds the black pads of his toes.
3. Advil, when the sinus pressure gets too intense.
4. Four classes are mostly graded for quarter three.
5. How change makes us reflective.

May we walk in Beauty!

Ode to History in the Hospital

grandmas-hands1
My grandmother’s hands.

The prompt today is to write an ode or a poem dedicated to someone or something. I’ll do another in my series of History poems. I can hardly bear to remember the last one I wrote, on the eve of the Election. Poor History. She was looking so hopeful that night.

For History in the Hospital
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

She doesn’t look happy to see me.
I place the flowers on her windowsill
between a Get Well Soon balloon
and a giant teddy bear holding a red heart.

“I thought you said I didn’t have to
repeat myself–” she says. (“Repeat myself.”)
Her face is black and blue and she’s missing her front teeth.
She’s been beaten up before, I know.
Left for dead in alleyways,
trampled by the paparazzi,
mugged by dictators and tyrants.
She’ll recover. She will go on to watch it happen
again and again and again.

But this one was so sudden,
such a quick attack, and she didn’t see it coming,
despite her long association with herself.
I feel like I am partly to blame, somehow.

“I should be just a bystander,” she whispers.
“A bystander. But this kind always knocks me down.
Knocks me down.” She looks at me over the top of her spectacles.

What can I tell her? “I don’t know what to do,”
I say, the helplessness catching in my throat.

And there she is, doing what she’s done all along,
since the beginning of History herself:
she comforts me from within her own misery.
“You’ll think of something. I’ve got to get off this
whirling merry-go-round. It’s just not so merry anymore.”

I nod. “Not so merry anymore,” she repeats.

**********
Some suggestions for myself (and you, if you want to join me):
1. Listen to music. Music heals, as Andrea Gibson says.
2. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before posting and re-posting.
3. Commit to careful, reasoned thinking before responding to those who disagree. Remember that we’re here to open doors for the Great Mystery in each other.
4. Check out some Joe Biden memes.
5. Hug someone you love.
6. Look into people’s eyes.
7. Stretch. Actually physically stretch. Often.
8. Breathe.
9. Listen to the pain and rage around you, but don’t take it on your shoulders.
10. Find your anchors, the people who keep you from floating away in the rage and the grief.
11. Re-read Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ “You Were Made for This.”

Gratitude List:
1. Soft tacos for supper: kale and broccoli, onions, cheese, beans.
2. The regular chiming of Grandma’s clock. When I cleaned the house, I decided to wind it up and get it ticking again.
3. Sleep. I always seem to need more of it during the dark season.
4. Forging pathways
5. Bridges. All the bridges we build, the bridges we cross.

May we walk in Beauty!

Finding the Questions

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I spent last week quietly anticipating another walk of the Camp Hebron Labyrinth. On my Saturday morning walk own to the woods, I kept thinking how different the paths and the distances seemed in just a week. The thought appeared in my head: “It’s a different journey now.” Even though I am walking a similar path and toward a different destination, the journey keeps shifting and changing. Just moments after I had begun to ponder what I meant by thinking that, I arrived at the labyrinth to find that a tree had fallen across it.

I recently found this piece of paper on which I wrote, in the summer of 2015, a series of examen-type questions. I think I probably have already written these in the blog, but I am going to put them here again so that I can ponder them this week. I wouldn’t use more than five of them a day, probably, and for similar ones, like the first four, I would spread them out over days, to see how the different ways of asking almost the same question evokes different internal responses.

How did Mystery encounter you today?
How did you encounter Mystery today?
How were found by Mystery?
How did God/dess seek you?

What awakened you?
What vision brought your spirit awake?
What nudged you? (Or nudged you forward?)
Where does your heart sit?
What gave you wings?
What do you take on your journey?
What do you tuck into the corners?

What quickened within you?
What brought your senses (or your heart, your spirit, your brain) alive?
What do you take deeper?
What do you take into prayer?

What is the weight that you carry?

And not that I am thinking about it again, I’ll add some more from today’s heart:
What itches? What makes you uncomfortable?
What feels unsettled?
What skin are you shedding?
What muscles are you stretching?

Gratitude List:
1. Bridges, and bridge-building language and actions
2. Gathered Community
3. Getting the work organized, making a plan
4. Treasuring each other
5. Waking up–I am struggling with the actual physical process this morning. How much more intense it can be to wake up in other ways. May we always be open to the pull to wake further, to bring our dreams into the wakeful spaces.

May we walk in Beauty!

Re-Building Bridges

We watched a couple videos of Turkish Ebru painting, Boy and I.  In Ebru painting, the artist drips ink on to the surface of the water, then manipulates the surface to create beautiful designs which cling to the paper the artist rests on the water’s surface.

Afterward, “Can you get down my painting box?”

“I think we’re out of painting paper.”

“That’s okay.  I’ll find some cardboard.”

P1020389

Gratitude List:
1.  The wild creative imagination of children.  How one thing suddenly becomes another thing, which morphs into a totally different thing.  Well, now.  Isn’t that sort of like life?  Maybe the Divine Source of all Being is a Child playing with colors:  “This one looks like a farmer.  But if I twist this brush a little bit this way, she turns into a teacher.  See?”  Capricious, maybe.  But magical.  Just let this one dry a good while please, Kid, before you go shifting this part of the design again.
2.  Ends of tunnels.  Beginnings of bridges.  Spanning the distances.  Breathe, baby, breathe, while you cross that bridge.  And don’t, whatever you do, hold your breath in the tunnels!  Look for the light–it’s really there.
3.  Re-built bridges, diamonds, rust.  A couple days ago, I heard Joan Baez singing “Diamonds and Rust” on the radio, and it took me back 25 years in one instant.  It took me right back to the happy times before the burning of a bridge, of a friendship.  The bridge has been re-built, of course, and this new one is as beautiful as my bridge that arches over the Susquehanna when the sun hits it just so in the mornings.  But that long-ago burning still sometimes haunts me with the shame of my pettiness and selfishness, despite the great grace of my co-re-builder, despite the years that have passed.  Sometimes I just have to go back and look at the old pilings where the old bridge used to be, to see how there’s moss growing there, and small trees, how the wreck sets off the incredible grace of the new bridge, how the sun shines on it all as Beauty.  This is one of the big gratitudes of my life, one of the constants: the Grace of friendship.
4.  Oh, that slant of light in the mornings in the hollow makes me almost as giddy and obsessed as my oriole did in springtime.  I miss it most mornings these days because I am gone before sunrise.  See, we sit down here in the shadows of the bowl, and we know that it is day because the sky has brightened up above, but then the sun slants down and hits the tops of the trees with a golden shimmer that moves down the trunks.  There comes a point when the sun just spills down the hillsides like liquid gold.
5.  Both.  And.  I like those words.
6.  (Because sometimes you need more than five.)  It’s a long way away, but I am planning my self-care moment, anticipating my Time of Silence.  The thought of my own retreat fills me with energy.

May we walk in Beauty!

Word-Bridges

I need to take my moments of contemplation when I can get them these days.  Only three weeks into the semester, and I have already (at least once) left a piece of my lesson planning to the morning.  And that eats up not only time, but also confidence.  Yet I am feeling an internal sense that not only should I be maintaining my morning reflection time, but perhaps I need to expand my writing practices.  Now, because I am spending my days teaching writing, when I write for myownself, I am keenly conscious of how I am moving around inside these sentences, pulling the ideas of this sentence into being perhaps even while I typed the previous sentence.  Considering whether a fragment here might be well-used to effect.  Wondering whether I can hold onto the depth of the idea that I am working with if I shift for a moment into discussion of the what happens when I explore the room of a sentence while I am writing it.

You and I, we are individual universes, separate in our separate realms, joined by. . .what?  (Meta-mind wonders how I should have punctuated that one and hopes a grammarian friend will give suggestions.) What is the web that connects us in our isolated worlds?  Love and hope, certainly.  Gesture and expression.  Still, we need language to channel those deep rivers of self between us, to make the webs between us glow and shine.  As we build these word, bridges, construct whole rooms and tunnels of sentences, cities of paragraphed ideas, our worlds connect.  I can write to you and you can write to me, and we can say to each other that we know each other, even if we have not seen each others’ faces.  Just because of words.  May all our words bring deeper understanding, more powerful connections.

Gratitude List:
1.  Personal pep-talks, for that is what this has been.  It was a short night, and it promises to be a hot day in the classroom, me yelling my words out over the fans.  Still, I cannot be anything but grateful to for the gift of this opportunity to help this cohort of 90 young people develop and perfect their ability to work with language, this magical tool for human connection.  May it be so.
2.  The great horned owls.  I know I just wrote about them a couple days ago, but their deep and startling voices here in the fall are almost as trance-inducing as my friend the oriole was in spring.  When I am grumbling at the rude voice of the alarm clock, the sudden surprised whooping of the owls in the bamboo forest will make me smile and be glad to be awake in this darkness.
3.  Following my predecessor at the school.  She was well-loved by quite a number of students.  Random students keep wandering in and looking around, a little lost, and introducing themselves as former students of hers.  Some of them even return repeatedly, as though simply the memory of her in that room makes it a haven amidst the bustle of the school day.  Big shoes to fill.  I’ll be my own me, of course, but do my best to keep her light shining in the window.
4.  Word-bridges.  Sentence-halls.  Paragraph-houses.  All these artificial structures and codes that we have created in millennia of human development that enable us to close the space between us.
5.  Annoying as his constant demands for attention, food, attention, and food can be, I love the way Fred the cat meows, his whole face getting into the act.  I love the way he won’t take no for an answer when he wants snuggles and I am wearing a dark blue dress that cannot have orange cat hair upon it.  I had to go get a blanket to cover me because he would have his mama-cuddle this morning, no matter what I said.

May we walk in Beauty!

Bee City Tanka

Today’s prompt is to write a city poem.  And all I can think, all day, when I turn my mind to this task is “We Built this City on Rock and Roll.”

Enter their city
without fear, with a pure heart.
You must become light,
become a drop of sunlight
and whisper in on the breeze.

Gratitude List:
1.  High Point
2.  The Emmentalische hills of eastern York County
3.  The bridges
4.  The trees are taking that last inbreath before they explode into bloom
5.  Sore muscles from hard work.

May we walk in Beauty.

Gratitude List

1.  The 30 bridge seems to be totally free of construction blockages.  How long has it been?  One year?  Ten?  Here’s to Bridges!
2.  Words.  Isn’t it amazing that a series of aural bits strung together can signify something that can create meaning that both you and I understand?  And then we can translate that into visual symbols?  And build whole philosophical concepts and relationships around them?  Hmm, #1 was also about bridges. . .
3.  Goldfinch Farm Customers.  They’re the greatest.  I love the people who buy our produce–community.  Umm, bridges.
4.  Salmon burgers.
5.  Beads.
Namaste.