Listening for Stirrings of Spring

Happy Groundhog’s Day, Bright Ones! For today, I offer a collage of writings from past Imbolc days:

What do you bring up into the light today?
What has been developing within you during your Winter Sleep?
What does the dawning light tell you about your shadows?
How does the coming sun define the shape of you?
Groundhog’s Day is a modern version of the ancient celebration of the Goddess Brigid, who became syncretized with the Catholic Saint Brigid, whose feast day is February 1 or 2, depending on whom you ask. Brigid asks: What path will you commit yourself to in the coming season?


SONG FOR POETS: A POEM FOR BRIGHID’S DAY
by Beth Weaver-Kreider, Feb 2013

(Today we look for that jolly rodent, and also we commemorate Brighid, triple goddess and patroness of Ireland, Saint of Kildare. Smithcraft, poetry, and healing arts are her realms.)

Sacred wells, undying flame.

We forge our words on your anvil,
listening for the sweet ping
of hammer on metal,
watching the sparks fly outward,
shaping and crafting.

We seek them like wild herbs
found only on the side of a mountain
for a short season each year.

We search under bracken,
through briar and thorn,
stepping through bogs,
listening for the birdsong
that tells us we have arrived
at the proper place.

We give ourselves to words,
not waiting for inspiration,
but chasing it like skuthers of fog
over the misty hills.
Seeking the solace and healing
that words offer,
and turning our minds
to do that healing work.
Crafting our words
into tools and enticements.

A year and a day
the old ones would pledge
to your service.
So may it be.
One year of poetry,
making it, reading it.

Oh Lady, give us poetry.

Questions to Contemplate in the Season of Brigid:
This is the season of sunlight and shadow:
What is the shape of my shadow?
How does it hamper me?
How does it hold me?
How does it tell me the shape of my soul?

Brigid is the Smith, she who works the forges:
What within me is being tempered this season?
What is being shaped and shifted?
What sacred patterns are being traced along my edges?
What useful tool am I being forged to become?

Brigid is the Healer.
The waters of her well bring wholeness.
What spaces within me need the touch of her waters?
What dis-ease drains my vitality?
How can I offer the waters of healing to others?

Brigid is Patroness of Poets.
How do words shape my reality, like iron is shaped in the forge?
How do my words bring healing, like water from the well?
How can I speak poetry into the cold and the shadows
of the season which is upon us?
Can I offer my daily words with the care and the artfulness of the poet?


Gratitudes:
1. My neighbor and his snow blower. We got some good exercise shoveling about a third of the driveway, for about an hour. Then Ron brought his snow blower over and finished up the rest in five minutes.
2. We might be covered in a foot of snow, but the birds are singing spring songs.
3. Breathing out. Starting afresh. My new semester is feeling like a field of unbroken snow, waiting for us to cover it with our little birdy tracks.
4. Two snow days right when I need them.
5. Professional development. I learned a new thing–sort of by accident–about how to design Google Slides this morning. And I’ve listened to Sonya Renee Taylor talking about Accountability vs. Cancel Culture. Take a deep, deep breath. Yes, Call people out, when the situation warrants. Call people in when you can. But, she says, let’s call on each other. Don’t be “bound to the binary” of calling out or calling in. “Your amygdala is your business.”

Walk in Beauty, Beloveds!


“Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.” —Albert Einstein


“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” —Cornel West


“It is the scientist whose truth requires a language purged of every trace of paradox; apparently the truth which the poet utters can be approached only in terms of paradox.
“T. S. Eliot said that in poetry there is ‘a perpetual slight alteration of language, words perpetually juxtaposed in new and sudden combinations.’ It is perpetual; it cannot be kept out of the poem; it can only be directed and controlled.
“The tendency of science is necessarily to stabilize terms, to freeze them into strict denotations; the poet’s tendency is by contrast disruptive. The terms are continually modifying each other, and thus violating their dictionary meanings.” —Cleanth Brooks, “The Language of Paradox”


“Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.” —Borges


“Stories you read when you’re the right age never quite leave you. You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called. Sometimes you’ll forget precisely what happened, but if a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.” —Neil Gaiman

Song for Brigid’s Day

You know how a little task, left to smolder, grows and builds until it’s a raging, impossible fire? I let that happen this past semester with some of the grading that needed to get done. It just got out of hand. I can make all the excuses: the distraction of election and insurrection, winter depression, the frustration of trying to work with assignment submissions online and students who simply cannot seem to figure out how to submit so they email you or leave the documents in their shared folder. Still, it was me not getting it done.

My friend Gloria says she’s read that incorrigible procrastination (my adjective) is related to low self esteem. I think I must have work to do there, and of course that feeds into the sense of depression and the further procrastination.

Last night, at about three, I finally put the first semester to rest. It’s a relief, but the chronic nature of my procrastination has now created a lingering sense of inadequacy that dogs me, makes it hard to celebrate joyfully.

But here is a breathing space: Today is Brigid’s Day. Brigid was a goddess of the British Isles, who became conflated with Saint Brigid. Notice her in whatever guise she calls to you–she is the Teacher I need for this moment. She calls for commitment to your purpose, calls for responsibility and accountability. Not a heavy and forced and angry accountability, but a joyful and purposeful walk into your destiny.

Like our friend the groundhog takes stock of shadows and light, of what will be needful for the next six weeks as we walk out of winter and into spring, today (this season) is for taking stock, for considering what inner and mental health resources we may have on hand, what we will need to search out in the coming weeks, in order to make it through.

So, on the night when so many of my friends were tending their hearthfires in honor of Brigid, and meditating on her healing and inspiration, on how she stirs the Earth and Her creatures to waken, I was finishing a task, slipping in just under the wire to be accountable to my work, celebrating this seasonal shift toward awakening with my own wakeful process, my commitment to my task, late and haphazard as it felt.

The wakefulness of this moment, when the Earth begins to stir beneath her blanket of snow, requires acknowledgement and tallying of the past, and striving and moving into the future. Commitment to make a change. I have been telling myself at the beginning of every semester that I will be on top of things THIS time. And still, I fall and I fail. Perhaps I need to get some help in this coming season. Our school, in conjunction with a local mental health organization, offers at least one free session with a trained counselor in a year. Perhaps my commitment on this Brigid’s day should be different than my usual bombastic “I can do this myself!” Perhaps it should be to seek help, find resources that will support me to meet my goals.


Gratitudes:
1. Resolve
2. Awakening
3. Wisdom of the Grandmothers
4. Snow Day
5. This cat Sachs, who is trying to rest in the circle of my arms as I type. He keeps putting his paw on my hand. He is purring. He likes snow days as much as I do.

May we walk in wisdom and Beauty!

Song for Brigid’s Day
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

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“The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?” —Terry Tempest Williams


We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal. That is what is happening as we see people honestly confronting the sorrows of our time. And it is an adaptive response.” —Joanna Macy


“No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.” —Virginia Woolf


“Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” —St. Teresa of Avila


“You can build walls all the way to the sky and I will find a way to fly above them. You can try to pin me down with a hundred thousand arms, but I will find a way to resist. And there are many of us out there, more than you think. People who refuse to stop believing. People who refuse to come to earth. People who love in a world without walls, people who love into hate, into refusal, against hope, and without fear. I love you. Remember. They cannot take it.” ―Lauren Oliver, Delirium


“You can never leave footprints that last when you are walking on tiptoes.” ―Leymah Gbowee

Breathe. Ground. Prepare.

Sweet Shining and Shadowy Beloveds:
This morning, it’s hard to keep believing in justice, hard to keep the long view in mind, hard to hold a vision of a world in which people of courage make decisions for the good of all, with wisdom, humility, and honor.

Part of me longs to enumerate all the horrors and destructions of the past week, to see the hurts laid out like a cadaver, to identify each killing blow, each bruise, each scar.

But that would only serve to feed the rising panic that’s been gathering in my gut this week, and perhaps in yours, too. Those pieces will come later, in poems. But now it’s time to tend to ourselves, to shore up and take stock and plan our way forward.

Let’s fight this collective panic attack. If we’re left lost and quivering, we only feed their power. Oh yes, I’m lost this morning, and quivering, too, re-traumatized. Let’s acknowledge it, notice where it lodges in our bodies.

My muscles actually ache from all the tightness I’ve been holding in. My head is pounding and my brain is foggy.

Now, it’s time to push back the panic:
Breathe in.
Straighten your spine. Lower your shoulders.
Breathe out.
Roll your neck and shoulders.
Stretch and wriggle your spine until you feel yourself to be a line drawn between heaven and earth, a conduit of energy that flows through you.
Breathe in. Breathe out.

Notice every place your body is touching a surface. Notice the sensations in your body.
My backside and thighs on the chair. One foot on the floor, one on a chair rail. This cozy jacket keeps me just warm enough. My tongue’s a little scalded from that first sip of coffee.

What do you hear?
The water in the cat’s drinking fountain, a small boy clicking his tongue, the creaking of an old house on a chilly morning.

What do you taste? (Grab a bite of something, or remember a favorite taste sensation.)
The bite of pepper and the creamy counterpart in the pepperjack cheese.

What do you smell?
Coffee, vanilla, springtime

Look around you. Find a color, a texture, a beautiful thing.
The shining scarlet drop of red on the head of that downy woodpecker. The sweet, soft salmon leaves of the Japanese maple, still clinging to the branches and twigs. So many winter goldfinches on the thistle bag!

Now, here we are in the doorway of a new season.
Today and tomorrow mark the beginning of Imbolc, the Season of Stirrings. New life is coming, cold snap or not. Sap will rise. Seeds will sprout. The Earth spins and whirls on in her dance through the cosmos.

One of the old names for today is Candlemas, when we acknowledge how the light has been within us all along, how much light we have to offer. Take stock of your candles. What is the small flame that you can offer the world in this moment? What is the fuel that you share?

Perhaps you are already doing it–tending daily to children or calling your senators, teaching teenagers to ask discerning questions or planting seeds for the crops that will feed your neighbors, healing bodies, gathering friends, listening. Today, this week, this month, do that work like a prayer, like a magic spell. Do it with intention, knowing that your work is changing the world, that what you do is fighting the forces of wanton destruction and power-mongering.

And maybe take up another thing this week. Make cranes for the Tsuru for Solidarity March, when Japanese Americans for social justice will be marching on Washington in early June to demand the closure of internment camps in the United States. Become an advocate for immigration reform. Send money or food to groups who are taking food to asylum-seekers forced to wait in inhumane conditions in Mexico. Express your support for Muslim people, and people from African and Asian countries which have been added to the US travel bans. Help people register to vote.

To combat the lies and obfuscations: Speak truth. Magically. Prayerfully.
To combat the normalized cruelty: Speak compassion and tenderness. Prayerfully. Magically.
To combat the power-mongering: Share your privilege. Offer the microphone, the stage, the moment. Do it prayerfully. Do it magically.
To combat the greed-mongering: Be generous. Give. Share. Do it magically and prayerfully.

Another ancient name for this day, this season, is Brigid, after the ancient goddess of the Celtic peoples, who offered her muse to poets, to metalworkers, and to healers. She later became syncretized with the beloved St. Brighid, and so this aspect of human understanding of the Divine was not lost. Water and flame and word are her tools, her symbols. Today, make a poem, or make art, or make a nourishing broth to honor the gifts the Holy One has given you to make and change and heal. Do it prayerfully, as an act of defiant hope in the face of lies and cruelty and greed.

And also, this is the Groundhog’s moment. Tomorrow is the day when we check on the burrowers and the underworld dwellers. What light do they see? What shadows? In Advent, we walked into our own shadows. On Epiphany, we celebrated our light. And now, as we feel the heavy weight of the week’s shadows like a physical burden upon our shoulders, we must acknowledge and greet our own shadows. How do they give us power? How do they sap our power? Can we work with them instead of against them? Can we find their deepest meanings?

We can’t know what the coming days will bring. Too many signs point toward historical repetitions that turn me to salt, to stone. I freeze. I feel small and insignificant. But I must remember, constantly: Nothing we do now–to fight the tides of hatred and cruelty, to stand between the powerful and the vulnerable, to create holiness and beauty and health–will be wasted, no matter what happens. Now, perhaps more than ever, every act of hope and healing and love matters.

And:

We are not alone. You are not alone. Reach out. Take hands. Build the webs. Ask for help, and be the helper.

Let’s situate ourselves so that we are always ready–strong enough, centered enough, grounded enough–to step up and do the work of love and compassion and justice, to stand up, to stand between, to risk, to raise our voices, to be the fierce and defiant hope for the future we want to create.

What the Holy One Can Do with Dust (Jan Richardson)

How day dawns in Skunk Holler

That title is a quote from Jan Richardson’s Poem “Blessing the Dust.” You probably want to read it today.

Today I am home from school with a sick child. It’s a nice chance for some slow, quiet time in between checking his temperature and beating him mercilessly at a game of Monopoly.

It’s Ash Wednesday, the beginning of that 40-day journey before Easter, a moon-bound season between the season of Brigid and the season of Ostara. As spokes on the eight-pointed solar wheel, Brigid and Ostara occur on the same days every solar year: Groundhog’s Day and Spring Equinox, ancient celebrations of the quickening of life in the earth, and the time of hatching and birth that is spring. But Lent is fluid, floating along the surface of the solar year, woven into the cycles of the moon and its dance with that Equinox sun. On Brigid’s February morning, we look to our shadows and consider whether the light we have within us will serve us until the spring. We take stock of our inner reserves and resources. In Lent, we take that question further, considering the question of enough.

During Lent, we look inward and wonder at the holes and spaces within. We see our lack, and instead of shrinking away in fear and despair, we say, “Yes,” and “Yes” again. Here is who I am. I know that I can be one who betrays the Holy One, one with the potential to deny my beloved. I know how I can cringe in fear, hide in shadow, whimper and whine in dread and shame. And I know, too, that I can walk toward those shadows within myself, because only in walking through those shadows will I encounter the shining lights that sparkle on the other side–also within me.

Last night, I gathered with a group of colleagues and students from my school to participate in the first of five Racial Justice Trainings (workshops? seminars? mentoring sessions?) that will happen throughout the spring. During the evening, our facilitator, Dr. Amanda Kemp, challenged us to keep a journal during these weeks of trainings, to ground and center ourselves so that we can hold space for transformation, to walk toward our fear, to challenge our assumptions and implicit biases. It feels to me like just the discipline to take up on this moon-clad journey toward Easter, to consider this time of training as my Lenten Work.

So often we get Lent wrong. We think we have to do penance for our evil ways, to enshroud ourselves in shame, to bewail our miserable selves. But when we simply throw it all off as just an exercise in self-flagellation, I think we get it wrong, too. This is a time to look realistically at who we are inside, what our strengths and our failings are. Lent is a time of discipline–not beatings and beratings, but careful training and thoughtful self-education. Amanda inspires me to take hold of this coming season as a time to consider my accountability, to look at the ways in which I participate in the unjust systems of today, just as the religious elite at the turn of the millennium participated in the destructive systems of their day. In this season, I commit myself to assess my inner world, to take stock of my role in the breaches and breaks, to walk toward my fears, to become a mender and repairer of the web.


Gratitude List:
1. Rest
2. Re-assessment
3. Seasons
4. Sunshine
5. Story

May we walk in Beauty!

Jettisoning

Last night, I made this (perhaps) rather rash statement about my intentions for the Season of Brigid, this Lent: “That’s it then: Every day during Lent, I will jettison one physical item that keeps me from living a full interior life. Clutter tends to imprison my spirit, and this Lent will be about freeing myself from some of the bondage of my stuff. One thing a day for the season that takes us to Easter and Ostara, filling the whole season of Brigid with clearing and Cleansing.”

During the Season of Brigid, the six weeks from Imbolc (February 2) to Ostara (Spring Equinox), I like to focus on cleansing and cleaning and clearing. Brigid asks for focus and commitment; lightening the burden of the physical clutter helps me to keep my focus on my inner work.

Similarly, the work of Lent (which falls in the same season) is to give up our attachment to the things and addictions that keep us from focusing on the inner work, on the path of Love.

I like the word “jettison” that I used there. I think it might become my theme-word for the season. It feels a little drastic, like perhaps the ship is sinking. Although I don’t feel that sort of desperation, I like the sense that it lightens the burden, lets the boat float higher in the water.

Today’s objects to let go are my four brass candlesticks. I have kept them on top of Grandma Weaver’s glass-fronted cabinet, where they have slowly been tarnishing and gathering dust in the years we have lived in this house. Since we have had children, we rarely burn candles, for fear of tipping and burning. They belong to an earlier stage of my life, one that I let go with joy as I continue to live into the next stages of being a mother. First Baby now has a startling peach-fuzz mustache. I suppose I’ve become a little dusty and tarnished, too, in the years of that transformation.

As I carried the candlesticks out to the giveaway box, they rang against each other, and made such sweet music, I almost returned them to their shelf for the joy it gave me. But no, someone else will polish them and love them and treasure them, music and shine and shimmer and all.

Shadows and Sunshine

Tonight we stand at another of those corners of the year, the moment in the space between solstice and equinox, the full womb of winter.

It’s Candlemass, the time to melt your gathered beeswax into candles to make light for the coming year. Take them to the church for the priest to bless. Make a place for your fire. Prepare the vessels of illumination. Get your house in order.

It’s the season of the pregnant ewe. What do you feel quickening within you? How will you protect and prepare for the new thing that is striving to be born within you? Can you feel it kicking?

It’s the season of Brigid, patroness (call her saint or goddess, she’ll answer to both) of metalwork, of healing, of poetry. What do you create in your forges? What is being tempered, tested, forged within you? What does your medicine bag look like? What is your healing role? How will you make your words artful?

It’s the season of the groundhog, popping up in the morning to search for his shadow. What is your own relationship to your shadow? What do you bring into the light? What do you hold in reserve? What secrets will you protect in your darkness? What will your shadow teach you?


Song for Brigid’s Day
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Do you feel how the world comes alive?
How even underneath its coat of snow,
inside the bright crystals of the ice,
something in the Earth is stirring?

Within your own eyes I see it rising–
in this breath,
and now this one–
the Dreamer is awakening.

The dawn has come,
spreading its golden road before you,
asking, “Will you step upon the pathway?”

As you move out onto the road,
Brigid’s sun upon your face
will trace your outline full behind you,
defining you in the Shadow
which will be your soul’s companion
into spring.

Blessed Imbolc

DSCN8834

Tonight we stand at another of those corners of the year, the moment in the space between solstice and equinox, the full womb of winter.

It’s Candlemass, the time to melt your gathered beeswax into candles to make light for the coming year. Take them to the church for the priest to bless. Make a place for your fire. Prepare the vessels of illumination. Get your house in order.

It’s the season of the pregnant ewe. What do you feel quickening within you? How will you protect and prepare for the new thing that is striving to be born within you? Can you feel it kicking?

It’s the season of Brigid, patroness (call her saint or goddess, she’ll answer to both) of metalwork, of healing, of poetry. What do you create in your forges? What is being tempered, tested, forged within you? What does your medicine bag look like? What is your healing role? How will you make your words artful?

It’s the season of the groundhog, popping up in the morning to search for his shadow. What is your own relationship to your shadow? What do you bring into the light? What do you hold in reserve? What secrets will you protect in your darkness? What will your shadow teach you?

Gratitude List:
1. Langston Hughes. He had reason to despair. He had reason to give up on America. But he wrote “Let America Be America Again,” critiquing the dream, but then vowing to work to make it real, ending with:

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

2. Students sweetly and shyly sharing their Self Collages with their Creative Writing classmates today. I need to create more experiences in my classes where they are talking about their personal philosophies with each other.
3. That mango gelato with chocolate sauce.
4. Reading the Percy Jackson books with the kids. We need stories of courageous heroes.
5. Candles and shadows and healing and poetry and forging.

May we walk in Beauty!

Exploring the Shadows

2014 January 018
Sun and shadow.

It’s Brigid’s Day.  It’s Candlemas.  Day of the Groundhog.  Day of the Shadow.

The thing about shadows?  They appear most clearly on the brightest days.  Those cloudy and overcast days, when everything is one singular tone–the shadows are hints and mirages only.  But on days when the sun is shining brightly, then the shadows flow and scatter about your feet and down the hill, pooling and puddling like water in the hollows and crevices.  On sparkling days, you can look into the shadows and discern the deep indigo and violet.  The shadow becomes a mirror, another layer of reality overlaid upon the everyday.

Today, I will light my candle in the dark places and watch for the way the light shifts the darkness around me, how it helps to define and shape the darkness, how it gives meaning to the shapes of things as their shadows find them, mirror them, define them.  Today, I will be the groundhog, searching for the shadow that defines and mirrors me, that offers me a new vision of who I am when I am outside the safe burrow of myself and standing in the sunlight.

May your shadow be a reflection of the Truest You.

Gratitude List:
1. Sleep.  I seem to need more of it these days.  And I am sleeping more deeply.
2. Shadows.  Mirrors. Reflections.
3. Indigo. I’ve been meditating on indigo.  I want to do more research on human perception of blues, indigo in particular.  When people began talking about no longer including it in the rainbow line-up, I was really bothered, and was consequently delighted when my 6yo came home from school and told me about Roy G Biv (the I is still in there).
4. Dinner with the dormies last night.
5. Circling the wagons. Joining hands to hold the net.  Casting the lines from person to person to form the web.

May we walk in Beauty!