I’m Still Here


It’s been a good start to the school year, but the focus and exhaustion of beginning a new year has kept me away from the blog for a couple weeks.


Gratitude List:
1. Owls calling in the bosque.
2. Cats that sleep on their backs. Such soft bellies.
3. Strong community everywhere.
4. An earnest and bright-eyed crew of students.
5. Earnest and intentional colleagues.
. . .and monarchs. . .and sunflowers. . .and de-stressing decisions. . .and air conditioning. . .and the indigo throat of the morning glory. . .and long weekends. . .

May we walk in Beauty!
 
You get to choose the names that you wear, like you choose the clothes you wear. I am going to stop wearing Messy and Disorganized. I have too much to accomplish to be held back by those old rags. I will be She Who Walks Rooted. I will be Seeker of the Open Door. I will be Re-Sister and Per-Sister. I will be Snuggler of Cats.

Visitors

   

   

I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks, finishing up my semester, caught in the whirlwind, keeping my head above water. I haven’t been making gratitude lists, but I’ve been noticing. Instead of the long sustained gratitude practice of noticing several things in a day and keeping them in my memory for evening’s contemplation, I’ve been a grateful butterfly, slipping from flower to flower on a breeze, noticing in the moment and passing on to the next shining thing. I think it’s good to practice this kind of immediate presence as well as the deeper holding of a daily meditative contemplation.

During the last two days, I have been feeling the tug toward the sustained contemplation again, so here, again, is a Gratitude List:
1. This is the season of peonies and foxgloves and naked ladies: The flowers of the Grandmothers. I feel as though the Grandmothers are reminding us that they are still among us. They support our Work.
2. Today’s sermon, and the image of Godde as a child, holding our faces in her dimpled little hands and gazing into our eyes, looking at our wounded parts in awe and wonder, seeing the beauty and tenderness in the parts of ourselves we reject or hide or minimize.
3. Yesterday’s visit from a black rat snake. Such a magical creature. Ellis petted it. We got to watch it slither through the long grass, tasting the air with its tongue.
4. Our Lady of the Flowers is sitting on a nest of lichen and cobweb in the sycamore tree, right where we can watch her from the porch.
5. Changing of season. School is almost over. The grading will get finished. We will go on vacation. I will write. I will share tea and conversation with friends. Green will keep happening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Breathing Through the Angh-

“Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” —L.R. Knost
***
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt. I am God, your God.” —Leviticus, 19:33
***
“In times of uncertainty, the most difficult thing to do is to stop searching for detours. It can be tempting to act from the desperation one feels when an abyss opens around you, but all of the ego’s equipment is useless in these dark regions. Instead, consider this an invitation to deepen your trust – to renew your committed heart to its course. After all, every creation was first seeded in an absence.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” —Maya Angelou
***
“Go deeper than love, for the soul has greater depths,
love is like the grass, but the heart is deep wild rock
molten, yet dense and permanent.
Go down to your deep old heart, and lose sight of yourself.
And lose sight of me, the me whom you turbulently loved.
Let us lose sight of ourselves, and break the mirrors.
For the fierce curve of our lives is moving again to the depths
out of sight, in the deep living heart.
But say, in the dark wild metal of your heart
is there a gem, which came into being between us?
is there a sapphire of mutual trust, a blue spark?
Is there a ruby of fused being, mine and yours, an inward glint?”
—D. H. Lawrence
***
“When we enter this world with waking consciousness we put on our earthly suit of clothes. We move slower, but the principles are the same. Sometimes I like to move through this conscious realm as if I were dreaming. In dreaming we are more in touch with how our thoughts create immediately and dynamically. If I think myself into the heart of the song, there I am, or a plant, or a knot of pain that is asking for forgiveness, there I am. So much knowing opens up then. We are all part of each other.” —Joy Harjo
***
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” ―Rabindranath Tagore


Five years ago, I wrote this thing that keeps me breathing:

“This morning when we were playing with our gnomes, Joss decided that the gnome house was on fire, and he raced to get a group of gnomes to put it out. “Red! We need all the red gnomes!” Exactly–to put out a fire, it takes lots of red gnomes. Ellis chimed in, “And Minus! We need the Minus Gnome! Because a house with fire Minus the fire is just a house!”

Sometimes I sure would like to use some of Minus Gnome’s magic on me. An anxious Beth Minus anxiety is just Beth. Angst-ridden, anger-struck Beth Minus angst and anger? Beth. So that’s a nice little thing to do with meditation. Of course as soon as I began to work with the idea, it hit me again that the angers and angsts are so often born of compassion and caring, and for those I have been seeking the services of Multiplication Gnome. I need to untangle the compassion from its attendant anger at injustice, its partner anxiety at losses to those I love.

Wow. Look at those words that I wanted to get rid of: Angst, Anxiety, Anger. . .I looked them up, along with their sister Anguish. There at their root is angh-, which comes from the Indo-European language tree, and generally refers to distress of some sort. That lovely vowel–ah–cut short in the back of the throat, closed up along with all hope of breath: Angh!

Fear, shame, anger, distress: what sound emerges when you truly feel them? Angh! Choke.

But still, that lovely vowel–ah–the first we say in so many languages: Mama, Abba, Baba, Dada, Nana, Papa. The opposite of the choke, our family names, our names for the Ineffable Mystery: they release the breath in a tender sigh. Ah. There we go.

When I get really stuck in the Angh, I can dislodge that choke with a little Hahaha, a great belly laugh to force the air back through, a little spiritual CPR, so to speak. Or skip down the street with a Tra-la-la, a little song to start up the rhythm of breathing again. Or a little eureka, a bright discovery with a great Aha!

So the next time I wake up at three in the morning, suddenly filled with the dread of what is happening to this world that I have brought these light-filled children into, or choked with shame for some harshness I have spoken to their tender hearts, I think I will apply the Ah!, the Mama, the Ha! and see if that breath can be a lullaby to take my spirit back to sleep.”

Luna on the Hill

I wrote this poem on 8 October 2014, after seeing part of a lunar eclipse one early morning on my way to work. This morning, again, as we crested Pisgah ridge, the ball of the moon was rolling off over the far hills, a smudge of Earth-shadow beginning to veil her face.

What Moth? What Butterfly?
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

The raucous owls were silent in their bamboo haunts
this morning as I rushed up the hill to meet the moon
emerging from her umbral shadow,
from her ombre ochre cocoon.

What moth will she become?
What butterfly will I?

I sat a moment at the junction where my road
meets the ridge, Mt. Pisgah Road before me,
then the tidy fence,
the dusky hill meadow,
a lacy line of trees across the hilltop,
and the changing moon above in chestnut orange glory
nestled into the indigo dawning.

I caught glimpses of her on my way down the ridge
and then in my mirror as I crossed the bridge
over the water and under the last dusk of night
and I saw then that she was only now just fading into the shadow,
only entering her transformation.

I had to leave her there behind me to do her work
behind the veils of dusky morning
while I drove into the shining pink of sunrise,
Venus riding high before me
and two crows above,
lifting their wings in alleluia.

Leaving the Winter Malaise

nieghbor   limekiln
Love they Nieghbor–under the Route 30 bridge, and walking the trail toward the old lime kiln.
limekiln2   comma
One of the openings of the old lime kiln, and an Eastern Comma Butterfly on a poison ivy vine. Inside, the wings are as orange as a monarch. Outside, it looks like a leaf. February is a rather disconcerting moment of the year in which to observe a butterfly.
bridger   where-the-spring-appears
Lamppost by the bridge, and the source of a trailside spring.

This winter hasn’t been particularly cold or cruel. Lots of warmish days, very few nights of uncontrollable shivering, very little troublesome travel-weather. Perhaps it’s the temperament of the times as much as the season itself that has gotten me feeling like I am in an endless tunnel with no way out.  I feel like we’ve cemented our routine of go to school, come home, snack, bicker, eat, sleep, and start again. I haven’t been pushing the kids outside, haven’t been pushing myself outside. I’ve been feeling trapped and claustrophobic. Like winter.

I guess I just have to feel that existential malaise every winter, no matter how mild the weather. Then there comes a day, shortly after Brigid’s Day, when a new breeze blows, the vanguard of spring flowers begin to appear, and suddenly I can breathe again. Today was that day.

Gratitude List:
1. This day. Warm sun.
2. Walking on the Susquehanna River Trail with my guys.
3. Skunk. I don’t like that smell–and this evening’s burst was an eye-watering reminder of why this hollow is called Skunk Hollow–but it’s a good reminder that the wild ones still hold sway here.  And a reminder to continue to resist in skunk’s fashion. Don’t bite–just make a big stink.
4. A butterfly in February! (I don’t suppose it will make it through the next cold spell, but it was a lovely visitor to see today.
5. Public shared spaces: parks and trails and visitor centers.

May we walk in Beauty!

Almost Paradise

almost paradise

What a gift it is to have lifetime friends, people you can sit with and say, “Remember when you said. . .?  Remember what she did. . .?  Remember how he used to always. . .?”

People you can look in the eye and see not only a reflection of who you are in this moment, but also a reflection of who you have been–a year ago, five, ten, twenty.

People who know too much about you, who remember you before you settled adulthood’s masks into place, and they still love you, love you more for who you’ve been and who you’ve become.

People you can look at and see the butterfly of the now, but in whom can you identify the caterpillar of the past–and you love the butterfly, and the caterpillar, too.

People who know just which questions to ask.

People who help you live in this moment–with their laughter, their thoughtful eyes, their conversation.  People who draw you into the realm of memory.  People who help you envision the future.  People who help you to live in all those layers at once.

Gratitude List:
1. Living in those layers of time (past, present, future) with people I love and trust
2. People who know my warts and rough edges and love me anyway
3. The way the next generation at reunions also gathers with ease and comfort, enjoying each other
4. Peaches and ice cream
5. Crisp, cool mornings

May we walk in Beauty!

Let Me Learn

DSCN8834

May I learn to walk today
the way that butterfly walks
down sunbeams and breezes
in a purposeful meander
from shimmer to glory to shine:
desire to desire

to speak in the manner of fox
who listens all day from her home
in a hole beneath bramble
quiet and quivering,
and speaks only in the dark
a fierce and joyful bark
that tingles the spine
and calls out the wildness

to dream the dreams
of the ones who will become,
there in the round stones
of shell, patient, breathing,
until the moment is ripe
for breaking open the houses
that have held them protected.

Gratitude List:
1. Hearing the fox scream from the bosque in the midnight.  Terrifying and thrilling.
2. The Underground Railroad history of Columbia.  We went to see a train layout at the Columbia Historical Preservation Society yesterday and got into conversation with a man who is an expert on Columbia’s role in helping people escape from slavery.
3. These halcyon days of Winter Break that are almost at an end.  It has been time out of time.  Many mornings for snuggling.  Lots of play and chatter.  (In the interests of balanced reporting, it must probably be noted that there has been yelling and grouching and sulking as well).
4. Dream-messages
5. Moving on to new chapters.

May we walk in Beauty!

Eagle and Butterfly

DSCN8468 DSCN8473

. . .and spider and little brown bat, whom we call Otis.  The bat’s full name, in Latin, is Myotis lucifugus, and when there are two of them roosting up in the barn, we call the other Lucy.  Screech Owl’s Latin name is Otus asio.

Gratitude List:
1. The bald eagle rising above the trees by the River on my drive home, pumping its wings as it rose toward a cloud that was rimed by a golden halo of sun.  I am sorry we have made them such a symbol of military force.  Writing about this eagle, I feel as though I must wade through layers and layers of shallow and odious symbology to get to the way it carried my spirit as it rose with powerful pulls of its wings, swimming upward through air, and how the sun lit the cloud from behind.
2. Monarchs buffeted by every little breeze and puff of air, making their laborious way southward.  So many of them.  Each sighting brings me a stab of joy. One fast truck can send them spinning and looping out of their way, but they persist.
3. Student music at school.  I am blown away by the talent of these young people.
4. Restorative Justice.  Discipline that thoughtfully encourages young people to look at the breach in relationships and how the breach can be mended.  Empathetic and compassionate accountability.  The principals at my school are wise and empathetic in their work with this, and this week we learned that the principal of our sons’ public school is also working with implementing restorative principles in the local school.
5. Cool air I can breathe in.

May we walk in Beauty!

I Will Get to You

On paging through Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americans:

I had to put the book down
and walk away,
the fire of it still running
up and down my spine

lest I fall into the pit of poetry
and lose myself there for the day,
for the year,
lose my family,
time,
direction.

Even this,
these black marks on the page,
these birds’ feet in the snow,
quiver on my skin
like coals.

***

Perhaps it’s the result of going so suddenly from teaching to resting, but now my brain is filling up with images and ideas, like a room crowded with children all clamoring for my attention.  Ah!  There’s the image: sometimes when class begins, I suddenly find myself in the center of a crowd of earnest and intent students all needing something from me–a pass, a signature, an explanation, a bit of comfort–and I cannot meet every need at once, but I want to look everyone in the eye and say, “I’ll get to you,” knowing that I haven’t the time or the energy to entirely fulfill the needs they carry.  Today, I opened that book, and suddenly the new poems and writing ideas that I have been putting off for so many weeks now have come crowding about me, begging for passes and signatures and permission to go get a drink.  Were I single and childless, I would make this a day of delicious writing, but I’ll need to put these voices off for just a little while yet.  I’ll get to you, Bright Ones.  I promise I will do my best.

 

Gratitude List:
1. The dimple in Ellis’s chin.  Where did that come from?  I don’t think that the Weaver or the Kreiders have chin-dimples.  Do they?  And why is it so endearing?
2. The poetry of Mara Eve Robbins, which fills me with delight and sadness, tears me up and heals me, whichever I need at the moment–her words always seem to come at just the right time, to be just the right thing.
3.  The writing of Barbara Kingsolver.  Why do I always take so long to get started on her books?  She writes with equal power of both internal and external landscapes.  I am listening to Flight Behavior these days, and all around me now I hear the whispers of butterfly wings.
4. The best Christmas ever.  That’s what the boys keep saying, and who am I to disagree?
5.  Dreams.  Listening.

May we walk in Beauty!

Lullabies and Wake Up Calls

Before you knew it
you were halfway across.
You had thought each step
would be an ordeal,
that you’d wrestle
the fear away
with every buck and sway
of the bridge.

But that bright butterfly
slipped along ahead of you
through the mist, the cloud,
and you followed it
until the cloud parted
and the valley lay out below you,
full of wonder.

The bridge,
you know,
the bridge itself
is the journey.

Gratitude List:
1.  Family camping-in-the-yard night.  Didn’t get much sleep, me.  But lots of snuggles and an great-horned owl lullaby and a crow and cuckoo wake-up call.  Worth it.
2.  Anticipating hearing the Africa stories this afternoon.
3.  Church.  I know.  But I love these people.  I can’t wait to get there and sing with people, and listen to the ideas and the stories.
4.  Kitty snuggles
5.  Bridges.  Made of language, of the future, of dreams, of feathers, of steel, of anxious wishing, of people, of hearts.

May we walk in Beauty!