Claustrophobia and Crafting

Lots of fragments this morning, but they mostly seem to be part of one dream narrative.

I dreamed images last night–at least twice–of a couple collages I made by cutting images into strips and weaving them together. The final image made more sense as an image than it should have, a grey scale image of a family, slightly askew because of the weaving, on a background of pinks and magentas. There was a second collage as well, with blues in the background and a less clear image when the weaving was finished.

We’re at some sort of public building. Lots of people. I’m with Jon and the kids. I go to my car with a friend to get something, and the car is locked! I never lock my car. Someone has come along and locked it, and now I can’t get in. Frustration.

People are milling about, eating picnics, talking, playing basketball. I stood in the line to play one game of basketball, but after that game, I kept getting distracted and missing the pick-up. I had promised the coach that I wanted to play, and I didn’t want him to think I couldn’t keep my word. It’s mostly small boys playing, though there are some taller people. I finally remember to get in the line for pick-up, but I am late, and half the teams are already chosen. The coach chooses me, which means that some of the small boys who had been waiting to join a game are left out. I feel terrible about their disappointment, but grateful that I was sort of able to keep my commitment, even though I was a little late, and the coach gives me an eyeroll.

We’re looking for my mother. She was going to give me instructions for how to make a little beaded container using one of those big orange pill-bottles as the base. We can’t seem to find her.

I go into the basement, where I know my parents have an office in a windowless, cluttered room (my mother would not be happy in a cluttered windowless office). I have to walk past some people who are giving and receiving vaccinations. I know it’s okay to go into the office, but these people might not know that I’m related, so I try to act really casual. I slip into the office and look on the shelves for the supplies for the bead project, but there’s nothing there. When I turn to go out, I see that my parents had pushed the desks across the doorway to keep people from wandering in, and I don’t remember how I managed to slip past them to get in. I have to move them, with a loud scraping sound, to get past. It’s very claustrophobic.

I’m driving around outside with Jon and the boys, looking for my mom, in a long line of cars circling the building. When the traffic clears, somebody drives by in a yellow Dodge dart with a light green roof–the driver is wearing a llama costume. Later, as we are sitting on the lawn outside a wall of windows near the building’s garage, my friend Steve walks up, and I realize it was him wearing the llama costume.

In the next scene, we’re inside the garage instead of outside, and we’re trying to get going, but we have to crawl out through the lower set of windows. Such a claustrophobic prospect! I don’t know if I can manage it.

I can think of several waking-life referents for some of these pieces. I’m struck by the search for my mom, by the colors of pink and yellow and green, by crafting things–weaving images and beading, by claustrophobia, by keeping my word but in the process hurting someone’s feelings, by the llama, by art projects, by being unable to get in or out of places that I want to get into and out of.


I got a little caught up, yesterday, in grief over the way the truth is being brutalized and tortured, from the president’s abusive and gaslighting mobster-style phone call to the GA Secretary of State, to lies about Dr. Fauci’s alleged campaign to patent a super-virus that he could profit from. I, too, distrust the pharmaceutical companies. I don’t think our health ought to be so completely in the hands of people who make a profit from our disease. I think of the epidemic of pain-killer addictions which resulted in the overdose deaths of so many people, for example. But to jump from that to an assumption of the monstrosity of a scientific and medical community that would specifically develop the virus just so they could create a vaccine to combat it is a giant leap.

So. Gratitude comes hard today. When I try to pull up images of things I am grateful for in the last day, I have to walk past the broken body of Truth on the way. I can get there, it’s just in a context of real anxiety and grief.

Gratitudes:
1. Seeing the faces of my students again yesterday, even if it was on Zoom instead of in person.
2. The soft open. Going from the quiet and introversion of Break to the busy extraversion of teaching was eased by beginning remotely.
3. The satisfaction of mending tears in clothing. I always saw mending as a chore, but now it’s an art form, and I am loving the satisfaction of stitching a woven patch right into and over the hole.
4. I scheduled work days for all my classes today, so no Zooms, and it’s another chance to catch up a bit on things I didn’t get done during break. I’m in the zone. I will catch up to myself today.
5. Hope that we can mend and heal the Truth.

May we walk in Beauty!


Terry Tempest Williams:
“I have found my voice on the page repeatedly when a question seized my throat and would not allow me to sleep. But I have to tell you — I have to re-find my voice every time I pick up my pencil. It’s usually out of love or loss or anger. And the question then becomes: how do we take our anger and turn it into sacred rage and find a language that opens hearts rather than closes them?”


“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —e. e. cummings


“Again and again, our dreams demand leadership of us, calling our life’s vision forward into the world, step by tenderbrave step.
“The practice above all practices is to relinquish the immature desire to be taken care of (by our parents, spouse, government, guru, church, etc), and to parent our own originality. To give ourselves the support that we may never have received.
“To get behind the creation of one’s life is to recognize your influence in ‘the way things are,’ and nurture your vision with protective discipline until it is strong enough to serve in the world on its own.” ―Toko-pa Turner


“You learn to write by reading and writing, writing and reading. As a craft it’s acquired through the apprentice system, but you choose your own teachers. Sometimes they’re alive, sometimes dead.
“As a vocation, it involves the laying on of hands. You receive your vocation and in your turn you must pass it on. Perhaps you will do this only through your work, perhaps in other ways. Either way, you’re part of a community, the community of writers, the community of storytellers that stretches back through time to the beginning of human society.” ―Margaret Atwood


“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say “It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.” Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” ―Fred Rogers


“Good poetry, I think, is more about finding your way by signposts than about following a map. It gives readers a few cues and clues, sets us loose, and then waits for us to say, “Oh! I recognize this territory! I know this landscape.” A series of seemingly unrelated but compelling images can spring to life when sprinkled with the fairy dust of beautiful language or the hint of a story. While I want to be able to understand enough of the controlling idea of a poem for it help me create some sort of sense, the most satisfying meaning that I derive from reading a good poem comes not through the intellectual front door, but through the back door of the emotions. Meaning made through emotional connection rather than mental processing often appears in the form of wonder and holy surprise, even when it comes in a painful or angry guise. Poetic understanding is gut-level understanding. I have long been a fan of singer-songwriter Paul Simon. I don’t think I know what he means about anything, but he always makes me feel something.” ―Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2014

Fragments and Anxieties

So many random dream images from last night. They’re fragmented, but they all seem connected somehow.

Josiah and I buy sandwiches in some sort of sunny outdoor courtyard. People are setting up for some sort of event, so we put together a couple of chairs and sit down. One of the custodians from school makes a chair for himself and eats with us.

Jon and I are in a classroom. I think we’re back in elementary school. We’re ahead of the class, so we get to sit near the back and read the next material on our own. The class is finished with the work, but the teacher can’t find the test. I have little plastic animals set up all around my desk and on the windowsill behind me. I’m a little claustrophobic in the space, worried I’ll send my little animals tumbling if I move.

I’m in a Victorian sort of house with two other young women. It’s the next class (after the one in the previous paragraph), and we’re reading a Shakespeare play together. The one woman gets bored and wanders off. I am helping the other to read the parts. It sounds more like Jane Austen than Shakespeare. The other woman tires out, but we’ve been reading for half an hour, so we quit.

I am frantically calling people and trying to find out where my baby is. Someone took him and said they’d bring him right back, but I can’t get in touch with anyone.

I’m on a sort of courtroom, and the proceedings have been going on for hours. I’m bored. Suddenly I notice that the one lawyer is terribly sick. His eyes are red and puffy and he’s sneezing. No one else seems to notice, but I am frantic about finding my mask and putting it on. I move to a corner of the room near a window.

I find a telephone and try to remember how to dial my parents’ number to tell them about the missing baby. This never goes well in dreams, but this time when I pick up the old-fashioned receiver, my mother is right there, on the other end of the line! I think that perhaps everything is going to be okay.

I decide to rid my bike through the countryside to get home to my parents. This is common in dreams for me. I get to a place that is familiar to my dream-self, except that the corn has grown up on all the corners. Someone has placed blankets on the corn all around, as if they needed somewhere to hang a thousand blankets to dry. The road to the right should be the right way to go, but it seems to curve up ahead in a way that it isn’t supposed to. I ride several yards up toward the curve, but it actually turns back upon itself in a loop and ends up heading back the way I have come. Someone has planted their corn across the road! Just as I decide to ride back the way I have come, I wake up.

The odd thing in the waking up was that I thought I was hearing people speaking, so faintly it could have been my imagination (which it probably was). I thought maybe one of the kids was up really early, listening to a video somewhere in the house. But there’s no sign of anyone. Maybe it was the heat coming on that sounded in my dreambrain like people talking.

This set has a lot of little anxieties: the lost child, the inability to get to my parents, the unprepared teacher, the claustrophobia, the coronavirus, the confusing pathway home. So many of these are my dream-tropes for lostness and confusion. In each one, I am just going along, trying to muddle through each scene the best I can, which is what Jon and I are doing here, trying to make the best of this strange year. This will be a lovely introverts’ holiday, all of us together here, but we also need our people, and we can’t quite see how the road ahead will lead us to them. It seems to be recursive, bending back upon itself.

If there’s a message here, it’s to tend to my anxieties, to notice how the worry affects my choices.


Gratitude:
1. The messages of dreams
2. Quiet holidays
3. Loving hearts, even at a distance
4. There will be an end to this
5. All the people who are working to keep us safe, and to bring an end to this.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


Someday soon, we all will be together, if the Fates allow. . .”


“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. . . .get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” —Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel


“From the halls of power to the fortress tower,
not a stone will be left on stone.
Let the king beware for your justice tears
every tyrant from his throne.
The hungry poor shall weep no more,
for the food they can never earn;
These are tables spread, ev’ry mouth be fed,
for the world is about to turn.
My heart shall sing of the day you bring.
Let the fires of your justice burn.
Wipe away all tears,
For the dawn draws near,
And the world is about to turn.”
—Rory Cooney, from “Canticle of the Turning”


Making the House Ready for the Lord
by Mary Oliver
Dear Lord, I have swept and I have washed but
still nothing is as shining as it should be
for you. Under the sink, for example, is an
uproar of mice–it is the season of their
many children. What shall I do? And under the eaves
and through the walls the squirrels
have gnawed their ragged entrances–but it is the season
when they need shelter, so what shall I do? And
the raccoon limps into the kitchen and opens the cupboard
while the dog snores, the cat hugs the pillow;
what shall I do? Beautiful is the new snow falling
in the yard and the fox who is staring boldly
up the path, to the door. And still I believe you will
come, Lord: you will, when I speak to the fox,
the sparrow, the lost dog, the shivering sea-goose, know
that really I am speaking to you whenever I say,
as I do all morning and afternoon: Come in, Come in.


“I am a hole in a flute
that the Christ’s breath moves through
listen to this music
I am the concert from the mouth of every creature
singing with the myriad chorus” —Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“May I be the tiniest nail in the house of the universe, tiny but useful.” ―Mary Oliver


“We’re all just walking each other home.” —Ram Dass


“I learned from Whitman that the poem is a temple—or a green field—a place to enter, and in which to feel.” ―Mary Oliver

Getting to the Next Story

The Bird Watcher

In last night’s dream: I am trying to find my way to the second floor of the building I am in, but the stairs are really hard to negotiate. They a metal rail stair/ladder that starts four feet off the ground. If I can scramble up onto them, I’ll have to squeeze through a tiny little hole in order to get to the next story.

(Huh. Getting to the next story, eh?)

After I search all over, I finally find an elevator and stand there waiting with some others, and it suddenly hits me–within the dream itself–that this is a constant pattern in my dreamtime: I am very often trying to find the next level, the next story, and I am thwarted by challenging climbs and claustrophobic entrances. Occasionally, there are broad and wide staircases, or hidden safe passages, and there’s the occasional elevator that might just take me anywhere.

I wonder if I am experiencing a period of disjuncture between my heart and my head, unable to find my way safely between the two? That’s got a dream-worker’s reasonableness to it, and I will definitely explore that as an ongoing theme in my life with such a powerful symbol recurring again and again and again.

Or perhaps I feel myself and my world in a time of transition between one thing and the next, and the route from point A to point B feels particularly treacherous and difficult.

That last certainly suits my sense of the times. Here we are on this level where we’ve always done things a certain way (which has for so many, been tragic and deadly), and we need to make it to that next level. We need to climb and crawl and wriggle into the next story. In the case of our national dream, people’s lives depend upon it. We must get to the next story, and we’re going to have to help each other reach that ladder way up there, and when we get to the top, each of us is going to have to deal with our own discomfort and anxiety as we wriggle through the birth passage into the next reality.

Can we do it?


Gratitude List:
1. All the anti-racism resources for learning and growth that are floating around social media right now. Quite a lot of the books on the lists were already on my list to read, but I will make extra time for them this summer, and I am going to compile some lists to post in my classroom.
2. I don’t like taking allopathics if I can help it. I have, as usual, been trying all the herbal and other remedies and therapies for my allergies, but every once in a while, I just need something huge to calm down my body’s hyperactive response to defend me from tree pollen. I’m glad I have that option. My body has definitely shifted out of crisis mode for the moment.
3. The hospitable strangers of the Swann Street Siege. While a twisted tableau of faux faith was occurring down the way, Rahul and his neighbors–whatever their belief system–were acting in the way that The Good Teacher asked humans to act toward each other, harboring people who were frightened and harmed, feeding them and tending their injuries, and managing the boundaries of their homes to keep their guests safe. Hospitality has been a sacred trust between humans in many cultures around the world since first we knew ourselves human.
4. I am grateful for statements and resources being offered by institutions that I love and belong to. Mennonites as a group got it so wrong in the 50s and 60s, holding back, not speaking out (except for individuals). To read the Mennonite Church USA statement yesterday, supporting those who are demanding racial justice and explaining why All Lives Matter is tone-deaf and inappropriate was satisfying. My school has put out a statement of solidarity and a list of resources. The church I attend has formulated a statement of support as well. Yes, we have to put our feet in the story, too, but statements are like signposts for people to follow.
5. Lots of windows. I am on a critical lockdown at the moment, keeping the house closed and not venturing outside while the trees are in the height of their pollen-producing time. Still, I can look out and watch the squirrel with the excessively long tail, the chonky chipmunk, and all the wingfolk flashing by.

May we walk in Beauty! And Solidarity.


“We will not know our own injustice if we cannot imagine justice. We will not be free if we do not imagine freedom. We cannot demand that anyone try to attain justice and freedom who has not had a chance to imagine them as attainable.”
―Ursula K. Le Guin


“Each of us has lived through some devastation, some loneliness, some weather superstorm or spiritual superstorm. When we look at each other we must say, I understand. I understand how you feel because I have been there myself. We must support each other because each of us is more alike than we are unalike.” ―Maya Angelou


TS Eliot:
“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.”


“Authentic spirituality is always about changing yourself. It is not about trying to change anyone else.” ―Richard Rohr


“Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” ―L.M. Montgomery


“I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” ―Jorge Luis Borges

Freedom in the Mind

“It is our mind, and that alone,
that chains us or sets us free.” —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

That quote is one I have had tucked away in the unlikely event that I would end up in jail or in a hospital, or sheltering in place during a world pandemic. Hmmm. Well, here we are. I think quotes like this can be used inappropriately, to make people feel like they’re not working hard enough at the inner life if they’re feeling caught and trapped. On the other hand, I am finding it profoundly liberating to keep reminding myself that the claustrophobia and sense of entrapment in this experience is partly self-imposed, that I can be free, even in confined conditions. And to be honest, I am hardly confined, here on the farm. But that shows me even more deeply how the sense of being chained or free in a situation like this has more to do with my inner work than with my outer situation.


I’ve been posting twice on these April days of Poetry. Once in the morning for musings and quotes and gratitudes, and a second time in the afternoon, when I have written my poem for the day.


Gratitude List:
1. Though I miss Room 206, my current office/classroom is a pleasant, well-lit place.
2. My coworkers and students (present and virtual) are lovely people.
3. Such hope-filled Zooming with beloveds yesterday.
4. I’m wearing my bracelets today. I don’t usually wear them around the house, but I have missed having the clink and the flash of color.
5. In the midst of this terrible uncertainty, there is much to be certain of: love, spring, birdsong, laughter. When I sit on the recliner, I know that within ten minutes there will be a cat on my lap–that is a comforting certainty.

May we walk in Beauty! Take care of each other.


“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.” —George Orwell


“We must live from the center.” —Bahauddin, father of Rumi


“Some days I am more wolf than woman and I am still learning how to stop apologising for my wild.” —Nikita Gill


“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” —Albert Einstein


“Writer’s block results from
too much head. Cut off your head.
Pegasus, poetry, was born of Medusa
when her head was cut off.
You have to be reckless when writing.
Be as crazy as your conscience allows.”
—Joseph Campbell


“Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.” —Annie Lennox

Advent 12: Claustrophobia

Beloveds, we are just over halfway to through this December labyrinth walk into the dark. The light begins to return on Solstice, on the 21st.

Where I live, the holiday traffic is ramping up to frantic, and the afternoon commute gets long and dark and claustrophobic. Yesterday, I nearly let the long ride home ruin my evening. Being trapped in a box on wheels on a highway in the dark for hours feels too much like my inner state in December.

Today, I need to make sure that I am intentionally working to combat the claustrophobia I feel rising in me as the constricting layers of winter clothes and the darkness and the schedule and the traffic have all closed around me.

First, Breathing:
Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out.
Pause: Remember last night’s moon.
Breathe in, holding the image of moon.
Pause: Let go of the traffic.
Breathe out.
Pause: Yesterday’s lovely morning snow.
Breathe in.
Pause: Let go of the work ahead.
Breathe out.
Pause: So many shining, twinkling lights surround me, students and family and friends.
Breathe in. Pause. Breathe out. Pause. . .

Second, Art:
Yesterday before I went to bed, I watched a little video of comic artist Tim Gula doing an exercise in automatic drawing. It’s kind of like a journal free-write, where you just keep your hand moving and put whatever comes down on the paper. I have noticed that even my doodles have become constricted lately, lines choked and tight. I think that some drawing practice might help me to free up some of this claustrophobic inner space.

Third, Story:
I’ve queued up the next book in Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle on my tablet, and I am going to have it along on the ride to school so we can start to listen to it today.

Perhaps claustrophobia isn’t a struggle for you at this time of year. Is it panic, silence or noise, loneliness? Or maybe this is your happiest time. What are the tools you use to cope with the challenges or to mark and celebrate the joys?


Gratitude List:
1. Story
2. Art
3. Breath
4. Wildness
5. Moon

May we walk in Beauty!

Shifts

Gratitude List:
1. How time shifts grief to a different space. This is the week, thirteen years ago, when my first child would have been due. I lost the pregnancy early, at thirteen weeks, but I was new to the horror of loss in those days, and it hit me like a truck. Today, it sits differently in me. Still, it wants to be noticed, to be remembered.
2. The light is coming back. We still have a long way to walk until Sunreturn, but it will come again. This year is harder than some, the claustrophobia more intense and grinding, and it’s hit me earlier. I am grateful for whatever lessons it has to teach me.
3. Coffee and chocolate
4. Getting it done, slowly but surely
5. Innovation and change

May we walk in Beauty!

Claustrophobic

DSCN8044
Because today’s poem is about claustrophobic passages, I am posting this photo of my favorite weeping beech tree, and a passage to the light.

Today’s Poetry Prompt is to write about a Phobia.

Claustrophobia
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Perhaps I have always been afraid to be born,
unable to bear the tunnel passage,
the sudden loss of air, of light,
the moment just before emergence.

In the dreams I am always
stuck in the opening,
caught between worlds
unable to go forward or go back.

There came a day when I shed those brick walls,
left the constrictor’s coils behind me,
raced across the open field like a deer
suddenly freed from the snare.

That day when I bounded to freedom
I let god out of her golden cage, too,
and she roared–a mighty wind–
across the meadows.

Gratitude List:
1. Orange leaves, like bits of flame, slipping through the sky.
2. Orange fox, like a small brush fire, sauntering through the grasses.
3. This has been such a season of training of the love muscle as someone said somewhere in a random internet post today. I keep not passing the test. I keep giving in to the Panicky Raging Maniac in my brain. Today, and tomorrow, and Tuesday, and then especially on Wednesday, I am going to see if I can pass the Love ALL Your Neighbors test.  All of ’em, Sweetheart. You’ve got to love. All. Of. Them.
4. Encouragement from the peanut gallery. This evening, I said to Jon (about the grading stack), “I can finally see the light at the end of this tunnel. I think I am going to make it.”  From the other side of the room, one of the munchkins started to chant, “You can do it! You can do it!”
5. That hurdle has been leapt. Grades are marked ready for the Registrar.

Don’t forget to smile at each other today.