Advent 7: Approach with Curiosity

This is a picture of my cat Erebus through the window between our kitchen and the breezeway. Behind him are some of the houses of Legoland, but my own reflection is caught within the shadow of him, and behind me is the reflection of the window to the outside.

One of the dangers for me in this season is numbness. There is so much to do; there are so many details to keep track of, so many people with needs to respond to. Compounding this, the cold and the closing darkness make me draw inward, pulling inside myself. It can be easy to forget to feel, to live in a survival mindset, moving from task to task with an automatic and robotic air, just trying to hold on and make it through.

It helps to be conscious and deliberate in my response to the pull toward hibernation, not denying the desire, offering myself small oases of hibernation in the context of the busy life I must continue to lead. Stop and breathe. Stop and read a poem. Stop and draw a picture. Stop and smile at someone. I need to change the pace, stepping at the rhythm my body and psyche demand rather than the rush and bustle that the frantically commercial outside world demands.

It also helps, here in this winter labyrinth, to hone and practice curiosity, letting the mind out to play, opening the heart more fully to wonder and delight. Look up from the relentless task list in front of you, and let your gaze wander over the world outside the momentary ruts. Notice the colors and textures. Take an interest. Be curious. It helps to combat the dullness.

I have developed an obsession with taking photos of reflections, and reflections of reflections. In the picture above, I am caught in the reflection of a picture of my cat through a window. His name is Erebus, which is the personification of darkness and shadow in ancient Greek cosmology. Even the shadows have a wonderful variety of shade and hue. Shadows and reflections of shadows are doorways, places where worlds meet, tangible and intangible places of possibility.

How will you be changed if you decide to walk through one of those doorways?


Envisioning:
(At the beginning of Advent, my pastor asked us to hold the swords-into-ploughshares vision in our heads, to look for stories of people choosing that vision. For the next little while, I am going to look for such stories as my daily morning meditation.)

This week, I have come across several articles about Rain Dove, a model who responds to critics and detractors with what one writer called ‘relentless kindness.” Rain Dove is non-binary, and receives quite a lot of hateful responses to their social media posts about their own life. A recent incident in which an angry parent posted an angry and blaming note to Rain Dove about their influence on the parent’s child turned into an honest conversation about being present for a child who needs tender-hearted adults. Rain Dove began with humor to diffuse the anger, then probed gently and non-judgmentally to find out the root of the parent’s anxiety. Then they asserted repeatedly that it seems obvious that the parent must really love and care for the child and want what’s best. I want to be like Rain Dove, practicing a vision of a world in which we approach each other with relentless kindness.

Ritual for Inhabiting the Darkness

On this Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, the poetry prompt is to write about darkness.

Ritual for Inhabiting the Darkness

I.
Stand in the doorway.
Let the light stream in over your shoulders.
See your shadow.
Breathe into the stillness that awaits you..

II.
Leave the the lighted rooms behind you.
Walk forward onto the trail
which your own shadow has laid out before you,
until you have left the light so far behind you
that it is only a memory of light.

III.
Listen to the breathing of the darkness.
Become a seed in the waiting soil of the dark.
Feel how the darkness holds the pulsing life within you.

IV.
Wait.

V.
Crack open.
Expand into the darkness.
Send your roots down.
Send your twining tendrils upward.
Grow.

Into the Dark, December 5

very year at this time, I feel the anxiety and restlessness begin to rise within me, and the cold settles into my bones. Every year, I need to consciously ease my spirit into the season. This year, from the beginning of December until Epiphany, I will set it down here on the blog. May we journey into the darkness with intention and tenderness.

Those sunrise clouds do it every morning. I move through the morning darkness like a wader in a murky pond every morning, until I am fully awake, until I can let some of my muscles relax into the day. The clouds help. Magenta and tangerine streaks across cobalt and indigo and grey. Touches of aquamarine in the sky below.

Not every day, of course. Some of the sunrises are simple shifts from grey to grey. But some mornings, the sky breathes for me, breathes in colors that seep into my bones, the way warmth begins to creep inward from a nice cup of tea.

My word for today will be Color. Even in the grey days, there’s color to be found, and even now there are deep rich greens, pops of berry red, cardinal red, golden sunbeam.

Today, may colors seep into your soul, awaken and enliven you, help you breathe. Blessed be.


“The opposite of consumption is not frugality, it is generosity.”
—Raj Patel


“By reciting a myth, the storyteller remembers a creation, and, by remembering, is a part of that creating. It is best understood in that dreadful solecism “walkabout”. In walking, the Australians speak the land. Their feet make it new, now, and in its beginning. And the land speaks to them, now, anew, and in their beginning, by step and breath that meet in its dance, so that land and people sing as one.” —Alan Garner, The Voice That Thunders


“This earth that we live on is full of stories in the same way that, for a fish, the ocean is full of ocean. Some people say when we are born we’re born into stories. I say we’re also born from stories.” —Ben Okri


“So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,
one of which was you.” ―Mary Oliver


“Let the violence and pain in our world root you even more deeply in your commitment to be kinder and love harder, no matter the person or circumstance. Your great ability to love has everything to do with creating a more peaceful reality on our planet. Your love matters. It makes a critical difference. It helps us all.” —Scott Stabile


“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.” —Nelson Mandela


“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
—Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)


“Never does Nature say one thing and Wisdom another.” —Juvenal


“There is a place where words are born of silence,
A place where the whispers of the heart arise.” —Rumi


Gratitude List:
1. Warm blankets
2. Elementary School Music Concerts
3. Nourishment
4. Words
5. You

May we walk in Beauty!

Walking Into the Dark

This week, weaning myself from the keyboard, I jumped back into my handwritten journal-book, with pens and colored pencils, and the slower, reflective pacing of handwriting.

I have been dreaming and writing dreams, feeling the shadows of dreams flitting around my head even when the images and plotlines escape me. Vultures and daughters, bees and small children–the dream-symbols have been feeding me as I walk into the darkness of winter.

During the years when we were both farming full-time, when winter was truly a resting time, I think I had my most satisfying winters. I was able then to hibernate, to draw myself inward, to slow way down. Now in these years, when the days are so busy, and the evenings hold lists of necessary tasks, I lose myself a bit in winter. I struggle to focus in the outer world, but I don’t have the inner space to really slow down. Not really.

And so I am taking a bit of an Advent Break, shifting up my morning and evening routines, letting myself drift out of the social media spheres. It has been a good thing to take this break, to shift my habits. In the coming weeks between now and Epiphany, I will continue to make occasional forays onto this page, occasional steps into the world of Facebook, but I am going to breathe and rest and meditate and dream as I need to in these days, and hold myself to as few schedules as possible..

Blessings on your own Advent, your Dark Time, your Inward Journey. May your dreams be fruitful, and your visions be keen.

Much love.


Gratitude List:
1. Shadows and darkness
2. Dreams and visions
3. Rest and Quiet
4. Joy and Peace
5. Waiting and Anticipation

May we walk in Beauty!

Sunreturn

light-returns
How the Light Returns.

Breathe deep the light-filled air.
Feel how the new sun touches you.
Remember the stars that circled you
through the long hours of darkness.
Sit within the circle of the dwindling dark
and feel the way it bathes you with memory.
Walk the bridge between dream and daylight.

These are the nights of the dreamtime. The tender new sun is born into the hush of midwinter, and we can hold the quiet light within us as we walk, careful step by careful step, out of the labyrinth. The inward journey into the darkness has stripped us of our crucial identity, piece by painful piece. And now, as we step outward, the darkness offers us new gifts, images that come in dreams. As the days gradually lengthen, and the dark nights wane, what words and images will the journey offer you to put into your pockets for the coming year?

Gratitude List:
1. Those really super-bright stars at evening and morning. Sometimes you get those news reports that THIS star or THIS comet is going to appear fifty times bigger than usual, and I look and I can’t discern any difference. But that star in the west last evening, and one in the east this morning were so incredibly large and bright. I wonder if it’s a function of my aging eyesight? No matter. It’s compelling.
2. Driving into the Solstice sun this morning. The sky was like a gentle watercolor painting.
3. Waiting quietly in this space at the edge of the void, a moment between moments. Stepping into time outside of time.  Walking over the Dreamtime Bridge.
4. Approaching a time of rest.
5. The people who get it. Today I read a Jan Richardson poem to my classes, and I posted a picture of Richardson on the Smart Board that included a statement about “Seeking the thin places that exist between heaven and earth.” One of my students, who has some learning struggles, got really wide-eyed and said, “I like that poem-thing you have up on the board there. It’s like when you go to a place with a lot of history, like caverns, that you know have been there since before people were around, and it feels like heaven is right there.”  What a wise, intuitive boy.

May we walk in Beauty!

After Strand

Here is a poem, written after Mark Strand’s “From a Litany”:

Here in the hush before morning,
I praise the coming dawn which will push back the curtain of night.
I praise the secret shadows in the bamboo.
I praise the first brave bird to sing.
I praise the soft sighs of the cat curled beside the vents.
I praise the tang of pine entering my body through breath.
I praise the clatter of rain.
I praise the fortitude of the early-riser, driving up the hill to work.
I praise the quiet earthworms, deep in the hollows of warm earth below.
I praise the way words tumble from mouth and pen and keyboard.
I praise the thunder of words, their flood and their tempest.
I praise the silent words whispered at midnight,
I praise the tattered remnant of dreams that hover about me like a halo.
I praise the storm of the day as it approaches,
with all its wildness and adventure.

Gratitude List:
1.  Heat!  A new furnace came yesterday, earlier than projected, and we are warm again. This new one sounds different, and the house has a new winter voice.
2.  The deep, secret green of the ferns by Cabin Creek, after everything else has turned brittle and brown, this green holds on.
3.  That verse in Brian Wren’s song “Joyful is the Dark”:

Joyful is the dark Spirit of the deep,
winging wildly o’er the world’s creation,
silken sheen of midnight
plumage black and bright,
swooping with the beauty of a raven.

The whole song, actually.  In these last days before sun-return, the darkness begins to feel claustrophobic.  This keeps the darkness broad and wild and open.
4.  Being part of a community that actively practices restorative justice, and discusses it together.  I am constantly inspired by my colleagues.
5.  The delight of children anticipating Christmas.  I love being on the parental end of the holiday.

May we walk in Beauty!

Winter Balances

A quick little poem.
I am of two minds about winter.

One moment:
Enough, I say!  Enough
of the suffocating darkness,
of the cold that drives me
into my bed, a-quiver.
Enough of the river
frozen halfway to stone.
Enough of the bone-chilling
mind-numbing ache of it.

Then, sun on the snow,
a-sparkle, a-dazzle,
glinting ferociously:
Here is your light!
Bathe in it, draw it in,
into your marrow,
carry it deep in your heart,
in the depths, in the shadows.

Gratitude List:
1.  The way the winter sun sparkles through the bathroom window at Radiance and hits the Mary Oliver poem about summer.
2.  Talking it over
3.  The gift of vulnerability.  I want to be always strong, strong like you.  And then you open your heart and show me: “Here is the way.  Here are the places that are fearful to look upon.”  I have so much to learn.
4.  Healing energy like that bright winter sun, shimmering all around.
5.  Assessing and tweaking

May we walk in Beauty.