Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday’s dawn: How the sky was a living breathing indigo until the horizon cracked open in magenta, a tangerine orange glow slowly seeping through. 2. Persephone’s footsteps, the crocus and anemone popping up everywhere. We have a large clump of white crocus in a patch of green chickweed by the porch. We usually only have one or two white ones. 3. Crows 4. Puzzles 5. The steady, unflappable people. If you’re feeling anxious about politics or viruses or the economy or whatever, find one of the Unflappables and bask in their settledness.
Welcome, rain. Welcome, dawn on this chilly morning. Welcome, work of the day, of the weekend. Welcome, time yet to come when the work is done. Welcome, clean new pages to write my next chapter.
Gratitude List: 1. Yesterday’s dawn. It began as we pulled out of the driveway, with pink streaks on the horizon over Spicher’s field. On the way to pick up our car pool, we passed the small paddock where two mountainously fluffy sheep graze, and the sky was beginning to glow gently magenta against the woolly clouds, the grass a green almost glowing. The River, as we crossed, flowed pink beneath the old bridge to the south, and the lamps were still twinkling along its span. By the time we reached school, the sky colors had shifted out of indigos and violets and pinks, to tangerine, and rays of coming sun shot upward through the low-flung clouds. 2. Rain and reflections on a Saturday morning 3. People who stand up for peace 4. People who stand up to bullying behavior 5. Poetry
I have absolutely no recollection of dreaming last night. The door between sleeping brain and waking brain is shut tightly. No narratives or images come from that world into this today.
This morning when I looked out the window at 5:35, the darkness was touched by a hint of grey. Dawn is slipping slowly and silently back the clock. Light returns.
The quotation in the image I attached above is from William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Fergus and the Druid.” Fergus the King has relinquished his crown and abdicated his responsibilities as king, and he asks the Druid to teach him knowledge, to give him wisdom. Finally, after a little bit of back-and-forth, the Druid offers Fergus a bag of dreams. Though I put the words with the Fool, the Druid is much more earnest than the Fool, more shamanic, seeking wisdom in all things, pursuing knowledge. The Fool just trusts that the wisdom necessary for the moment will arrive when it comes. The Fool is both younger and older than the Druid, more foolish, and wiser.
Going back to school yesterday meant a different kind of mental focus, put me in more of a Druid zone, seeking knowledge with deep intention. But of course Teacher is an archetype of its own, the one who passes on knowledge and wisdom, seeking it like the Druid, drawing it out of the people themselves, helping them to find it. Druid, Teacher, Queen/King/Ruler, Fool: We are so many people at once, aren’t we?
On a morning when the dream-door is closed, still I carry with me the bag of dreams I have been dreaming. Today, they wrap me round as I go out again, stepping out as the Fool, the Druid, the Teacher, carrying my little bag–of dreams, of wisdom, of story. May your own dreams feed you and wrap you round.
Gratitude List: 1. Pie. Yesterday was pie day in the faculty lounge. One of my colleagues is a masterful pie-maker. Once a year, he brings eight or ten pies for us to sample. It’s the best snack day of the year, and it made yesterday a celebration instead of a foggy slog. 2. My shiny students. Many of them were as tired as I was. So many of them just want to be done with the semester already. Me, too. But there’s joy and hope and community there, too, and for some students, school is the safe place, the belonging place. I am grateful that school can be that haven for those who need it. 3. Yesterday’s chapel speaker. It was mostly a personal introduction for a member of our school community, but he was engaging and lively. He caught students’ attention on the first day back from break. He made us laugh, he made us think. 4. Resolutions and intentions. I know all the reasons to be cynical about New Year’s Resolutions, but here’s the thing. New Year’s Day can be like the moon, and I can use the gravity of this day to help boost my energy as I create an intention. I have been wanting to maintain a higher daily step-count, but I sometimes I need the extra artificial push of a New Year’s Resolution or an outside challenge to motivate me. Here’s to the attempt! 5. Dawn is inching back the clock. Day is slowly lengthening.
Today, I am taking a day of work-rest. With stacks of grading that are somehow not grading themselves, I asked to take this day off so that I could catch up to myself. It will not be a day of rest, exactly, but it will be restful. It will be at my pace, though I need to keep it moving so I get as much work accomplished as possible.
And it will be silence. Hours of silence. Me and the cats and the papers. No one needing anything from me except for an occasional head-rub. I need a mini-vacation from being needed. And it’s strange, when my work is words, when the spoken word is my favorite art form to observe and to do, that the rest that I crave is a break from speech. I long for this coming day of silence.
I have begun looking at the mini-breaks that I take in my day, trying to mark and acknowledge them and live into them, so that I can feel them as balm and not simply as escape. In that thirty seconds after the room empties and I need to head off to chapel, can I take three intentional deep breaths? Instead of walking down the hall to lunch, might I detour outside for a moment and greet the Three Magnolia Trees in the corner behind the old classroom building? Can I take three minutes of my prep period to listen to a piece of music every day? Or open my journal and do a five-minute word-dump or fast-write?
What if we were to try to see our moments, or breaks in the day, as little vacations instead of as escapes? If we were to intentionally stop and take breaths, make art, feel silence, listen to our heartbeats, put our feet on earth, commune with plant-beings? I think this will be my plan for the shadow journey ahead.
Gratitude List: 1. The earnestness of Lancaster people to resist injustice and to create compassion. Last night I attended a public meeting of Wing, a local group begun to try to develop community responses to the crisis created by recent immigration policies. The meeting was held at my church, and we filled the parking lot and the edges of the parking lot and the grassy spaces along the lot, and people parked down the streets and walked to the church. There is good energy in this community to do something to help those who are suffering as a result of this country’s harsh immigration detention policies. 2. Women in Black. I am heartened by this group of women who are committed to standing in protest of violence. Last night we stood with a sign proclaiming our solidarity with Kurdish women who are suffering in the wake of Turkish incursions. 3. Poetry and story. The weaving of words. 4. Yesterday, after I asked for today off, I felt such a release of tension and pressure. I’m grateful for understanding administrators and colleagues. I will be a much better colleague and teacher myself for having this day to breathe and catch up. 5. Dawn. The coming of light into the day.
Gratitude List: 1. Moonrise 2. The sycamore tree at Landis Homes. I’m not sure whether there’s any documentation, but word is that it’s a couple hundred years old. It’s surrounded by glorious and lively wetlands. Josiah found the skeleton of a mouse among its root-tangle. 3. You’re never too old to begin living fully into the truth of who you are. 4. The misty grey dawn arriving as I write in the mornings. 5. Waking up. Then waking up again.
On these November days, instead of writing a daily poem, as I have for most of the past eight Novembers, I am writing short pieces of prose: fiction, meditation, dream. This morning’s piece was simply a telling of last night’s dream:
The hillsides are covered with loosely growing trees, not quite close enough to be woods, and yet woods, for all that. Some places are woodsy enough that no sky shows through, though there is space enough between to see through them down the hillside to where the paths curve and separate. To the east, the trees open out toward bare grassy hillside and the smell of the sea. In the shade at the edges of the wood, three tidy white-washed Baba Yaga huts stand on stilts in a sandy courtyard, and further off, beyond the first grassy hill, smoke rises from a little village.
The trees are sinewy and resinous, Mediterannean, not pine—more like laurel, if laurel were thirty feet tall. The trunks are thin and many-branched, but open, and the leaves are mostly at the crowns, letting light filter magically through. All is green and blue and twinkling golden. Though there are no people, there is the sense of people, the presence of people doing people things.
In your head, a soundtrack starts to play, a woman’s voice talking about a sudden and catastrophic event, how one moment one notices the short bursts of steam rising from individual trees, curiously taking in the strange phenomenon, and then, suddenly, the whole wood will combust, not a long-burning, raging conflagration, but a whoosh of fire that’s there one moment, and in the next is gone, leaving bare and charred hillsides. You wonder why there are no signs to warn visitors off the paths. And then you notice the explosive bursts of mist and steam puffing from random trees on the hillside below you. Should you start to get nervous? If the voice is correct, it could happen at any moment. But you are entranced, curious, unable to give yourself to fear. You turn onto a path that leads up the hill toward the Baba Yaga courtyard, intending to explore the little huts, to see if anyone lives there. At the edge of the courtyard a long tube suddenly rises, like a cannon being aimed for a blast, and powerful jet of water bursts into the air, raining down on the little houses, raining down on you, sparkling through the sunlight, wetting the trees. Looking back the way you came, you can see several more of the water cannons discharging their spray through the groves and woods covering the lower hillsides.
You wander through the small village beyond the Baba Yaga houses, where people wander, eating foods from the markets, taking pictures beside the quiet houses, murmuring to each other. You look back over the hillsides where you have been wandering, and the trees have vanished. At the edge of the village, the green grass ends at bare soil. Everything is gone. Despite the water precautions, the woods and pathways are gone. An enormous yellow bulldozer rumbles over the destroyed land.
Gratitude List: 1. Dreams and their messages 2. Many sources of light 3. The lull after the grading storm. There’s so much more to do, but after a weekend of fierce grading, I took a break last night and rested. 4. The line of orange light along the horizon at dawn 5. New England clam chowder when it is made well
Gratitude List: 1. There’s something to be said for being welcomed into the day by three small furpeople as though one is a long-lost traveler returning home at last. 2. Owls calling through the gloam. 3. I like that word, “gloam,” and “gloaming.” And “crepuscular,” though it sounds a little like a disease. “Dusk” and “dawn,” the grey times of day. The words are pleasant, and suggest the magic present in the liminal moments of the day cycle. 4. The clean white page. Possibility. 5. Onion bagels.
May we walk in Beauty!
Here’s a poem I started working on yesterday. It might still want some revision:
Your Wild Cry by Elizabeth Weaver-Kreider
When the gun of the hunter is trained on your arrow, on the vee in the sky where you strain your wings beneath the belly of cloud, call aloud to your sisters to fly with the wind, to fly true. Tip your wings through the gap between beams of autumn sunlight, shift your shape, shift your seeming. Turn your goose to crow, to wren. Turn into jay, into warbler. Dive down, fly low, change your sky-riven cry to caw, to buzz, to a twittering in the brushy fields.
Don’t let your voice be silenced. Change it. Don’t let your call be deadened. Let it echo through the valleys and hillsides. Take a new voice, more insistent, more urgent, and wilder.
Here we are at Janus’ Doorway again. Janus, remember, is the two-faced Roman god who stands in doorways and gateways and openings, his face looking back to where he came from and forward to where he is headed. And on this day we, too, have made a practice of looking forward as we look back: What do I hold in my heart from the past year? What do I want to keep and improve upon? What do I regret? What do I leave behind with relief? And: What am I looking forward to? What do I want to maintain as the thread that continues from year to year to year? What do I want to pick up What can I strive to become as I step through this gate into the next phase?
Some years I make Resolutions. Some years I eschew them. Some years I make them with qualifications or new names like Intentions or Principles. This year, they’re Resolutions again. I can sit with that. Some of these are loftier than others.
Resolutions In 2019, I resolve to:
Continue banning face and name of the attention-monger on my FB page. No posts of him.
Nourish my body with care, and make sure to strengthen and stretch.
Tend to my inner life with even greater care. Expand spiritual practices and lifelines.
Let the madwoman out of the attic. Give her flowers and colors, nice music and rich scents.
Be actively kinder to my children.
Finish the book. Can I finish the book this year? I think maybe I can finish the book.g
Gratitude List: 1. Closing the book on the challenges of 2018. 2. Opening a new chapter. 3. Blank pages. 4. Supportive, overlapping circles of community. 5. The blue of those clouds on this first morning of the new year.
May we walk in Beauty!
Today’s Quotations list is long. I decided to include two of my own New Year’s poems.
Words for the Seventh Day of Kwanzaa: The word for this last day of Kwanzaa is Imani, or Faith. Believe that your dreams have the power to create change in the world. May it be so for you and for me and for all who long for and work for justice in the coming year.
“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering ‘it will be happier.’” —Alfred Tennyson
“Darkness deserves gratitude. It is the alleluia point at which we learn to understand that all growth does not take place in the sunlight.” ―Joan Chittister
Walking Through the Gateway of Another Year
By Beth Weaver-Kreider, 2017
Let’s call them New Year’s Revolutions
In the coming year, I resolve to re-solve my problems and issues every day, not just on this morning.
For every morning is the morning
of a whole new year,
a bright blank page
in which any thing
can be a new thing.
Let every moment be a moment like now, when the newborn sun shines over the ridge onto the scarlet breast of a cardinal, and the eye for a moment sees nothing but sparkling red.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.” —T. S. Eliot
“And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love.”
“I want to think again of dangerous and noble things. I want to be light and frolicsome. I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing, as though I had wings.” ―Mary Oliver
“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson
This is How It Begins (a New Year’s poem) by Beth Weaver-Kreider, January 1, 2016
This is how it begins:
each year, each week, each day,
each golden shining drop of moment
full of expectancy,
ready for our use.
How will I inhabit the house
of the now that approaches?
How will I wear the cloth
of the day that is given?
How will I wander the story
of the year that has just now
leapt into shining view
through the gray clouds of winter?
I will face this year with resolution
(this week, this day, this moment)
not to wait until this whirling planet
has danced around the sun
to make the new thing new,
but to step into each freshly-birthed now
with eyes that see the golden shine of possibility
and ears that hear the note of each plucked strand of moment.
The sun is not yet rising on this morning of Sunreturn. That’s a term I think I made up myself. Over the years, I have felt the need to slightly separate my Solstice observance from my deep celebration of the next day. I need to keep a space for both: for marking the full darkness, and for joyful honoring of the returning of the light. So I made up a word for it, unless I stole it from someone else.
On Solstice, I settle into the darkness, feel the long night, the blanket of winter. But on Sunreturn, I delight in the turning back to the sun. Yesterday, we reached the end of the tunnel. I could sit in the darkness and feel the satisfaction of another year’s journey to the outer reaches. Today, we turn our faces again to the sun, and begin the journey toward that light.
So my word for today is Sunreturn. May the sun shine upon you. As I have written this, drinking coffee with my sister and my father, hearing the wind whistling around outside, the day has gently dawned into grey morning.
Gratitude List: 1. Christmas karaoke in chapel yesterday 2. The Welcoming Place at MCC 3. Last night’s Solstice Celebration at Community Mennonite. 4. The young man did not jump off the bridge. I might not be able to ever wash that image from my brain, seeing him sitting there, officers and caregivers and concerned citizens gathered around and below him. I suppose all those helpers gathered around were, in their way, Clarence the Angel. I will listen for the bells of the season with a different ear this year. 5. Sunreturn
May we walk in beauty!
(I feel like I should explain #4. On the way here to the Welcoming Place from school yesterday, the traffic on 222 slowed suddenly and measurably. As we approached a bridge that goes over the highway, we noticed that traffic was completely stopped on the other side, beginning at the bridge. I speculated that someone had stood on the overpass and thrown things down on passing motorists, because there were people gathered on the bridge. Only as we approached did I see that they were gathered at a short distance from a clearly distraught young man sitting on the edge of the bridge. The highway was closed for a couple of hours. News reports say that a police officer eventually “grabbed” the man, and he was taken to a hospital for observation.)
“There is really only one way to restore a world that is dying and in disrepair: to make beauty where ugliness has set in. By beauty, I don’t mean a superficial attractiveness, though the word is commonly used in this way. Beauty is a loveliness admired in its entirety, not just at face value. The beauty I’m referring to is metabolized grief. It includes brokenness and fallibility, and in so doing, conveys for us something deliciously real. Like kintsukuroi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, what is normally seen as a fatal flaw is distinguished with value. When we come into contact with this kind of beauty, it serves as a medicine for the brokenness in ourselves, which then gives us the courage to live in greater intimacy with the world’s wounds.” —Toko-pa Turner
“God has scattered the proud in their conceit.
God has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
God has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.” —Mary
“No human relation gives one possession in another—every two souls are absolutely different. In friendship or in love, the two side by side raise hands together to find what one cannot reach alone.” —Kahlil Gibran
“Always there comes an hour when one is weary of one’s work and devotion to duty, and all one craves for is a loved face, the warmth and wonder of a loving heart.” —Albert Camus
“Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop. ” —Rumi
My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power
reconstitute the world.
How much a heart can hold, of fire and of earth,
how wild a soul can feel, how feral, how untamed,
how deep attention causes the spirit to rise,
to break free of its earth-bound chains,
how solid the earth upon which we walk,
and how free it feels to rest upon air,
how fire consumes but does not burn,
how water is its own pathway for journeying.
“Oh to meet, however briefly, the greatness that lives under our surface. To summon enough bravery to be without armour and strategy, for the chance at meeting that irreducible power. Oh to make of our terrified hearts a prayer of surrender to the God of Love; that we remain safe in our quivering ache to be near that Otherness, even for a moment. To touch that ancient life who will never relinquish its wilderness, who lets instinct make its choices, whose knowing lives in bones and whose song is a wayfinder.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.”
―Parker J. Palmer
“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
“One of my favourite teachings by Martín Prechtel is that ‘violence is an inability with grief.’ In other words, it takes skillfulness to grieve well, to grieve wholeheartedly. It requires us to bravely, nakedly come to face all that is lost, keeping our hearts open to loving just as fully again.
“When we make war, lashing out in rage and revenge, it is because we are unwilling to make this full encounter with grief. It is easy to enact the same violence which has taken so much from us―including towards ourselves―but the greater work is to let that which is missing enlarge your life; to make beauty from your brokenness.
“Whatever you hold in the cauldron of your intention is your offering to the divine. The quality of assistance you can generate and receive from the Holy is governed by the quality of your inner offering. When you indulge in fear and doubt, you are flooding the arena where love is attempting to work.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
“Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth
in the present moment.”
―Thich Nhat Hanh
“An Awake Heart
is like a Sky that Pours Light.” ―Hafiz
“Gather the dawn and wind.
Breathe in sun and frost and song.
Hold for a moment.
Breathe out birds and words and joy.
Breathe out moss and stones and hope.”
Gratitude List: 1. (What was beautiful?) Three geese winging low over golden fields with sky turning to sunset behind them.
2. (What sounds brought you awake?) Students hitting the chimes in my doorway. I have a little chime magnet that hangs from my doorway, and several students hit it on the way in and the way out each day.
3. (What smells enlivened the day?) I can’t smell much through this cold, but the essential oils I wear in the mornings–patchouli and sandalwood, sweet orange, palmarosa, and lavender–got through. Essential oils help to break through the sinusitis.
4. (What was good to the touch?) I brought out my large black and white scarf, so soft and warm. The cats like it, too. They knead it like little kittens.
5. (What is the flavor of the day?) Turkey Hill’s Homemade Vanilla ice cream. It tastes like my childhood.