Gratitudes, Musings

Into the Dark, December 11

Every 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.

Panic, a low-grade sense of not-right-ness, of un-cope-ability, wants to be the word of the day. Yesterday’s sore neck turned out to be a full-blown headache/migraine thing, and I sort of ghosted my way through the day. That all sounds like a complaint, but it sets the stage for this morning’s emotional “migraine”–when you feel bad, you feel like you’ll never feel better, you know? Like somehow, this pain in the neck, this uncertainty, this sense of doom and gloom is all it’s ever going to be.

But of course it isn’t. Pain fades. New forms of certainty and rhythm arise. Gloom and doom lift. The sun shines again. The shadows offer gifts of insight and wonder. And that’s the story of Advent for me. Sometimes, you have to endure to get through the night to the daytime. There’s my word for today: endure. I know: There’s so much joy in the lights and the music and the cookies, in the parties and the planning. Still, the walk into the darkness is an endurance test for some of us some years. Ten more days of walking into the night, and then we can turn around and start walking back into the daylight.

(And I’m okay, really. Just caught in the web of the season. Hit harder by the lengthy nights than I sometimes am. Which is why I am writing these daily reflections, of course. To make it through. To leave myself a trail of bread crumbs for next year’s journey.)


Gratitude List:
1. Today is not yesterday
2. Dinner with Dorm Students last evening
3. Twinkling lights in the living room
4. Cheese
5. Featherbed

May we walk in Beauty!


“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it—always.” —Mahatma Gandhi


“Organic images are destroyed if we subject them to linear thinking. How often we judge them as “bizarre” or “weird.” They need to be allowed to grow like plants in a spiraling movement. They carry emotional and imaginative energy as well as intellectual meaning, and as they spiral they are illumined with nuances of feeling. Hence their power to bring wholeness.” —Marion Woodman


“We need beauty because it makes us ache to be worthy of it.” —Mary Oliver


“Beauty is not a luxury but a strategy for survival.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to [all].” —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Gratitudes, Musings

Keep Your Beloveds Close

Gratitude of Resistance Sixteen:
Reweaving the threads of friendship and memory with my Beloveds. We need to keep our Beloveds close in these times, and what can fight the tides of hate and intolerance and despair more effectively than eye contact across a table, sharing food, creating ideas and dreams together? Make each moment with those you love and trust a moment of prayer in action, a grand magic spell, a wishing bird of hope–that all may come and go in peace, that no one shall be forced away from the table, that a better way of living together in this world will be possible.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems, Poetry Prompts

Worth a Try

Today’s Prompt is a Two-fer: Write a days of the week/weak poem.

On a November Tuesday
you might wear scarves
and long white skirts
to remember how to vote.

You might take your knitting
and stand in a long line
waiting for your chance
to be a part of history.

You might fidget
when they ask your name,
might feel a tremor when you see
that yours is the only Democrat on the page.

You might recall other Tuesdays
in November, when you believed
in the process, when you knew
that your voice counted, too.

(That’s pretty depressing, and I think it went deeper into the sense of helplessness than I might be feeling at this moment, though I definitely cycle into that place where I lose my belief that my voice matters in this “democracy” anymore.)


“I am not talking about giving our hearts over to despair. I wonder if we can train our hearts, intentionally, like athletes who train for a marathon, to bear the load without crumpling under the weight. I think that’s what the children need from us, for us to bear them, bear the stories, hold them as though they were our own, to be prepared to act at any moment for any one of them within our reach. I think the times call for hearts strong enough to be tender, to bleed without weakening, to rage and protect and pray and hope without numbing out.

“I don’t think it has to be a choice. We don’t have to choose between the closed heart and the broken heart. We can be awake and yet not despair. It’s worth a try.” —Beth Weaver-Kreider
*
“Never limit yourself because of others’ limited imagination; never limit others because of your own limited imagination.” —Mae Jemison
*
“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” —Frederick Buechner
*
Alice Walker—”Activism is the rent I pay for living on this planet.”
*
Found on a T-shirt: I am totally happy and not dangerous mostly.
*
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” —Marcus Aurelius


Gratitude List:
1. I voted. I don’t know for sure how much I believe in it anymore, though I am liking some of what I am seeing in the results today, and the poll-folks are friendly, and the photo-art on the walls of the local high school/polling place is really excellent.
2. The sweet justice of a transwoman beating out the incumbent who called himself Virginia’s “chief homophobe.” Maybe I will start to trust the democratic process again, just a little.
3. Tea. The sudden shift in the weather has me cringing in blankets and hats and scarves. Tea takes the edge off. And it’s one thing I share in common with a particular student who hates my class, so I am grateful for that.
4. Color. I forgot to take Ducktown over the bridge this morning because I have become so used to going left and taking Valley View while the bridge was out. We turned onto Valley View just as the sun cascaded through cloud behind us and hit the forested ridge off by the River. The colors were dazzling.
5. How people take care of each other.

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Beauty Everywhere We Turn


Potato Plow

“What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear. That means watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.” —Krishnamurti
*
“…We are called to not run from the discomfort, not run from grief or the feelings of outrage, or even fear. And if we can be fearless to be with our pain, it turns; it doesn’t stay static. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it… The other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world. Our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.” —Joanna Macy
*
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only love can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” —Martin Luther King, Jr.
*
“If words come out of the heart, they will enter the heart.”
—Rumi
*
“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.” —Hal Borland
*
“Love what God loves, which is everything. . .no exceptions.” —Richard Rohr
*
“Native Americans say: It is not you who sees the wolf. Not the small you: the fearful ego-bound self which makes fixed concepts out of separation, and only gazes on the beauty of this world to label and possess it. No: when you are ready, wolf may show itself, if it chooses. It may reveal some aspect of its deeper being that dissolves what you think you know, and brings you back to wonder and the unity in which all mind-made fears and oppositions are dissolved. And then you can return to the ever-present flow of freedom, like the horses, rewild your tamed and shuttered senses and learn again from life directly, in the one eternal Mystery that is made new in every moment.” —Eleanor O’Hanlon
*
“We have so far to go to realize our potential for compassion, altruism, and love.” —Dr. Jane Goodall
*
“Find yourself a cup of tea: the teapot is behind you. Now tell me about hundreds of things.” —Saki


Gratitude List:
1. The way social changes move gently outward, like breath. How social consciousness IS raised. You can hear me trying to work with my anxiety about Nazis in the streets, eh? I think about how, before Bree Newsome climbed her flag pole, much of white America didn’t have a strong opinion on the emblems of slavery. I was uncomfortable with the Confederate flag, grouchy about statues honoring Confederate heroes, but I hadn’t yet internalized how deeply wounding they were, hadn’t seen them through the eyes of those they were intended to intimidate. There was a time I was vaguely aware that my skin color was something of a protection, but I hadn’t really explored the incredible degree to which my white skin privileges me. Now our consciousness is raised. In the words Maya Angelou, one of the greatest voices of our time, “When you know better, do better.” Yes, we will.
2. My photographer friends. Such moments of beauty and wonder and marvel they bring me. Teeny tiny toadstools, fat baby porcupines, rabbits grazing in morning dew, flowers in their gardens, laughing children, spider webs ornately adorning the bushes. These things don’t cancel out the rage and worry of the recent days, but they help me to hold it. I can accept the worry and fury in my heart without having to ignore or repress them when I have Beauty to hold as well.
3. So often, the right quotation appears at the exact moment. I have been pondering how to hold and face the anxieties I am experiencing for the world in which my children are growing up, and suddenly, I am coming across quote after quote on looking into fear.
4. And truly, I think that these children are meant for these days. Our children, our students–they will walk boldly into the future with a deep understanding of issues and ideas that we are only barely able to grasp, and with open hearts full of compassion. I am so grateful for their wisdom, tenderness, and courage.
5. I’m on my way out to sort tomatoes. The biodiversity in tomatoes and potatoes is such a delight and a wonder. Pink Beauties, Mr. Slabaughs, Green Zebras, Garden Peaches, Cosmonaut Volkovs, Goldies, Lemon Boys, Virginia Streaks, Speckled Romans. Their names are a poem, like their skins. Beauty, Beauty, Beauty!

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings

Betwixt

spider

Perhaps I have written about this before, about trying to stand in the space between rage and despair. About the way that both of them distract from the ability to stay awake and alert. If we are to do our Work in this week, in this year, in this season, in this lifetime, we cannot afford to let ourselves lean too far into either space. There’s a reason it’s called blind fury–in the throes of absolute rage, I cannot see the broad picture, cannot get in touch with the essential humanity of all the people in the story, cannot keep perspective. It is the same with despair.

We will probably find ourselves walking into both of these doorways in the coming days, but if we are to be effective at the Work that lies ahead of us, we cannot afford the luxury of remaining long in either room. Neither can we afford to let them go entirely. We need to keep in mind that we are a complex beings and can hold all of these pieces at once.

In these days, let us remain in the place betwixt the poles, owning our own despair and rage, helping to hold and carry others’ burdens of the same. But let’s keep them as lenses for interpreting the times, as tools for stimulating and inspiring our work, instead of letting them numb and blind us to the reality around us. Let’s be like the spider, neither creature of air or of earth, but who inhabiting a space between. Let’s build our webs of Work and Prayer and Song and Standing Up and Creating Belonging here in the space between the fire of rage and the stone of despair.

On this day, I think of Martin Luther King, who must also have carried with him large portions of both despair and rage, but who stood between, holding his vision of who people could be and what justice looked like, with clarity and great will. May we follow in his steps.

Keep breathing. Keep watching. Keep speaking up. Keep spinning and weaving, singing and knitting, dancing and shouting. Keep holding each other.

Gratitude List:
1. Quiet time to work quietly
2. Paying attention
3. Looking forward to a new semester
4. Remembering–both the challenges and the joys
5. Knitting, weaving, spinning–all of us together

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Step Away from the Gates

Yesterday was perhaps a bit of a let-down day after the high of Luna Moth Day, full of barely maskable crabbiness and low-grade anxiety.  Sigh.  I suppose we can’t always live in the realm of the sublime.  The mundane has lessons aplenty.

Worn out by the anxieties and slog of the day, I lay back in the recliner for an evening catnap, and the first part of this just sort of fluttered into my head.

Don’t sit so close to the gates of Despair, sister.
I don’t need to to tell you how the gates open inward,
suddenly drawing the shuffling masses inside the yawning arches.
I don’t need to tell you how easy it is to be carried along in the wave,
or worse, trampled by feet of those who are eager
to prove their dark visions and those who cannot
relinquish their lifelong addiction to fear.
You know them too well, these shadows.
You’ve been in that land.

Roll up your mat, gather your books,
pick up your bucketful of bright yellow flowers,
and walk twenty paces east of the gateway
to the place where a sapling grows patiently
out of the moss-covered pavements.

From this spot you will hear the faint whisper
of breezes, from faraway places
where courage is dawning.

From this breathable vantage point,
you will hear the distant shushing
of waves on the beaches
where hope will awaken.

I know why you choose your perch,
there, on the doorstep.
I know why you watch them so carefully,
tending the crowd like a garden,
why you believe yourself safe,
you, with your books and your flowers.

I know, too, how you belong there,
in that waiting crowd of restless people,
how some days your flowers turn lifeless and ashen,
how the words in your volumes, on grayest of days,
run down the pages like ink-bled tears.

Pick up your mat, I say, now before the gates open.
Turn your back on that archway.
Follow the pathway of bright white pebbles
that I laid there myself one gray day.

 

Gratitude List:
1. The way words come together to make meaning
2. The holiness of the everyday
3. Tomato sandwiches
4. Cool summer morning breezes (“. . .blowing through the jasmine in my mind.”
5. This web that we belong to.  And I don’t just mean the www, though that one has its contribution.  Can you feel how the strands connect us, how the energy runs between us?

May we walk in Beauty!

Gratitudes, Musings, Poems

Let’s Get Down To Business

First, some mulling drawn from today’s Facebook conversations.  Then a poem.  Then a Gratitude List.

Sometimes I don’t know if I can bear the weight of the problems of the world. I get so furious, not just at the military-industrial complex, but at the way corporations have become the ruling classes, the way Monsanto has taken over the USDA, the way our consumer culture is balanced on the backs of slaves and oppressed people elsewhere in the world. I don’t know if we can turn things back. But I know that there are lots of like-minded people out there who want to turn things back. I’m not sure how we do that, but I want to start by putting as much love out there as possible in the meantime.

I don’t mean for that to sound childish or like I am ignoring the problem. I bring it back to the metaphor of the bowl for the heart. I used to think that I could only have one thing in there at a time, either the joyful things full of wonder, or the angry and despairing things. But recently I have pledged to just sit with the bowl open and let it all fall in together. And the whole crazy mix belongs there. The love I have for butterflies and songbirds is precisely why I hate Monsanto so. The delight I take in my children is precisely why the military-industrial complex terrifies me.

How can I maintain the balance in my head when I get so furious and despairing and tired and sad about so much that is happening in the world? Sometimes it feels so schizophrenic to speak of beauty and wonder and delight when something in my heart is cringing in fear of what the future holds for my children. I know that remembering what I love, remembering what holds my heart, reminding myself why I fight, all this helps me to keep doing my work.

If we who care deeply enough to walk the cliffs of despair, if we let ourselves get frozen or lost or broken on those cliffs, then whatever it is that we’re fighting against has begun to win. Maybe that’s it. Instead of just using my rage and despair to fight this thing, I want to find ways to use my love and wonder to overcome it.

Perhaps my work of late has been too passive, too much in the realm of prayer and contemplation. What is the next step, I wonder?

These Are the Words
These are the things that I tell myself, over and over again.
These are the words I use to remember.

Don’t forget to do your soul-work.
Don’t stop because it seems like no one is watching,
because it seems like no one else is doing their work.
They are working.
Ask around. Tell your own story.
Suddenly they pop up like mushrooms,
all over the yard,
like fairy rings that fairly sparkle in the moonlight.

I always say, Be the web. Throw the lines from one to one to one.
Today I say, Be mycelium.
All those underground signals racing through the soil,
through the roots, through the fine hairs so tiny,
so tiny they are more energy than matter.

But that’s what matters.
That’s the heart of the matter.

We’re all doing our work, sending messages to each other,
invisible like energy,
like the sermons of the fungi
traveling those invisible underground highways.

Something is going to pop up.
I say, Something is going to pop up!

One morning you will wake up
and they’ll be there,
not just hiding underneath the leaves
with the shy toads and salamanders,
but spiced throughout the lawn
throughout the lawns
all over the world,
saying

We are here!
We are doing our work!

In the meantime, keep hoping,
keep praying,
keep making magic spells,
like the one my son made today
from dandelions and Virginia Creeper
to bring peace among the chickens,
and from them to their eggs and to us
and then to the whole world.

In the meantime,
keeping speaking the names of the captives.
Your words will set them free.

Keep singing and dancing,
praying and hoping.

Be the Underground Laureate of The Poetry of Waiting.
Be the One who Sings to the Dark Moon.
Be the Dancer in the Sullen Crowd.
Be the Painter of Speckled Eggs.

Oh, I have to say it, though the activists have said it a thousand times,
like Gandhi said it:

Be the change you wish to see.

Until the twining vines of the sacred squash
grow from your heaving heart,
until the song of the whale echoes through your deserts,
until the world is born afresh.
Until the world is born afresh.

This is the song. This is the poem.
This is the story that will heal the world.

Now.
Let’s get down to business.

Gratitude List:
1.  A pair of indigo buntings feeding in the dandelions before the rain.  (Perhaps some day I will write a gratitude list without the wing-folk.  Or perhaps not.)
2.  Ferns.  The ones I transplanted today from the barn wall to the house and walkway were taller than my children.  I think I may just keep adding and adding until the lawn is gone and the children can walk beneath their waving fronds like hobbits.
3.  The feeling of something being released in my spirit as the air pressure changes before rain.
4.  The way people care for your spirit when you ask for help.  That’s what I mean by asking around.  All that good work is being done, all that hopeful energy, all that intentionality, all that tremendous love waiting to spring into action, springing into action even before it is called upon.  Oh, I believe in angels, and some of them take human form.
5.  Conversations about the grandmothers that bring them into the present moment.

May we walk in beauty.  May we walk in love.

Gratitudes, Musings

Gratitude for the Open Bowl

I have written this poem before.  The one about the Open Bowl.  How I will hold the circle of my heart to encompass it all.

Not just the little birds singing the dawn into being or the silent toad under her litter of leaves, not just the achingly beautiful green of the fields in spring or the blue eye of the speedwell, not just the snugglesome child or the soft feathers of a hen.

Not just that.  Not only that.

But also the brooding ache of estrangement, and the dull thud of the impossible choice, the anxiety over an ill child, the grieving of a friend.  Also the deaths of the bees, the scarcity of monarchs, the oil-covered ducks.  The deep sadness of all that we are losing so wantonly.  The rage, the helpless and blinding white fury at the destroyers, the greed-mongers, the war-profiteers, the glibly malicious purveyors of illness and oppression.

This is why I write gratitude lists.  I will hold all of these stones in the Open Bowl of my heart.  Some moments, the bowl is so brimming with the rages and the despairs that I don’t know if I can bear it.  And then comes a moment of pure numinous wonder and delight, not to erase the other things, but to ease them.  To make the bearing of them bearable.

These difficult ones, they are there for a reason.  I hold them, too, because they demand my soul’s attention.  They call me to my work here in the world.  I refuse to walk the world with blinders on.   But there is also so much joy to be found in the midst of it all.  So much joy.  So much love.

I have written this poem before, and I will write it again.  Perhaps every day I will write it, until I understand what I am writing.

Here are six shiny stones for your consideration:

Gratitude List:
1.  Green, green, oh the green!  Green says, “Have you been watching?  Have you been paying attention?  Surprise!”  Oh, yes, yes, and. . .
2.  Hello, Little Daffodil, whose name is full of goofy whimsy and whose cup overfloweth with sunshine.
3.  The spaces between.  I will gaze into them, breathe into them.
4.  Doubt.  And the places where faith and trust and safety rest even within doubt.
5.  An afternoon with my parents and uncles and aunts.  Putting puzzle together with Mom and Uncle Henry.  My father and Aunt Ruth and Uncle Harold playing harmonica trios to old hymns while the rest of us sang and hummed.  (“When through the woods and forest glades I wander and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees, when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur and hear the birds and feel the gentle breeze. . .”)
6.  The Navajo People, whose sacred phrase I have borrowed for my little daily prayer:
May we walk in Beauty.  So much Beauty.

2013 April 016

Poems

Just Beneath the Words

Day 4 Prompt: Begin with Just Beneath________

Just beneath the words
which you have placed with such care
into the bowl on the table
there is an empty room
with walls of blue
and a folding chair.

Just there, outside the window
is a tree with three small leaves
which quiver in the winter wind.

Just above the tree a crow is flying.
You have been speaking its name
into the wooden bowl.
Its name is not Despair.

Just inside the sun-whitened skull of the crow
in the leaves on the hillside
squats a tiny brown toad.
It listens for the sound
of your name in the wind.