Advent 10: Where Is Your Fire?

Here’s an image this morning of a tiny origami dragon, a reminder that we carry our fire within us as well as without. On that first day walking into this labyrinth, we checked our batteries, checked our fuel for the journey inward, for the lamps and lights that we carry. I have been feeling your fire, your warmth. I’ve been seeing the glimmer and twinkle of your light as we walk together down these dark passages.

Outwardly, my fire can seem pretty weak in December. I sleep a lot. I forget things. I find myself getting dreamy and vague. But inside, I am curling around my inner fire, like a bear or a rabbit or a chipmunk in winter, who curls itself around its heart core to keep the warmth inside. If you feel like your fire is disappearing, it might just be that you need to curl up around it, focus inward on the way it shines and warms, and rest.

Speaking of dreaming, I hd a most amazing dream last night, about driving through a little village with massive trees on either side of the road. The leaves were yellowed, and the branches were gnarled and curling. from the ends of the branches hung thousands of red and yellow fruits. Eventually we were walking beneath the trees, which hung down over the village like archways. People would just reach up and grb a fruit when they needed it.

What you need is there for you, if you just reach out your hand.


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.)

I think today of the youth activists combatting the climate crisis, how they speak up, how they stay on task, how they avoid attacking those who attack them, but relentlessly (there’s that word again) speak the truth of their message over and over again. They don’t let themselves get caught in the culture war that their elders keep trying to pull them into. They simply tell the story, again and again and again. They hold the truth of their vision without taking up the sword.

The Dragon of Solstice


Not the clearest picture, perhaps. One of the riders in my car took it, and my camera doesn’t handle near-darkness very well. This was in the early stages of her metamorphosis. About five minutes later, she was looking more dragonish than ever.

Now we are several hours into Longest Night. Tomorrow, we begin the inward turn again. Now is the time to settle into the darkness. To breathe. To dream. To melt.

In my own sacred calendar, the night of Solstice begins the deepest dreamtime of the year, almost time out of time. From now until the first of the year, or until Epiphany, I will monitor and mine my dreams for the images that will guide me in the coming year. Already, my dreams have been tossing up some powerful images to begin the percolation.

May your dreams in this, the Longest Night, bring you peace and hope. May they invigorate and inspire and challenge you for the work ahead. For there is much work ahead. There will be need of wakefulness and wisdom.

Much Love and Beauty to you.

Gratitude List:
1. This evening on the way home from school, just as the sun was setting, and the day was opening the curtains into the Longest Night, a great dragon swept across the sky, casting its body from east, and around the bowl of sky, into the west. Its head lay directly in front of us, toward the setting sun. It had swallowed the sliver of a horned moon. If you weren’t looking closely, as we were, you might have taken it for a cloud. We decided that The Dragon of the Solstice was offering us a portent or a message for the dying year: Be fierce. Take up all the space you are given. Believe in miracles. Hold the Moon inside you.

2. The geese and little birds are crossing the sky these early mornings and late evening, like mysterious scripts that someone, certainly, will be able to read, but my eyes are not trained to interpret this alphabet. Still, like Korean or Chinese or Hindi or Arabic, it catches my eye and draws me in with the sense of the meaning that is there behind the lines, but to me is only Beauty.

3. I have many friends and beloveds who are perfectly yourselves. Divinely, wondrously, solidly, and delightfully yourselves. Where would I be without you, without your inspiration, without your challenges? You keep me honest. You help me to be my better self. So much of my own shine is reflection from you. You’re the moon I carry inside me.

4. Rage has lessons to teach me. I’ll try to be grateful now simply to know that, although it burns to carry those coals inside. Sometimes, I think I have learned the lessons–the vocabulary, the angles and calculations, the social history, the science–of rage, but then I find myself back in the primary class. It takes some of us a little longer to learn. I will be patient with myself.

5. I have a class of quite energetic, distractible students who have experienced a high degree of frustration with the subject at hand. Often, the most carefully-planned lessons fall flat, but they can’t handle too much spontaneity, either. I really need to work hard with them on writing, and I have been nervous about that for several reasons. One boy often freezes when I ask them to write. Another can’t handle silent, quiet work and creates so many distractions the others can’t work.

Still, I decided that yesterday I would give them five prompts and have them write about one or more for the whole period. With only one exception, they got to work with a will, several of them asking if they could write whatever they wanted instead of the prompts. I had them share their documents with me, and I would check in on them, offering comments and responses on their documents. At the end of the period, they begged for another day of writing.

Today, we wrote again, for the whole period. Some incredible stories are emerging. We’re doing absolutely no editing at this point, and things are pretty raw, but it will give us something to work on in the next step. The only student who couldn’t handle it yesterday came in today with a page and a half that he’d written between yesterday’s class and today. Everyone buckled down and wrote today. They begged for a third day of writing.

I am going to tempt the magic for one more day. Then we may have to move to other things: some more direct work on the basic grammar and sentence structure points, and other sorts of literacy and fluency work.

I am grateful for moments of magic in the classroom.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Dragon in the Park



“What is necessary, after all, is only this: solitude, vast inner solitude. To walk inside yourself and meet no one for hours—that is what you must be able to attain.”
―Rainer Maria Rilke
*
“Hope is a renewable option:
If you run out of it at the end of the day, you get to start over in the morning.” ―Barbara Kingsolver
*
“There is a voice that doesn’t use words.
Listen.”
―Rumi
*
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
―Carl Jung
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“I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”
―Mary Oliver
*
“We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom, and light.”
―Hafiz


Gratitude List:
1. On the way past Sam Lewis Park yesterday afternoon, we saw a dragon in the sky. And two dinosaurs. And two trilobites. People were flying kites. I think they’re known as Finnish kites. A high up leader kite is tethered to a balloon-style kite. The higher kite pulls the lower one up into the air. It’s amazing to watch.
2. Bubbles. Also at the park, a couple had brought along several buckets full of soap solution and long rope-style bubble wands. They created enormous bubbles.
3. Sharing stories. Stories, like bridges between us.
4. The Labor movement–people believing in their cause–in worker safety, in justice and fairness in pay, in reasonable hours, in respectable treatment of employees.
5. Playing games with the kids.

May we walk in Beauty!

Tender Little Dragon

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Here is something I wrote four years ago today. I found it really helpful to the me of today:

“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.”

Gratitude List:
1. Love Songs for chapel this morning, and serenaders wandering the halls all day.
2. Tender little dragons
3. The kinds of questions this kid comes up with: “Mom, what if we were to be reincarnated as a planet or other celestial body?”
4. The ones who are leading us into the next levels of consciousness–a lot of them are teenagers.
5. The people rise up, ask questions, hold the powerful accountable, and tiny little changes begin to happen.

May we walk in Beauty!

February Walk

mantis dragon-egg

fred aconite

Gratitude List on a Warm February Day:
1. Mantis case: The Fierce Ones will be hatching in spring to help with the insects on the farm.
2. Imagination: We thought maybe a dragon had hatched in the fields near last year’s squash patch.
3. Even the Mzee (Old Man) went walking with us, though he only went part way up the hill.
4. Aconite: Too early by far, but beautiful, catching the rays of the sun.
5. Rambling with the family.

May we ramble in Beauty!

I Need a Dragon

dragon
This is known as the Ljubljana dragon. One legend says it was killed by Jason and Medea, while they were still on friendly terms. Other legends say it was the ancient Slavic god Veles.

I don’t intend this as a poem. My thoughts tonight are fragmented as I consider the shifts that are occurring in the world in the next twenty-four hours.

Tonight I need a dragon.
I need a fuzzy pink hat with cat ears.
I need a photo of Michelle Obama saying, “. . .we go high.”
I need a soulful labyrinth.
I need to hold selenite and labradorite in my palms.
Tonight I need to pray and breathe and center.
I need a friendly ghost to tap me on the shoulder and wink.
I need a warm cat on my lap, purring.
I need a cup of tea with milk and honey.
I need a wild wind to blow.
I need a spot beside the heating vent.

Let’s keep reaching out, holding onto love, holding on to what is right and good and full of beauty. May we remain grounded in our desire to protect and heal that which we love. May we keep wide awake and aware, bearing witness, staying vigilant and conscious, grounded in our centers, offering our strength and power to those who need it. May justice roll down like waters.

I know of some people who are choosing to walk labyrinths tomorrow morning. I will be dancing through labyrinths of language in my classroom. During our chapel tomorrow morning, we will be celebrating the life and words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Gratitude List:
1. The way breath and heartbeat simply happen.
2. The way breath births language.
3. The way language gives shape to meaning.
4. The way language carries the rhythm of heartbeat and breath.
5. Dragons

May we walk in Beauty!

A Bullet Journal and the NYT Crossword

imag1877
I found them on the path, lying just like this.

Gratitude List:
1. Bullet Journal. I know it’s trendy, and perhaps it’s a pipe dream of an organization system. I’m trying it for now, anyway. It appeals to my doodly, zentangly impulses. It makes the best of my informal half-system of making to-do lists on random pieces of paper, but it keeps them all in one place, and I can also keep my daily notes and lists of things I want to remember. So far, so good. This week, I have made boxes for each group of five papers to grade, and then I can shade in a box for each little stack. Short, achievable goals.
2. Sleeping under cozy covers
3. NYT Sunday crossword. Jon and I do them together, one of us filling out as much as we can, then handing it over. We can usually finish in a day or two. We haven’t been doing them much since we stopped getting the paper, but I bought one last week. I wish I could buy an ad-free Sunday paper.
4. Ice cream. I love the treat of it, even though I wake up with a stuffy nose afterwards.
5. Dragons. The way they fire imagination.

May we walk in Beauty!

You Are the Dragon, You Are the Cave

DSCN9148

The thing you learn, of course,
before you strap your sword belt on,
is that the princess you pledged to save
is only yourself in another guise,
that the dragon you swore to smite
is simply your own roaring ego
belching flame in the mouth of the cave.

You are the villagers rioting in the streets,
and calling for the dragon’s blood.
You are the bells that pealed from the towers
when the dragon circled above the town.
You are the sword,
the shield, the very cave,
the small frightened mouse
trampled in the fray.
You are the village.
You are the mountain.
You are the day itself,
quiet witness to the story.

Gratitude List:
1. Compassion
2. Nettles
3. The color orange
4. Routine.  Breaking routine.
5. Clear vision

May we walk in Beauty!

Dragons and Olympians

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You can take the girl out of the Waldorf, but you can’t take the Waldorf out of the girl: Here is a dragon I drew on my chalkboard.  After I erased the tree that I had started drawing, I received requests from students for a red dragon.  I was a good challenge, and fun to watch them discover it as it developed over several days.

Facebook tells me that for the past two years on this very day, I heard and saw Oriole for the first time that spring.  I have been worried that I haven’t been aware of him yet, wondering if my busy schedule has kept me from noticing, or whether he has chosen not to return to the hollow.  Sometimes several of them come at once and fight for the prime territories.  Now I can be patient a little while longer.  I miss my bright friend.

Gratitude List:
1. The gold has returned to the goldfinches.  The bluebird, as Thoreau says, may carry the sky on his back, but the goldfinch carries the sun on his.
2. A cozy warm dress on a chilly May morning.
3. Summer vacation is coming.  I love teaching dearly, but at this time of year, I begin to anticipate June with the intensity of a senior.
4. Our ancient traditions: Yesterday, I volunteered to be one of the measurers for the track meet at school, holding the end of the measuring tape for the shot put, discus, and javelin.  Two of the guys on the team are in my English class, where we happen to be studying Ancient Greece, where the earliest Olympians competing in those same contests.
5. The little places in the day where I get a chance to breathe.

May we walk in Beauty!

Fairy Tale and Fire-Breathing Bean Sprouts

First, a Poem, sort of tossed out of my brooding heart, out of this boat of me.  Perhaps I’ll breathe more freely if I can set this story free, and the poem may start to bend those bars.  After the poem, a Photo.  Then a Gratitude List.

Life in the Fairy Tale

It would help me to know
what my name is in this story.

Was I ever one of the innocent children
following the flowers
into the darkness of the forest?

I remember the day we came to that crossing,
the place where the paths diverged.
Isn’t the goddess supposed to sit there
wrapped in her robes, upon a stone?
Aren’t her dogs supposed to bark a warning?

I keep forgetting what happened next.
When did you hand me the impossible choice?
I would have been content to wait,
to sit on the stone and watch,
to see dark Hecate emerge
from between the two oak trees in the west,
to ask her a boon, to beg direction.

Instead I forged ahead into the wood,
taking neither path, the only way I knew.
This is the way.  This is the way I must go onward.
But I can no longer hear your footsteps
on the pathway to my left.

I will not simply let the story fade
into the shredded mists of morning.
Not until I know my name.

When Ellis saw these sprouts this morning, raising their
heads above the soil, he said, “They’re like dragons!  Breathing
their fire!”  Oh, my Boy.  By this evening, they’re all an inch taller.
What a wonder and a tenderness for him to take in.

2013 April 007

Gratitude List:
1.  Fire-Breathing Bean Sprouts
2.  Khalil Gibran and the tenderness of letting go, saying goodbye, remembering.
3.  The opening bud
4.  Choosing, even when the choices seem impossible
5.  Silk
May we walk in beauty.  And wonder.  And hope.